Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

SPORTS >>Senior took charge of young Devils

By RAY BENTON
Special to the Leader

“Conflicted,” “strained” and “out of place” are not terms normally associated with an All-State basketball player.

But that’s how Jacksonville point guard Terrell Eskridge felt at times while leading the Red Devils as a floor general the past two seasons — two of the best seasons for Jacksonville in the past dozen years.

That success came in large part because Eskridge was able to bury those feelings and replace them with leadership, humility and toughness.

This season, the team finished only 14-14, but that was after a 3-9 start. It ended with a trip to the quarterfinals this season, one year after the Red Devils reached the semis.

Eskridge never planned on being in Jacksonville, or even playing basketball. He was happy attending Little Rock Central and being an observer. One day that all changed — against his will. During his sophomore year, his mother, who had legal custody even though he lived with his father, transferred him to Jacksonville to be nearer to her.

“I didn’t want to come here,” Eskridge said. “I cried and I got mad. She actually finally said I could go back, but Central wouldn’t take me back after I transferred.”

While Eskridge still isn’t sure that was all for the best, he is now glad she made him play basketball. He played mostly junior varsity point guard his sophomore year, but stepped into the starting role last season. He was the only non-senior to play a major role on that team, and was the only senior to play a major role this year.

The drastic change in roles, Eskridge admits, wasn’t an easy transition. He ended up doing things this year, he said, he swore he would never do.

“When I was an underclassman I didn’t like it when the seniors would yell at me,” Eskridge said. “I wasn’t ever going to do that. I said that tomyself. But you get here and you realize that sometimes you have to. They’re so young you have to do things to get their attention. I didn’t do it for a long time, but when we got to 3-9 I knew something wasn’t working, so I had to try something else.”

Eskridge said his teammates didn’t take it well at first, but soon things began to click and the team became a force in the 6A-East Conference.

Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner credits his only senior with helping get the team on the same page.

“They all had that same kind of laid-back attitude, not much outward emotion,” Joyner said. “They were all playing, but everybody on this team was sort of functioning in their own little world. Terrell knew he had to start saying some