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Boys basketball player of the year: When Alers got serious, Jackets got on a roll


When Te’Quan Alers was 8 years old, before he blossomed into a 6-foot-8-inch, 250-pound center at James Monroe, he was a soccer player.

And even then, he dwarfed children his age.

“Then they told me I couldn’t play,” Alers said. “They said I was just too big. They told me to try something else.

So eventually Alers turned to basketball. He played with his older brother and his brother’s friends, who were older, stronger and tougher than him.

He enjoyed the game, but he did not take it very seriously.

When he was in sixth grade, he was encouraged to try out for a travel basketball team. He didn’t think much of it, and he didn’t know what to expect.

“I went to the tryouts wearing jeans, and people were staring at me,” Alers said. “They didn’t even think I’d be playing. But I got serious about it from then on.”

This season, Alers’ commitment to the game was clear. The senior center averaged 17.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game for the Yellow Jackets, leading them to the state tournament for the first time in 40 years.

For this effort, he has been named The Free Lance–Star’s boys basketball player of the year.

“This year he played tremendously,” James Monroe coach Antonio Coghill said. “He came out and played like a man. He actually dominated games.”

Alers showed tantalizing potential early in his career. He first dunked in a game when he was a freshman, and he developed a smooth jump shot as a junior.

But for Alers, moments of dominance were mixed with periods of sluggishness.

“In the past, one game he might have 31 points and 15 rebounds, and the next game he has four and six,” Coghill said. “I told him it can’t be like that. He’s too good of an athlete, too good of a basketball player. And I think this year he was consistent.”

Some of Alers’ stat lines this season were eye-popping.

On the eve of the Battlefield District tournament final against Culpeper, Alers learned that he had been passed over in voting for the district’s player of the year.

Then he went out and tallied 31 points and 20 rebounds as the Yellow Jackets won the tournament championship.

“I just had to prove it to myself,” he said. “I took control out there.”

Although Alers’ improvement has been noticeable, he knows that his ceiling remains high.

He is a sturdy 6-foot-8, but he has never participated in a thorough weight training regimen. He can run the floor well, but he just recently began focusing on his conditioning.

Towson, Virginia–Wise, West Virginia Tech, Bowie State and Virginia Union all have expressed interest in Alers.

There is also a chance he could attend prep school next season. He recently visited Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, where the physicality of the team was evident. Alers took part in a scrimmage at a team practice and suffered a gash over his right eye that required three stitches.

He has been working out recently and training with JM’s track and field team, preparing for whatever comes next.

“I think the sky is the limit for Te’Quan,” Coghill said. “He still needs to work, but he’s only going to get better. He’s going to make some coach happy next year. I guarantee you that.”

Adam Himmelsbach: 540/374-5442