Valley High’s perfect season: A look back with coach and son

Published 9:30 am Thursday, March 23, 2023

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VALLEY — Valley High head basketball coach Marshon Harper, his wife Jemeka Harper and son Jay Harper were special guests of the Valley Lions Club on Monday evening. Members of the club were treated to both coach and son talking about the school’s historic 33-0 season and a 5A state championship.

Coach Harper said the 2022-23 season had been an unbelievable experience and even more unbelievable, he has been coaching for almost a quarter century. He’s been coaching football at his alma mater for 24 years and basketball for 22. 

“I have never gone through anything like what we had this year,” he said. “We had such a good group of guys. It was a privilege to work with them.”

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The strength of the team was its depth. There were 11 upper classmen, six seniors and five juniors who been through past campaigns. Harper knew he could count on every one of them to play in any situation and not let their teammates down.

“Each one of them bought in to what we were doing,” Harper said. “They were very unselfish. We lived by the motto that we was greater than me.”

The coach said his top 11 came from good families and didn’t have to be taught self-discipline. 

“They knew they had to take care of their school work, be good citizens in the community, be on time for every practice and be ready to give their best on game day.”

The players stayed in shape by lifting weights in the offseason. During the season, they would lift on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and would be ready for games on Friday night or Saturday.

Having a veteran team made up of unselfish players shows up in the game-to-game statistics. 

“Any one of them could have been the leading scorer or rebounder on any given night,” Harper said. “To me, that was the best thing about our team.”

Son Jay Harper is a junior and is being recruited by multiple SEC schools in football. He and his teammates have been playing AAU travel ball since they were in elementary school. Jay said he’d always dreamed of being on a state championship team at Valley High but when it actually happened earlier this month, it all seem a bit surreal.

He described the season as a building process that gained momentum as the year went along. 

“We were really close, and we did what we could to help each other,” he said. “No one got in trouble. All guys are from good families.”

Jay said that playing AAU ball for a number of years had really helped him and his teammates. He and fellow juniors Cam Dooley, Denali Dooley, Brandon Thomas and Ian Crim-Davis had been called the “fab five” before getting to high school. They have one more year to repeat greatness. Cam Dooley is being recruited by some major colleges in football and basketball. Brandon Thomas has a number of offers in basketball.

A member of the club asked Jay why they wore black uniforms this year. 

“It was something different,” he said. “We liked the look.”

Coach Harper noted a difference between him and members of the team. 

“I’m the nervous one,” he said. “I’m the one who is always yelling and carrying on on the sideline. The players out there having fun while taking care of business.”

Members of the team have a nice reward coming to them. They will be getting state championship rings. There’s a link on the school’s Facebook page where people can make donations.

The Lions Club made a donation of $250 toward the rings.