BIRMINGHAM – There was no one decision that led to the transformation, just a series of small ones that turned a lightweight into a state power.
The Jeff Davis girls basketball team is about to make yet another appearance in the state semifinals, but it wasn’t long ago that just one such trip would have been considered miraculous.
And Thursday, when the Vols play Hazel Green in the Class 7A semifinals, two of the primary architects will face each other.
“It’s always tough to play against JD because my roots are there,” said Hazel Green coach Tim Miller, a 1989 JD graduate and former JD coach. “I felt we built something there and I always want to see them succeed, because it’s my alma mater.”
When he took over for the 1999-2000 season, the team had won five games combined over three years.
Between Miller and current coach LaKenya Knight, the Vols are 399-113, have had 16 consecutive winning seasons and are perennial contenders.
“I’m just continuing what he built,” Knight said.
JD has made a regional 14 times in 15 seasons (dang 2004) and has celebrated eight regional championships. The Vols have one state title in that time — 2006.
From 1994, when the regional format started, until Miller took over, JD never reached a regional.
“When I first started, we would watch the girls and there were pieces out there that were workable,” said Miller, an assistant for one year to JD boys coach Terry Posey before going to the girls.
“We felt they could compete.”
Knight, a former star guard at AUM, coached at Montgomery County High and LAMP before going to JD. She was Miller’s assistant for two seasons, including the state championship year.
“It can go as far as the kids want it to go, and they have to continue to work,” Knight said. “We have to keep pushing.”
Knight and Miller remain friends, and this will be the second time they’ve faced off in the playoffs. Miller left JD for Bob Jones, where he won three state titles in five years. In the 2011 semifinals, Bob Jones beat the Vols 62-25.
“Coach Knight does a really good job,” said Miller, who is in his second season at Hazel Green. “She’s consistently getting to the final four, and she has just as good a chance to win it as anybody.”