For the 11th consecutive year, the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Basketball games will be played in the state of Alabama.
But Meridian High senior guard Torlorf Thomas will be right at home tonight when the interstate rivalry takes place on the campus of Alabama State University in Montgomery.
Thomas, a 6-foot-3 point guard, played three seasons in Montgomery before transferring to Meridian for his senior year.
“I should have quite a few people at the game because most of them didn’t get to come see me play at Meridian,” said Thomas. “This will be like a home game. It feels good to be back playing in front of my family. Hopefully I can whoop up on some people I used to whoop up on.”
Tipoff for the girls’ game is set for 5 p.m., with the boys’ game set to follow at 7 p.m.
Both series are tied 11-11.
Thomas is hoping to help Mississippi take the lead in the boys series. He averaged 16 points, five rebounds and five assists this season for Meridian, which finished 22-7 and No. 8 in The Clarion-Ledger Super 10.
“The best thing about him is that he has a very high IQ,” said Meridian coach Randy Bolden. “He understands how to play the game.”
Thomas has made a big impression through the first two days of practice.
“The main thing is just how hard he is playing,” said Mississippi head coach Leroy Cotton of Cleveland East Side. “His skill level is real good, he plays hard and shoots well. And he has a great attitude about everything. He is actually even better than I expected.”
Thomas played his ninth- and 10th-grade seasons at Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery before playing as a junior at Jefferson Davis. He transferred to Meridian after his mother’s job transferred her to Mississippi.
He says the adjustment to playing for his third school in three seasons wasn’t difficult.
“Coach Bolden made it easy because he set the expectations for me and had his goals,” said Thomas. “He just asked me to follow the rules and come to practice and work hard so that’s what I did.”
He’s also adjusting to playing with the all-stars.
“There is a lot of freedom, but it’s structured,” he said. “It’s a lot easier because there is so much talent. If someone messes up on defense, there’s going to be a bucket somewhere. So it’s easy playing with those guys.”
Thomas is still undecided where he’ll play college. He has offers from mid-major programs like New Orleans, Western Kentucky and Wichita State. But he also has drawn interest from Mississippi State, Auburn, LSU and Missouri.
Along with Thomas, other projected starters for tonight’s game for Mississippi are: Sam Craft (Olive Branch), Treshawn Bolden (Callaway), Javeres Brent (Provine) and Kenny Paul Geno (Booneville).
For boys’ coach Leroy Cotton, it’ll be a busy day.
His daughter Lashyra Cotton, a Dandy Dozen guard/forward and Southern Miss signee, is playing in the girls’ game.
“For her to participate is big and something she has looked forward to,” said Cotton. “The whole family is here and we’re having a good time. I guess I’ll do like I do during the season. I’ll watch her the first two quarters and then I’ll try to sneak some peeks in.”
The Mississippi girls are looking to win their fourth straight game in the series. Mississippi’s projected starters for the girls’ game are: Mississippi State signee Kiandria Patterson (Columbus), Jayla Chills (Ripley), Buffalo signee Joanna Smith (Southaven), Bretta Hart (Bay High) and either Jazmine Spears (New Albany) or Alexus Malone (Oxford).