St. Jude junior guard LaDarius Brinson admits he learned a lot about patience this season.
After a hasty return from an early-season injury, Brinson had to sit again and now, fully healthy, appreciates the lesson.
“There was a lot of frustration because I wanted to help my team out, and I love basketball,” Brinson said. “I wasn’t able to do something I love, but maybe all that has helped us be a better team.”
The top-ranked Pirates (24-6) play three-time defending state champion Pickens County (18-7) at 4:30 p.m. today in the Class 1A Central Regional at Alabama State.
They do it with a fully functional point guard, despite the turmoil he faced before and after Christmas.
“I think he matured a lot through it,” Jude coach Earl Taylor said. “He got a chance to watch the game through a coach’s eyes, and I think it helped him, the team and the coaches.
“In the long run, even though it may have hurt his stats, overall it was a plus.”
Brinson, a second-team Class 1A All-State player last year, went down in a Nov. 30 game with Brewbaker Tech.
He landed oddly and heard something pop in his right ankle. “I really thought it was broken,” Brinson said.
Brinson missed three weeks but was eager to return for the annual Capital City Conference post-Christmas tournament at Trinity. He was the CCC’s most valuable player last year, too.
The Pirates won the tournament, though Brinson was noticeably still hobbled. Two days later, Jude played Milton (Ga.) in suburban Atlanta, and it became obvious that Brinson’s injury wasn’t healed in a 75-39 loss.
“He played sparingly in the CCC tournament,” Taylor said, “but that Milton game exposed to him that he wasn’t 100 percent.”
Brinson sat for another week and was careful when he returned. Two weeks later, a day after another game with Brew Tech, Brinson woke up with an epiphany: Play ball.
“My ankle wasn’t throbbing,” Brinson said. “It felt like it was brand new. I wasn’t scared to go to the hole, and I was getting my quickness back.
“I felt 100 percent.”
Brinson’s numbers are down considerably. He averaged more than 15 points last year and barely breaks 10 this season, while his assists are virtually the same.
But Jude is back looking for a second straight Central Regional championship and, maybe, a state championship.
“Last year, we weren’t as confident,” Brinson said. “This year, we have to go in with the mindset that everybody is out to get us.
“We’re No. 1 in the state, so everybody has that X on our back.”