By Robert Wilson

Raymond High boys basketball coach Tony Tadlock has a winning formula: play a very difficult schedule before getting into region play with the goal to reach the state championship game.

It works. Check out Tadlock’s results since he arrived at Raymond five years ago.

         Raymond has made the MHSAA Class 4A state championship game each season, winning in 2018 and 2019 and finishing second in 2020 and 2021.

         Raymond takes a 9-4 record this week into one of the most prestigious Christmas tournaments in the country – the King Cotton Holiday Classic in Pine Bluff, Ark.

“The field is loaded with top ranked teams from across the country and we are excited to be a part of the event,” Tadlock said. “We open with the No. 2 team in Missouri – Christian Brothers High out of St. Louis – and are looking forward to the challenge.

Photo by Robert Smith

“The schedule we play before we get to district is second to none. We will definitely be prepared when we jump back into 4A in January.”

Raymond has played against either a MHSAA Class 6A or 5A school in nine of its 11 games. Two of Raymond’s losses were against Class 6A state title contender and undefeated Meridian and Madison Prep, the No. 1 team in Louisiana, according to MaxPreps.

Raymond senior guards Jabarie Robinson and Tremaine Dixon – both members of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team – are averaging 16.7 and 16.2 points per game respectively. Each average five assists per game. Both have been offered by many Mississippi community colleges and are being recruited by many senior colleges. EJ Paymon, a 6-foot-9, 225-pound sophomore and a transfer from First Love Christian Academy in Pennsylvania, is averaging 12.2 points and seven rebounds per game. Paymon is considered one of the top sophomores in the state and has been already offered by Ole Miss. Larry Lee, a 6-5 junior, leads Raymond with 8.5 rebounds per game.

Raymond plays Christian Brothers Monday at 12:45 p.m. The game will be livestreamed on the King Cotton Holiday Classic Facebook page.

Christian Brothers is led by 5-11 senior point guard Robert Martin, 7-2 sophomore center John Bol, and 6-5 senior guard Larry Hughes II. Bol, from South Sudan, Africa, already has Division I offers from Butler, Clemson, Illinois, Kansas State and Missouri. Hughes is the son of former NBA star Larry Hughes, who averaged 14.1 points in 14 seasons in the NBA. Southern Miss fans will remember Hughes, who played for Saint Louis in Conference USA against Southern Miss. Hughes was named the National Freshman of the Year and Conference USA Player of the Year in 1998 before turning pro after one season in college and was the eighth overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1998 NBA draft.

Raymond will be playing a game on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in the eight team King Bracket. The other six teams are some of the best teams in the South, North Little Rock and Pine Bluff High and Watson Chapel High from Arkansas, Cane Ridge from Nashville, Beaumont High from Texas, and Calvary Baptist Academy from Shreveport.