Steven Pledger of the Oklahoma Sooners earned the Big 12 Conference’s Player of the Week honor this week. (On December 19, he shared the award with Baylor’s Perry Jones III). Pledger hails from Chesapeake and graduated from Atlantic Shores Christian School.
On Saturday, Oklahoma (13-7, 3-5 in conference) defeated 23rd-ranked Kansas State in Manhattan 63-60 behind Pledger’s 30 points and 5 rebounds. Against K-State, Pledger went 11-for-17 from the field, including 4-0f-7 from three, and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Earlier in the week, he went for 17 and 6 in Oklahoma’s loss to 6th-ranked Baylor.
Pledger is enjoying the best year of his collegiate career under new Sooners coach Lon Kruger. Pledger has started all 19 games in which he has appeared this season, and leads the team in scoring with 17.8 points per game (up from 10.9 per last season). He leads the team with 51 three-pointers and is shooting 43.6% from beyond the arc, an impressive improvement over last season’s 35.0% mark.
I had a chance to see Pledger play a game during his senior year of high school, for which I am eternally grateful to the kind lady working the gate at Atlantic Shores that night. She let me in to watch the game even though I hadn’t brought enough cash for the ticket (and she graciously refused my offer to stay only for the first half).
The Atlantic Shores team was loaded that year, featuring three future Division I players: Pledger, Duke’s Andre Dawkins, and William & Mary’s Brandon Britt. In the game that I saw, Atlantic Shores defeated Norfolk Collegiate, which was led by its own Division I player, Donte Hill, who began his college career at Clemson but now plays for ODU. In addition, Austin Colbert, who has since moved on, played in the game for Collegiate as an eighth-grader and will likely join a Division I roster in the fall of 2013.
Looking back on that game, my most vivid impression is of Dawkins’ jump shot, which was effortlessly smooth and impossible to defend because he was (and remains) such a great leaper. It was a great game to watch, and unless Oak Hill comes to town, it will probably be a good while before I see another high school game where 40% (or possibly half) of the players on the floor advance to Division I careers.
While researching this post, I was surprised to learn that Atlantic Shores did not win the VISAA (private school) state title in 2009, which was the final year of high school for Dawkins and Pledger. Although they withstood a 37-point effort from sophomore James Michael McAdoo and defeated his Norfolk Christian squad in the state semifinal, Atlantic Shores fell to the Miller School in the title game, 69-61. The Miller School was led by future Maryland Terrapin Mychal Parker and Marshawn Powell, now playing for Arkansas. Tough draw for Atlantic Shores.
Congratulations to all of these players who are competing at the highest level of amateur basketball.