Robert Wilson spent 23 years at The Clarion-Ledger/Jackson Daily News as a sportswriter with more than half of those years covering high school sports, mostly in the Metro Jackson area. He helped choose the All-Metro teams in various sports for more than a decade. Wilson rebirthed this team with the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard All-Metro Jackson Boys and Girls Basketball Teams with 20 players and a Coach and Player of the Year on each team. These are the fifth annual teams. With the help of high school and college coaches, Wilson selected the best players and best coaches for the 2023-2024 season from Hinds, Madison, and Rankin Counties. The girls story and teams ran yesterday. 

By Robert Wilson

       Raymond High’s Tony Tadlock and Jackson Academy’s Mike Williams – the 2024 PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Boys Basketball Coach and Player of the Year – have fathers who made Mississippi sports history.

       Tadlock’s late father Tony – who passed away in 1988 – was the first white football player at Jackson State in 1975.

       Williams’ father – Mo Williams – was one the best NBA players from Mississippi, becoming an NBA champion and NBA all-star during his 13-year pro career.

       The sons made their own mark in Mississippi sports history this season.

       Tadlock led Raymond to a 31-4 record and the MHSAA Class 4A state championship, Tadlock’s fourth state title in his seven seasons at Raymond and eighth straight state championship game appearance for the Rangers.

       Williams averaged 18.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 2.8 assists while playing an average of 24.8 minutes and led JA to a 36-1 record and the MAIS Overall Tournament championship, JA’s first since 2006, tying the most wins in school history and having the best record in school history.

       Tadlock’s father broke the color barrier in 1975 and played long snapper as a freshman, then worked his way up and started on the offensive line as junior along beside former Wingfield High star Jackie Slater, who went on to have an NFL Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Rams.

       Tadlock was working with the Flowood Fire Department when he passed away putting out a fire in 1988 at the age of 30 years old. Tony’s mom, Holly Clark, was pregnant with Tony when his father passed away. Tony was raised by his mom with help from his grandparents, Jean and Ralph Tadlock. Tony has photos of his father in his JSU uniform and at the Flowood Fire Dept. Tadlock’s name is on the wall of the National Fire Academy and on the memorial wall at the Mississippi State Fire Academy. The Flowood Fire Dept. has a monument in front of Station One that his name and image.

       His son has carried on his legacy of hard work, determination, and drive with his basketball program.

       “Being able to carry on my dad’s legacy is something I’ve always cherished,” Tadlock said. “He used his platform to save others by putting his heart and soul into being a fireman. As a coach, I felt the same way. I’ve always given my guys the best opportunities and love that I could.”

       The 35-year-old Pearl High and Southern Miss graduate encourages his players even after they finish playing basketball for him at Raymond.

Tadlock visits his former players who are playing in college whenever he can. He has Raymond alumni playing at Belhaven University, Tougaloo College, East Mississippi Community College, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, and Tarleton (Texas) State and has visited most of them this season. Tadlock might be king of social media among high school coaches in Mississippi, always keeping Ranger fans up to date on what’s going on with his program.

       Tadlock currently has five former players playing college and sent 16 over the past six years to college programs and two more have played college baseball and one college football.

       “We promote a sense of family within our program and that never stops once you leave,” Tadlock said. “We tell our guys that you graduate from Raymond High School, but you never graduate from our program. We promote our guys through social media and go check out their games. It’s a great feeling to see them furthering their education doing something they love.”

       Tadlock will be watching some of this year’s group in college also, especially 6-foot-9 senior forward and Mississippi State signee Eric Paymon, the No. 1 rated player in the Class of 2024 in Mississippi by ESPN, the Mississippi Association of Coaches MHSAA Class 4A Mr. Basketball. He averaged 23.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.5 blocked shots and is a member of the Metro Jackson first team this season.

       Senior guard Keymarius Lewis averaged 16.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.5 steals and is a member of the Metro Jackson third team. Senior forward Mekhi Strong averaged 13.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.5 blocked shots and is a member of the Metro Jackson fourth team.

 Seniors Chris Stephens and Ke’monte Wright rounded out the starting lineup. Senior Demarion Terry was the sparkplug off the bench.

All six players have college offers.

Tadlock – who has a 192-41 record (an 82.4 winning percentage) in his seven years at Raymond – has now been a part of five state titles and three runner-up finishes.

His coaching career started at Meridian High where he was an assistant boys coach for six years, five under now Mississippi College coach Randy Bolden and one under Ron Norman. Tadlock helped Norman win a Class 6A state championship. He also won 52 straight games as a ninth-grade coach at Meridian. Then, Tadlock came to Raymond.

       Tadlock – who is assisted by Richard Caston (fifth year) and Tori McPhearson (first year) – was named the Mississippi Association of Coaches Boys Basketball Coach of the Year after winning his third state title in 2022. Tadlock, who doubles as an assistant principal, was named the Region III Boys Basketball Coach of the Year and was one of eight nominees for the National Boys Basketball Coach of the Year. The regional and national awards are normally won by coaches who have many more years of coaching experience so to be recognized regionally or possibly nationally is a credit to Tadlock’s success and reputation. 

       “One thing I never wanted to do when I got to Raymond was to be a one hit wonder,” Tadlock said. “To be respected as a coach, you need to prove that you can build and maintain a program over the long haul. It takes an all-out buy in from everyone and we have been blessed with that. One of the biggest accomplishments is being able to send so many guys to college over the years. It’s more than just basketball with us. It’s about growing each individual person within our program to be better people through the game of basketball.”

       The season started out rocky with losses to Choctaw Central 60-57 and Terry 59-57 – both which reached the Boys State Tournament. Choctaw Central lost to Raymond in the 4A semifinals and Terry finished Class 6A state runner-up.

       But Tadlock rallied the troops and Raymond went on a 10-game winning streak before losing to Battle Ground Academy (Tenn.) in the FexEd Forum Dec. 15 in Memphis, then the Rangers won 10 consecutive games before losing to MAIS Overall Tournament runner-up Madison-Ridgeland Academy 50-48 in the Rumble in the South Jan. 20 at Mississippi Coliseum in Clinton. Raymond finished on a 11-game winning streak and defeated McComb 53-28 for the state title.

       “When we started 0-2, they never wavered,” Tadlock said. “It actually made us better to weather that storm early in the season. We knew coming into the season we had a unique group. They are very close knit and love to be around one another. We didn’t have any problems from this team, and as coaches the less outside distractions, the better chance you gave to reaching your goals. We had so many great leaders on this team. To start No. 1 and finish No. 1 is something this team should be proud of. We got everyone’s best game each night and we showed that we belong at the top at the end.”

       Williams’ father Mo is considered one of Mississippi’s greatest athletes.

He averaged 13.2 points and 4.3 assists during his NBA career, was an NBA All-Star in 2009, won an NBA title with the Cleveland Cavs in 2016 and announced his retirement. He scored 2,433 points at Murrah and was named the Mississippi Player of the Year as a senior in 2001. Williams averaged 25.7 points, 8.6 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 3.4 steals and shot 59 percent from the field, 51 percent from the 3-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line. He was the Sporting News National Freshman of the Year at Alabama and left the Crimson Tide after two seasons to enter the NBA draft. The 6-foot-2 point guard was a second-round pick by the Utah Jazz and played for seven NBA teams.

After his retirement, Williams was an assistant for two seasons at Cal State Northridge under Mark Gottfried, who coached Williams at Alabama. Williams was head coach at Alabama State for two seasons and replaced Wayne Brent as Jackson State’s head coach last season.

       Williams and Mike’s mom decided last fall that it would be Mike’s best interest to move he and his younger brother, Mason, from Dallas to Jackson to live with Mo. They decided JA would be the best fit.

       “Mo wanted to go to a school that challenged his boys academically and chose JA,” said Taylor, who finished his fifth season at JA, his second as head coach after three years as an assistant under Josh Brooks, now head coach at Belhaven. “We were excited for JA for sure. I was shocked when Mo came into meet me. I didn’t know how good his boys were at basketball, but I figured they would be pretty good. It is humbling to meet a Division I basketball coach as well as an NBA champion. Mo wanted to meet me and see how we do things and how I approached the game because he wanted to learn about me as much as he could since I would be around his son’s a lot. We talked offensive and defensive philosophy. Someone recommended us and I’m thankful for that.”

       Mike and Mason, a sophomore guard, made the transition.

“Both Mike and Mason are high character kids and fit right in with our team and the school,” Taylor said. “And then there is their basketball skills. Mike is a bonified scorer. He has another gear and is very athletic. Mike is a great teammate. He has some of the same mannerisms as his dad with his patience and pace. Mike and Mason are very unselfish.”

Said Mike Williams: “The transition wasn’t easy for a teenager, but I’m thankful for the school and my teammates for treating me like family.”

       As expected, Williams performed at a high level. The 6-foot Williams plays like his father, using a variety of ways to get open and score without fanfare. His quickness is superb, his instincts are speedy, and his basketball IQ is off the charts. Williams is extremely accurate on his jump shot and his ability to see the floor is uncanny.

       Williams – rated the No. 22 shooting guard in the country in the Class of 2025 by 247 Composite – made an already talented JA team an elite level team with the potential to have one of the greatest seasons in MAIS history. And they did. And Williams was the main reason. Many of the non-conference games, Williams was so dominating in the first half, JA had the game won and he didn’t play much in the second half. During the season, Williams ranked as high as in the Top 20 in the country in points per minute, according to MaxPreps. Even in conference play – the MAIS Class 6A was considered one of the toughest divisions in Mississippi – Williams continued to perform at a high level. In mid-December, Williams led Class 6A in nine different categories.

       “Mike is deserving of the attention he is getting from around the state,” Taylor said. “His talent level combined with his character, work ethic, and willingness to learn have allowed him to have an incredible junior year. He was recognized as the MAIS Class 6A Player of the Year. Knowing Mike, he won’t settle. He has already been back in the gym. This is a prestigious award he is receiving from Mississippi Scoreboard. I know he will be thankful and use this momentum to fuel his summer.”

       Williams shot 49.5 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range, and 82.4 percent from the free throw line. He finished second in Mississippi in points per 32 minutes and 3-pointers made (86) and fourth in Mississippi in 3-point percentage.

       He led JA in points per game, rebounds per game, steals per game, blocked shots per game and minutes per game, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage.

       Williams set a school record with 103 steals this season (Matt Neil had 102 in 200-2001) and finished second in school history with 696 points (Hastings Puckett had 818 in 1994-1995) and finished 23 3-pointers behind school record holder Tory Johnson, who made 109 in 1995-1996. Williams also was only 3.2 percentage points in free throw percentage behind school record holder Rob Puckett, who made 85.6 percent in 2005-2006.

       “Mike plays the game the right way,” Taylor said. “He is extremely coachable and bought into my system early. Everyone notices his ability on offense, and for good reason. He has a very complete offensive game, but his ability to defend and rebound the basketball are what separate him from others in my opinion. Coach (Mo) Williams definitely passed down his God given basketball abilty and knowledge of the game to his sons.”

       Being the son of an NBA star, comes with plusses and minuses.

       “It’s cool being a son of an NBA player, but it comes with a lot of expectations,” Mike Williams said. “But it motivates me more.”

       Mo Williams was able to come to many of the games but missed some due to Jackson State’s practices and games schedules. He was also able to watch them on JA’s livestream, the Raider Network.

       Mike Williams gave credit to his teammates for their success this season.

       “We were successful as a group because we stayed determined and had the energy to compete every day at practice,” Williams said.

       Williams will be playing AAU in the offseason and also working on his own. He already has offers from Jackson State and Mississippi State.

       “In the offseason, I’ll be working out on my weaknesses and perfecting my moves and playing AAU,” Williams said.

Williams averaged 22.3 points, 9 rebounds and 2.6 assists in three victories over Madison-Ridgeland Academy this season, including 18 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists in the 70-59 win in the Overall championship game. 

“Mike has speed, he can handle the ball and has a great vertical,” said MRA coach Richard Duease, the winningest high school basketball coach in Mississippi history and the second winningest boys basketball coach in the country. “He has a great jump shot. He’s like (former MRA guard, Mississippi’s all-time leading scorer and MSU All-SEC freshman) Josh Hubbard in some ways. I told (MSU assistant coach) George Brooks, Mike is the best guard in the state. He can shoot it with great range. He plays hard. He’s intense. Mike goes to the boards well. He can do a little bit of everything.”

       Williams is the son of Mo and Kesha Williams. Kesha is a graduate of Richland High and lives in the Dallas area. Mike has six brothers. Kydarrius played basketball at Madison St. Joseph and was a basketball manager at Alabama and now is an assistant coach at Jackson State. Maurice Jr. is a senior at JA. Mason is a sophomore and is Mike’s teammate on the basketball team. Max is in the fifth grade at JA. Asa is three years old, and Ezra is two years old.


Metro Jackson Boys Coach of the Year

2023: Joshua Luckett, Northwest Rankin

2022: Tim Wise, Jackson Prep

2021: Bo Clark, Lanier 

2020: Brian Cronin, St. Andrew’s

Metro Jackson Boys Player of the Year

2023: Josh Hubbard, MRA

2022: Josh Hubbard, MRA

2021: Deshaun Ruffin, Callaway

2020: Deshaun Ruffin, Callaway 

Click Here to view full team