The outpouring of support Holt High School boys basketball coach Steven Watkins has received in the midst of tragedy from the basketball community at large has been tremendous.
Holt starter Jalen Merriweather was shot and killed Friday night after defending his sister, police said. A day earlier, he helped the Ironmen to a Class 4A, Area 7 championship and was named to the all-tournament team.
“The whole situation is really tough,” Watkins said. “The one thing that the game and just basketball in general does is it kind of helps one, to focus on something else, but also focus on all the good times that were had.”
The Ironmen will host Dadeville in a sub-regional contest on Tuesday at 6 p.m., and will hold a moment of silence for Merriweather before the game.
“I have heard from so many coaches in the area and really even around the state that have reached out, including the AHSAA. Everybody has been supportive of us,” Watkins said. “It’s really been something special just to see that outpouring, because in a lot of ways, all of these players from around here know each other, and it’s one of those things where the guys understand, and so do I, that it’s not something that is just affecting us, but something that is affecting so many other schools.”
Before its Class 6A, Area 7 championship over Hillcrest on Saturday night, defending state champions Paul W. Bryant warmed up in red shirts, one of Merriweather’s favorite colors, in honor of their friend. A moment of silence was held before the game, and in a photo of the Stampede posing with their area championship plaque, they each held up four fingers, the same number Merriweather wore for Holt.
“It’s a sad moment for the entire basketball community, because a lot of the guys around here in this basketball community know each other,” Paul W. Bryant coach Shon Peck-Love said. “Even though they get on the court and compete against each other and fight each other, they are great friends off of the court with history. Our guys are really hurting. We sat down and talked with them about how good of a guy Jalen was and how well-liked he was.”
Reach Joey Chandler at email@example.com or at 205-722-0223.