Practice is officially over, and Jerome Garrison is still on the basketball court shooting hoops with his Mountain Pointe teammates.

“The work ethic around here is ridiculous,” Garrison said with a grin. “We’re all playing and practicing extra hard, and we’re doing it as a team.”

And even senior teammates like Davon Jones say that Garrison is part of the inspiration behind that drive.

“There’s a lot of respect for him,” said Mountain Pointe coach Brian Fleming. “He really works hard and doesn’t back down from anyone. He never has.”

Some of that natural leadership, Garrison said, comes from his home life.

“We’re focused on God, and I just like to inspire people,” he said. “No one forced me into it. Ever since I was young I liked being a leader and when I’m older I want to be a coach. I want to give back.”

Garrison’s unselfishness and adaptability also tend to steer him into a leadership role.

“He’s very versatile,” Fleming said. “He’s a backup point guard to Stevie (Knox), a starting wing and I can put him inside if I need to. He plays every position we ask him to.”

Mountain Pointe finished with an 11-15 record last season and hasn’t been to the state playoffs since 2006.

But the Pride are on track to make it to the 5A-I state tournament this season.

“This is really a team effort,” Fleming said. “Guys will give up spots for other guys. We don’t have anyone shooting 20 points a game, but we have four guys in double figures. We’re really balanced this year, and that’s the difference between this year and last.”

Garrison averaged a little more than a point a game last season and had to deal with shin splints.

“Because of my injury, I had to work extra hard over the summer because I wanted to come back stronger,” Garrison said.

He credits coach Jeff Decker for pushing him in the weight room where he gained 20 pounds of muscle over the summer.

But Garrison didn’t come into the season with the mentality of a leader.

“Earlier in the year my confidence was not nearly as high,” Garrison said. “But the older guys like Dada (Jones) push me in practice and with help from Coach Flem and the team I gained confidence. Now I want to do whatever I can to help this team.”

He is accustomed to hard work. He played football when he was younger until a knee injury got him to thinking about concentrating his energy on basketball.

He went from a 5-foot-10, 160 pounder as a freshman to a 6-2, 185-pound mass who isn’t afraid to drive the lane.

“I didn’t used to go to the hole,” Garrison said, “but this year I’ve been working on it and being stronger helps.”

The Pride’s success this season doesn’t surprise Garrison.

“I knew we’d be good,” he said. “In fact, I thought we’d be better, and we will be the harder we practice and continue to play together.”

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