For Jarrell’s Qyrique Dabon, adjusting to life on the Blackland Prairies of northern Williamson County went beyond his new teammates on the basketball court. The change also settled in his stomach.
A year ago, the 6-foot-7 Dabon served as a role player for Edna Carr High School in New Orleans and helped his team reach the fourth round of the Louisiana state playoffs. Now, he’s a centerpiece for a Jarrell squad seeking its first state championship.
“It’s a little different than what I was used to,” Dabon said Tuesday before a Cougars practice. “I miss New Orleans some, especially the food. Shrimp, crawfish, crabcake, all of it. You name it.
“But it’s all good. It’s all about basketball here.”
While Dabon may never favor the burgers and tater tots at Sliders in Jarrell over the chicken and andouille gumbo at Acme Oyster Company in New Orleans, he appreciates the community’s dedication to basketball.
Since head coach Drew Sumner arrived in 1989 and changed the fortunes of a moribund program, the Cougars have won more than 500 games and have qualified for the playoffs every year since 2004. This season, they have earned a berth in the UIL boys state tournament for the second time in school history after also qualifying in 2007. On Thursday, Jarrell (33-3) will face Brock in a Class 3A semifinal in San Antonio.
Since his arrival in Jarrell, Sumner has won with all kinds of kids and varying styles of play, but he’s always shown an appreciation for post play, and Dabon’s addition to the 2016-17 squad gave Sumner an added bonus for an already loaded team.
“I’m kind of weird; I really am post-oriented,” Sumner said. “If we don’t have a post player, I don’t know what to do.”
Sumner’s modest appraisal of his coaching came with a smile, but he knows what Dabon means to his team. A gifted passer with an intrinsic feel for the game, Dabon opens things up for Jarrell’s wealth of shooters, led by T.J. Sykes, Kyle Spencer and A.J. Smith.
“He is very unselfish,” Sumner said. “He does not mind passing. He sees people open. Our kids won’t even know they’re open, and he’ll throw and hit them.”
In fact, say his teammates, Dabon plays almost too unselfishly.
“At the beginning of the season, he (Dabon) was kind of passive and timid,” said Sykes, who has known Dabon since early childhood, “but we knew he would be the key to the season. We want to get him the ball before we even think about shooting. He can score whenever he wants to. I’m glad he actually realized that and started doing it. “
Becoming an offensive option proved another adjustment for Dabon, who played on a guard-oriented team at his New Orleans high school in the Algiers neighborhood. At Edna Carr, Dabon set screens and grabbed rebounds and whipped the ball out of the paint.
Now, he keeps an eye on his team’s shooters while sizing up his defenders in the post.
“I was a role player at Edna Carr, getting the big-time players some good looks,” he said. When I got here, there was a lot of pressure. I wasn’t used to getting the ball a lot. I had to adapt and use some more moves that I wasn’t used to doing.”
Dabon has played a particularly big role for Jarrell since four-year starting forward Trevor Ledbetter went down with an ankle injury suffered in the playoffs. Dabon has averaged almost 20 points a game in the postseason and had 29 points and nine rebounds in a 74-58 victory over Teague in the Class 3A, Region final on Saturday.
But the stakes grow even bigger Friday inside the Alamodome, where Jarrell will face a Brock team the Cougars beat 58-53 at a December tournament.
“Playing in the Alamodome, that’s big-time,” Dabon said. “I knew when I got here that this program was at the level of making the playoffs, but I didn’t know we’d be playing for a state championship. It’s been a great experience.”
BOYS BASKETBALL: UIL STATE TOURNAMENT
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio
Area qualifiers: Jarrell (Class 3A); Thorndale (Class 2A)
Tickets: A general-session ticket costs $19. (Children 2 and younger are free but may not occupy a seat.) An all-tournament pass costs $130.
Parking: Available in Alamodome lots for $15.
TV/online streaming: Fox Sports Southwest will air the Class 6A final live on Saturday night. All other semifinals and finals will be webcast through the NFHS Network, which requires a subscription.
Class A semifinals
8:30 a.m. — Borden County (22-3) vs. Happy (24-5)
10 a.m. — Lipan (34-3) vs. Dime Box (27-8)
Class 3A semifinals
1:30 p.m. — Santa Rose (34-3) vs. Dallas Madison (26-8)
3 p.m. — Jarrell (31-3) vs. Brock (29-8)
Class 5A semifinals
7 p.m. — Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial (31-6) vs. Mansfield Timberview (30-7)
8:30 p.m. — Justin Northwest (32-5) Fort Bend Marshall (31-7)
Class 2A semifinals
8:30 a.m. — Grapeland (33-5) vs. Muenster (31-6)
10 a.m. — Thorndale (27-9) vs. Clarendon (31-2)
Class 4A semifinals
1:30 p.m. — Freeport Brazosport (32-3) vs. Midlothian Heritage (32-5)
3 p.m. — Argyle (33-3) vs. Silsbee (31-6)
Class 6A semifinals
7 p.m. — Dallas Skyline (34-1) vs. Cypress Falls (33-3)
8:30 p.m. — San Antonio Wagner (35-2) vs. Keller (33-2)
8:30 a.m. — Class A final
10 a.m. — Class 3A final
1:30 p.m. — Class 2A final
3 p.m. — Class 5A final
7 p.m. — Class 4A final
8:30 p.m. — Class 6A final