Published 12:00 am Monday, March 29, 2004
The peculiar malady known as March Madness has been building in the state of
Alabama since the Blazers and the Alabama Tide combined to oust two of the
NCAA tournament’s top seeds last weekend.
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That excitement has reached a fever pitch in the Black Belt as a trio of
native sons shined on a national stage.
With his late-game heroics former Wilcox Central and Keith star Antoine
Pettway, a walk-on at Alabama, has had more Sportscenter face time than
His teammate down in Camden, Gabe Kennedy, and his Blazers
are officially the Cinderella of the tournament.
But the highest honor was reserved for former Southside Panther Chuck Davis.
Davis, a sophomore at Alabama, is the cover boy on Sports Illustrated this
week as the issue hypes both the Tide and UAB.
“Today my phone’s been ringing off the hook,” Davis’ coach at Southside,
Anthony Sewell said. “I’m very proud of him. I follow every box score after
every game and see how he’s doing. When you spend so much time with a kid,
he’s just like a son to me.”
The honor belongs to more than just Davis, the magazine cover is a sign of
respect for Alabama’s team.
“It’s great for the basketball program to get on the cover of a national
magazine,” Tide player Kennedy Winston said. “It shows how basketball is
coming up in the state.”
If the Tide can keep rolling, it’s only a taste of the attention that will
come Alabama’s way.
Sewell, who is an assistant at Troy State, said he hopes to be able to meet
up with his former player at the Final Four.
“I’m going out to the Final Four myself, hopefully I’ll get a chance to
watch him,” Sewell said. “They’ve got a legitimate shot, anything’s
Anything’s possible could be the motto for Davis’ walk-on teammate Pettway.
The little guard who was passed over by most big-time schools has shown why
recruiting should be about more than just height.
Pettway has been a killer
this season. He’s Bama’s best deep threat and their go-to-guy in the clutch.
Pettway’s runner in the lane with under 10 seconds left lifted Alabama past
Southern Illinois in the first round of the tournament.
“Coach saw me play in the state championship game and he gave me the
opportunity,” Pettway said. “I came up here and worked hard and took
advantage of every opportunity that I got.”
Alabama coach Mark Gottfried is certainly happy that he gave Pettway that
“He’s the heart and soul of our team. He’s the little engine that could. He
keeps on plugging away, and he’s not going to be denied, ” Gottfried said
about Pettway. “He finds ways to help our team win games. Everything about
him is a beautiful story, it really is. He’s a great young person and you
like to see guys like that have great moments like he’s had.”
The success of Alabama, Davis and Pettway has brought national attention to
Selma and the Black Belt.
Southside principal, Gary Crum, who came to the school after Davis left,
said all of Southside is rooting for their most famous alum.
“We’re very proud of him, the kids are very proud of him,” Crum said. “Just
to hear them mention Chuck Davis of Selma-Southside High School is great
because of the positive publicity.”
When he was an assistant at Selma, Dallas County’s Bill Porter Jr. coached
against Davis and over the years he saw Pettway and Kennedy play.
he never imagined that they would make the earn the kind of recognition they
“With Chuck’s size I knew he would be a major Division 1 player, but I
really didn’t think he would develop as fast as he did,” Porter said.
“Pettway, being a walk on, I’m sure nobody expected what he’s done there.”
Sewell said the key to Davis’ success, like the others, has been hard work.
“He’s the type of kid,
he can do anything he sets his mind to. I think his
hard work is paying off right now, he’s really looking good,” Sewell said.
‘I hope it’s just a beginning.”
For the UAB senior Kennedy, this season’s magical run hasn’t been a
beginning but he’d like it to end in style.
“I think we can go all the way,” he said. “If we do what we’re capable of
doing, then we can win it all.”