Alex Kelehear began his LaFayette High School career two seasons ago with an already solid reputation as a top-flight player. And even as a freshman playing against older, more experienced players, he proved to have the goods time and time again.
As a sophomore, he got even better.
As Kelehear improved, so did the Ramblers, who went from a 12-13 record the previous season to a 23-5 mark this time around. LaFayette was narrowly edged out for the Region 6-AAAA championship, but they went to handle North Oconee for the program’s first-ever home state playoff win.
They went on to hang tough with Henry County before finally succumbing the No. 2-ranked team in the state during their first Sweet 16 appearance in five years.
Kelehear was runner-up in the voting for 6-AAAA Player of the Year and this past week, he was named as an All-State Honorable Mention pick by the Georgia high school basketball website, Sandysspiel.com, the same site that named Kelehear as its Class AAAA Freshman of the Year last year.
Recently, Kelehear was named as the LaFayette High Boys’ Player of the Year by the Northwest Georgia Tip-Off Club and, today, he receives yet another honor as the Walker County Player of the Year.
Kelehear scored 16.5 points per night and filled up the stat sheet with 6.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.7 steals per contest. He also led LaFayette with 64 made 3-pointers.
“Overall, I thought it was a pretty good year, especially as a team with us getting to the Sweet 16, which hadn’t been done in a while,” Kelehear explained. “I have to thank my teammates for always being there. I couldn’t have done it with them. They were the ones making the shots and boxing out on rebounds to get me the ball.”
Kelehear said he worked hard in the off-season to prove that he was more than just a perimeter scorer.
“Looking back at last year, I was really just a 3-point shooter,” he said. “So during the summer, I worked on everything else, like passing the ball and taking it to the hole. I really think all that worked showed this year with a better all-around game.”
“Being 23-5 and going to the Sweet 16, you don’t accomplish things like that without having a good point guard,” LaFayette head coach Hank Peppers said. “They are the steady hand that runs your offense and you really get exposed if you don’t have a good point guard.
“But Alex was not just a point guard. He was a point guard that could fill it up, get rebounds, get steals, play defense and just do anything out there on the court. It was a tremendous year for us as a team and for Alex as an individual player.”
Kelehear was often times to object of extra defensive pressure from opposing teams, but he said he trusted that his teammates would find a way to get the job done.
“When other teams put up some sort of special defense (against me), the other guys on the team would step up and come up big in some big games,” he added. “That’s what being a team is all about.”
Kelehear also proved to be at his best when the lights were on brightest. That was never truer than in the Region 6-AAAA tournament semifinals as he hit a shot with four seconds left on the clock to hand the Ramblers a 44-43 win over Heritage.
“You look at the stats he put up and he really played better in bigger games and that’s what you look for in a leader,” Peppers added. “You look for someone who steps up in the big games. Alex does that and I expect him to do it even more and more in the next two years.”
THE REST OF THE WALKER COUNTY DREAM TEAM
Kannen Derryberry (Gordon Lee) - The junior was the leading scorer for the Trojans, averaging 11.8 points a game to go with 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals a night.
Jacob Dyer (Gordon Lee) - The junior big man showed inside moves and a nice shooting touch, finishing the year by averaging 6.6 points and 5.1 boards per contest.
Tyrese Hunter (LaFayette) - The senior slasher was a nightmare for defenses as the All-Region pick averaged 12.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and almost two steals a game.
Markeion Jones (Ridgeland) - The senior All-Region selection put up 12.6 points a game to go with 3.8 boards, 2.5 assists and 2.4 steals for the state playoff participants.
Matthew McDonough (Oakwood Christian) - The senior averaged 23 points and 14.2 rebounds to finish his career with over 1,600 points, 1,000 boards and 300 blocks.
John Jacob McSpadden (Oakwood Christian) - The junior point guard had his best season to date with 7.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.2 steals for the SCAA Final Four squad.
Markeith Montgomery (Ridgeland) - The junior showed his athleticism all season long by scoring 8.7 points a night to go with 5.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.1 steals.
Grayson Moore (Ridgeland) - The senior had a big impact for the Black-and-White, putting up averages of 8.5 points and 8.4 rebounds to go with 2.4 assists and 2.1 steals a night.
Jon Morgan (LaFayette) - The junior came on strong, especially late in the year, as he scored 7.9 points and grabbed 7.8 boards a contest for the Class AAAA Sweet 16 participants.
Fred Norman (Ridgeland) - The sophomore showed outstanding touch and the ability to score inside as he dropped in 10.5 points a night and pulled down 7.5 rebounds.
Jack Solmon (Gordon Lee) - The versatile junior was one of the Trojans’ most consistent performers all season long as he averaged 7.2 points and over three rebounds a game.
Dee Southern (LaFayette) - The sophomore proved he had no trouble against bigger opponents in the paint as he scored 8.2 points and racked up over seven rebounds a contest.
The Walker County Basketball Dream Team is selected by Messenger Sports Editor Scott Herpst based on performances during the season. Text and photo by Scott Herpst.