This is the first of a series featuring the five “Class of 2022” Jackson Parish Sports Hall of Fame inductees and two Distinguished Award winners that will be enshrined in the October 1st banquet that will be held at the Family Life Center of the First Baptist Church in Jonesboro.
To whom much is given, much will be required! The biblical quote that can be found in Luke 12: 42-44 means that we are held responsible for what we have. If we are blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, time, and the like, it is expected that we use these benefit others. Many have been given this opportunity but only a few fulfill the expectations. When it came to playing basketball, 2022 Jackson Parish Sports Hall of Fame inductee Greg Harrell completed the task.
From the first day Harrell stepped onto the basketball court at Jonesboro-Hodge High School in 1977 his talent was easily recognized. Head coach, Donnie Hamm, had heard about the gangly freshman’s ability from his older brother Charles, who was a superb talent in his own right, but it wasn’t until that he got to see Harrell in action that he became a true believer.
Jonesboro-Hodge has had many great basketball players grace the court but even with the tremendous legacy of players in the past the skill Harrell possessed at such a young age was very rare. The 5’11” guard could flat out fill it up from the outside and also was very adept at driving the lane for the hard buckets. What really raised eyebrows though was his cat quick, leaping ability that belied all reason. I just didn’t seem natural that someone so rail thin could leap so high so quick.
It didn’t take many practices before Hamm did something that was rare in those days. He put Harrell on the varsity team. The move was met with excitement but at the same time with trepidation. While his play was mature beyond his years, making the varsity as a ninth grader was something that didn’t happen every day and was a nerve-racking experience.
“That was big for me,” reflects Harrell. “I remember thinking I’m with the big boys now. I was used to playing with and against older guys as I had my brothers ahead of me but that was on the playground. This was different. This was playing for the school and in front of a lot of people. I was confident, but at the same time I was nervous, especially at first.”
In 1978, Lane Norsworthy took over the reins as head basketball coach. It didn’t take long for Norsworthy to realize that the sophomore class, led by Harrell, was something special. He even went so far as to make the comment that in two years he was going to win state with that group. As the season progressed Harrell became more involved and despite only standing 6’0” he led the team with 10 rebounds per game. Included was an 18 board night in a district contest against Homer. At season’s end Harrell was selected to the All-District team.
“When Norsworthy gave me a starting position at second guard my sophomore year, I really started to gain more confidence and started to become more assertive,” said Harrell.
As a junior, Harrell started to assert himself more on the offensive end of the floor. Playing now with mostly the group that he had grown up with he averaged 20 points a game and led the Tigers to another district championship setting the stage for a senior season that goes down as one of the best in JHHS history for what the team and Harrell accomplished.
Following the third straight district championship the Tigers faced the task of playing defending state champion W.O. Boston and Class 2A MVP Danny Gautier in the quarterfinals. Before the contest Norsworthy challenged Harrell to prove who was the best talent on the floor that night. It was no contest. Harrell set a school playoff performance record that still stands today by scoring 34 points and pulling down an incredible 20 rebounds.
That set up a matchup in the Class AA semifinals against Shady Grove. Midway through the second Harrell made a basket to give the Tigers a 22-21 lead and then went on a tear that saw JHHS lead by a 50-33 count with 1:35 left in the third. Harrell ended the night with 20 points, including hitting 8 of 9 from the free throw line to ice the game late in the 67-61 victory that propelled the Tigers into the state championship game against John Curtis.
The contest between the two schools was a rematch of the Class AA state football title game won by John Curtis. At the half it looked like the Patriots, who had entered the contest with a 28 game winning streak would double dip the Tigers as they entered the half with an 37-26 lead. The lead remained at 11 points with 4:23 left in the third before the Tigers, led by Harrell started what is now recognized as the greatest championship rally in school history. By outscoring John Curtis 35-18 over the final quarter and a half, the Tigers ran their “Top Twenty” record to 6-0 and won the first title in since the 1964-65 season. Harrell once again paced JHHS in scoring with 17 points enroute to being named to the All-Tournament team and later be named All-State before continuing his basketball career at East Central University.
“I was blessed to have the privilege of playing with such a great group of guys. We pushed each other hard and had great chemistry,” recalla Harrell. “We had only goal and that was to win a state title.”
Much was given! Much was returned, including a prophesy that was fulfilled!!!!
To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE