Photos by Bill Roseberry
Seniors (from left) Carlos Anderson, Bryan Hudson and Darrius Edwards are major reasons for the 21-4 Redbirds’ success this year.
These Birds of a feather tend to flock together. Carlos Anderson, Bryan Hudson and Darrius Edwards have kept the Alton High basketball team flying high since the start of the season.
The three seniors are ensuring that the 21-4 Redbirds are chirping. Alton is relishing back-to-back 20-win seasons and staying on East St. Louis’ heels for the Southwestern Conference championship.
“All three of them have felt passionate enough to take leadership roles this season,” third-year AHS coach Eric Smith said.
The 6-foot-7 Hudson is bound for the University of Missouri on a baseball scholarship. He’s averaging nearly 12 points per game. Anderson, averaging 10 points, is headed to SIUE to play basketball. He’s a 6-4 guard/forward. Edwards, a 6-0 guard scoring at a 12.1 ppg, is weighing several offers, including one from Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.
“We have been playing with each other for so long that we understand each other,” Edwards said. “We trust each other a lot.”
Smith added, “Those three guys have given us a lot of contributions the last two years. They do a lot of things for us and it’s not necessarily just scoring.”
The Birds, 9-2 in the SWC, trail the league-leading Flyers by two games. AHS still has league dates remaining at Edwardsville (Feb. 20), at Belleville West (Feb. 24) and O’Fallon (Feb. 27) prior to the Class 4A Edwardsville Regional. East St. Louis, 11-0 in conference competition, must play O’Fallon (Feb. 20), Granite City (Feb. 24) and at Collinsville (Feb. 27).
“We definitely don’t want to lose any more conference games,” Hudson said. “And winning the regional is a big goal for us.”
The 20-plus win campaign is nothing new for the Redbirds. Backed by guards De’Antae McMurray and Michael Williams-Bey, they logged a 22-6 record last season, their best one since going 24-7 for coach Layne Bennett in 2007-08. Hudson, Anderson and Edwards served as starters on last year’s team that lost to host Quincy in the regional semifinals. Thus, the Redbirds have prevailed in 43 of their last 53 games.
“It’s not just one of those guys that has taken the reins this season,” Smith said of his talented threesome. “To their credit, all three have provided leadership.
“It’s leadership by committee.”
Anderson likes the trio’s shared leadership responsibility.
“We’ve played with each other since the seventh or eighth grade, so we know what the other one is going to do in certain situations,” he said.
SIUE will count on Anderson for big things once he joins the Cougars, members of the Division I Ohio Valley Conference.
“Carlos is an intelligent kid who understands the things we want to do,” Smith said. “I don’t think he receives enough credit for everything he does for us. He does a lot of little things that are really important. He has made a lot of sacrifices and everybody has something good to say about him.”
Anderson said, “I’m the type of player that doesn’t say too much. I tend to lead by example.”
Hudson’s aggressive play has encouraged Smith and his assistant coaches. He’s a force in the middle, including rebounding and shot blocking.
“Bryan has shown a lot of maturity this season – not that he didn’t have it last season,” Smith said. “But he has upped his intensity and increased his competitiveness.”
Hudson noted, “I want to lead by example.”
Edwards has proven consistent, especially with his scoring. His ball-handling also has improved because he has to do more of it this season, Smith said.
“Darrius plays with a lot of emotion and he can do that even when things aren’t going our way in a game,” Smith said. “He can put a lot of pressure on the ball.”
If Anderson is the brainy leader and Hudson the quiet leader, then Edwards could be the spiritual leader. The Redbirds are benefiting from the way they mesh together.
“They give us the opportunity to do different things through the course of the game,” Smith said. “We can play a transition game or slow it down.”
Edwards said, “This year, we have a different mindset. We want to go farther than we did last year.”
Alton has become accustomed to winning. The Redbirds went 81-16, including three seasons of more than 25 victories from 2004-07 under Lee Bennett, Layne’s younger brother. Lee has been at Centralia for eight seasons.