High school basketball player of year: West’s Moss is the boss for second time
Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 14, 2021
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — It was a surprise to some when West Rowan guard Jalen Moss got the nod as Rowan County Player of the Year as a junior, in a season when the field was crowded with candidates.
This time, there wasn’t much doubt. Moss checked multiple boxes — quickest player, terrific defender, best player on the best team, county’s leading scorer.
“My God, he’s fast,” West head coach Mike Gurley said. “That last game we played (a 66-62 third-round loss to Crest), Jalen takes the ball three-quarters of the court, turns the jets on, crosses over a couple of guys at the foul line and lays it in, and I’m still believing we’re going to get it done. But then he gets his fifth foul.”
The makeup of this year’s West team was much different than the last one. West added three scorers to the mix in transfers Braden Graham, who had scored as many as 33 points in a game at South Rowan, and AJ Mauldin, who had scored as many as 31 for Carson, and impressive freshman Juke Harris. Moss’ biggest responsibility as a point guard was bringing everyone together into a cohesive unit.
“It wasn’t that hard,” Moss said. “Those guys know how to play and knew what to do, and I just tried to get the ball to everyone where they like to get it.”
Moss, who is listed at 6 feet tall, averaged 4.0 assists per game to go along with his 16.9 points.
“I think a lot of people looked at our team before the season and said there’s only one ball and one ball is not going to be enough with all those offensive options,” Gurley said. “But one ball was enough. I think Jalen Moss was the biggest reason that one was enough. He got everyone involved.”
Moss, Graham and Mauldin combined for 10 assists per game.
Moss joins a distinguished list of West players who have won multiple county player of the year awards. Scooter Sherrill was honored three times, while Jamel Carpenter and Caleb Mauldin were honored twice each.
“This was a different season, for sure,” Moss said. “The masks were tough, made it a lot harder to breathe. But we fought through everything. We had a great season.”
Moss scored 26 on opening night and had a season-high 28 in a league game against South Iredell.
He scored 20-plus points in the playoff wins against Monroe and Cox Mill. The Falcons had to come back in both of them.
“I studied film of our playoff opponents,” Moss said. “I wanted to be prepared for whatever we faced.”
Moss came to West during his sophomore year, along with his brother Bryson Moss, who was a senior. Due to illness, the younger Moss only played in a handful of varsity games as a sophomore, but he experienced success against Statesville and East Rowan and scored 21 in a loss to Carson.
He stepped to the forefront as a junior for a team that beat a strong Statesville squad to take the NPC tournament.
“He wasn’t the leader last season, but he still led with his play,” Gurley said. “This year I watched him grow a lot. This year he led in every way. He’s a kid with incredible tenacity, and his speed eliminates pressure. We haven’t had to worry about teams pressing us the last two years.”
Moss was held to 15 points when North Iredell handed the Falcons their only regular-season loss in Olin, but West came back to whip North Iredell for another NPC tourney crown. Moss wasn’t a huge scorer in that game, but he got the ball to the guys who were having hot nights.
“Once in a while I had to remind Jalen that he was the best player on the floor and he needed to play like it,” Gurley said. “He always responded.”
In addition to being honored as Rowan County Player of the Year, Moss was NPC Player of the Year and District 11 Player of the Year.
“It feels great to go out with a season like that,” Moss said.
Moss hasn’t committed to a school yet, but he plans to continue his basketball career and education. A post-graduate program is a possibility.
Jalen Moss, West Sr. — District, conference and county player of the year.
Braden Graham, West Sr. — Consistent scorer (14.9) and excellent rebounder for a guard. The county’s second-best player.
Macari Allison, West Sr. — Averaged 11.8 points and an aggressive and long defender. He blocked three shots per game.
Jalon Walker, Salisbury Jr. — Tremendous rebounder and defender. His above-the-rim block of North Davidson’s Jamarien Dalton was the play of the year.
Vincent Jones, East Sr. — Led the Mustangs in scoring (10.2). East had five players with almost identical scoring averages, but Jones shot a high percentage and was the leading rebounder.
Quashawn Carpenter, North Jr. — Leading scorer (11.3) and ball-handler for a young team. Had a 27-point effort against Albemarle.
Nate Brown, Salisbury Sr. — Dependable scorer (11.9) and rebounder for the Hornets.
Emory Taylor, Carson So. — Leading scorer (13.3) for a brand new Carson team that was surprisingly competitive. Scored 20-plus three times.
Cameron Stout, Salisbury Jr. — Outstanding shooter could get red-hot from 3 and averaged 12.6 per game.
Zeek Biggers, West Sr. — Big man’s presence was instrumental in the Falcons’ championship season. Could be counted on for eight points and eight rebounds.
AJ Mauldin, West Sr. — Averaged 9.8 points and 3.2 assists.
David Jordan, East Sr. — A tough call, but he was good for 10 or 12 just about every night and gets the nod as the Mustangs’ second-best player.
Barrett Thompson, South Sr. — The Raiders’ most consistent player and leading scorer.
AJ Merriman, Carson Sr. — Averaged double figures after taking a year off from basketball. Had games of 23 and 24 points.
Amari McArthur, North So. — Youngster made All-Yadkin Valley Conference.