“If somebody has a son like them they’re lucky parents, because they’re great kids and they’re good basketball players.”
Oxford High School boys basketball head coach Drew Tyler heaped plenty of praise on his three seniors following the team’s 92-59 loss to Center Hill in the first round of the MHSAA Class 6A state playoffs.
Tyler, who was recently named a finalist for the NHSACA National Basketball Coach of the Year award, said he could not be more proud of the way his veterans handled themselves this season. The longtime Oxford head coach addressed him team after their season ended, telling his underclassman to look to the example set both on and off the court by seniors Omari Frierson, Jacquez Elliot and Baylor Savage.
“We talked to our underclassman about our three seniors; Frierson, Elliot and Savage,” Tyler said. “[We] talked about what they’ve done for this program. They’ve started every game this season and they’ve done a heck of a job representing themselves, our team and our school for more than just this year.”
The senior trio persevered through a lot during their time at Oxford, including a global pandemic and the school’s worst season since Tyler took over the program in 1997. Through it all, they developed a bond on the basketball court that helped them bounce back with a 17-win senior campaign punctuated with a victory over Grenada in the Class 6A Region 1 consolation game on Feb. 11 that secured their 24th consecutive playoff appearance.
“Those seniors, Savage, Frierson and Elliot, they’ve really bonded together and done a great job leading this team,” Tyler said.
They complement each other well on the court, combining consistent perimeter shooting with high-level rim pressure to keep opposing defenses on their heels.
Savage, a 6-foot-3 spot-up shooter, hit the second-most three-pointers on the team this season. He caught fire near the end of the year, sinking two or more shots from beyond the arc in four of the Chargers final six games. He finished the season averaging 7.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
He played his best game of the season when it mattered most, scoring 19 points on 6-7 shooting from the field in the Chargers’ consolation game win over Grenada. The senior forward knocked down five of his six attempts from deep, opening up driving lanes for teammates and leaving the opposing defense scrambling.
He was unable to find the bottom of the net in the Chargers’ playoff loss to Center Hill however, scoring just two points and failing to register a field goal make against a Mustang defense that kept him from getting open looks all night.
“Baylor had a good run here at the end of the year so I hated that it ended that way for him,” Tyler said after the loss. “It was frustrating, Baylor not scoring and having two fouls… they were really guarding him on the perimeter.”
Elliot was the engine of the Chargers’ offense, providing high-level rim pressure and orchestrating the action from the point guard position. The 6-foot point guard attacked the rim with reckless abandon, drawing fouls and getting to the line more than any other Oxford player.
He recorded a career-high 25 points and five assists on 7-8 shooting in the win over Grenada on Feb. 11. He got to the line over and over again, going a perfect 10-10 from the charity stripe.
“He’s had to wear a lot of different hats on the team this season as far as being our leader on the floor,” Tyler said of Elliot. “I put a lot on Jac’s shoulders as far as being our point guard, quarterback on the floor, our leader. He’s done a heck of a job leading this team from that point guard spot.”
Frierson, an athletic combo forward, was the second-leading rebounder for an undersized Oxford squad that struggled to contend with taller, more athletic opponents. The 6-foot-2 Frierson did a little of everything on the court for the Chargers, providing shooting, rebounding and defense all while attacking the rim with strength and explosiveness.
He played his best game of the season in a loss to Coffeeville on Feb. 1, scoring 22 points and hauling in nine rebounds as the Pirates keyed in on leading scorer D.J. Davis. Frierson shot 9-14 from the field while playing ferocious defense, nabbing three steals and blocking two shots in a dominant performance.
The senior forward was named to the Class 6A Region 1 Second-Team after averaging 12.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
The Chargers will likely turn to Davis and fellow sophomore Miles Luber to shoulder even more of the scoring load after the departure of their star trio. Juniors Drew Carter, Jake Marsh and Jackson Myatt are all capable three-point shooters who will also be asked to take on larger roles in the offense.
Next year’s squad will look very different in both roster composition and style, as Oxford pivots to a more perimeter-oriented game. The Chargers will struggle on defense after losing two of their best defenders in Elliot and Frierson, but Tyler says he is looking forward to coaching a dynamic offensive team capable of making it rain from beyond the arc.
“They have the ability to score from the perimeter. We’re going to have to change our style of play simply because of a lack of quickness, but we have the ability to score anywhere in the half-court set on the perimeter,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun team to watch next year.