By Robert Wilson
Not many players can match Madison-Ridgeland Academy’s Josh Hubbard – one of the top guards in the country in the Class of 2023 – in scoring in a game, but that’s what Clinton Christian Academy’s KJ Sykes did last week.
Sykes, like Hubbard, scored 38 points and also got the win as Sykes led defending MAIS Class 4A champion Clinton Christian to a surprising, 79-78 triple overtime victory over defending MAIS Overall Tournament champion MRA Saturday at MRA.
The 5-foot-7 junior guard scored 32 points in the second half and overtimes and also had 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in the big win.
For his outstanding performance, Sykes has been named the Priority One Bank Metro Jackson Boys Basketball Player of the Week.
Sykes’ big game against MRA wasn’t even his career high. He scored 40 points in a win over St. Aloysius earlier this season.
Sykes’ performance gave MRA only its second loss in its last 46 games against MAIS competition.
“KJ would not let us lose (against MRA),” said Clinton Christian coach Josh Zeitz, who won MAIS boys and girls state titles last season, only the second coach to do that in the same year in MAIS history. “He struggled shooting the ball in the first half, so I challenged him at halftime. I told him, ‘for us to win this game, you have to be great.’ He responded. KJ made every big shot, including the game tying 3-pointer in regulation. Any time this young man faces adversity, he responds like a champion. I have been coaching KJ since the seventh grade and he has improved every year. He is the hardest working kid I have ever coached. His scoring average has gone up every year. He averaged 8 points on the varsity as a seventh grader and now averages 23 as a junior. His greatest improvement has been on the defensive end as he always wants to guard the opposition’s best player.”
Sykes also had 12 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 4 assists and played only two and half quarters in a 72-37 victory over Canton Academy last week.
This is the second time Sykes has been the Player of the Week award. He was named POW on Dec.16 after he almost had a triple double in a victory over Class 6A Jackson Prep. Sykes had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists. He averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.3 assists in three wins that week.
Sykes is averaging 22.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.7 steals for 24-10 Clinton Christian, which plays Hillcrest Christian today at 7:45 p.m. in the semifinals of the MAIS Class 4A, District 3 tournament at Canton Academy.
Robert Wilson selects a deserving boys basketball player from schools in Hinds, Madison, and Rankin counties each week. Coaches can nominate players by contacting Robert via his cell phone with text or call (601.506.2276) or email ([email protected]).