Photo by Bill Roseberry
Alton native JaQuail Townser, now the starting point guard for Jacksonville State, looks to get around SIUE’s Donivine Stewart during an Ohio Valley Conference basketball game Jan. 1 at the Vadalabene Center in Edwardsville.
JaQuail Townser has a good thing going at Jacksonville State in Alabama, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference.
The one-time Alton High basketball standout and stellar player at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville has made a smooth transition to NCAA Division I basketball.
Let him tell you about it:
“I do feel Jacksonville State is a good fit for me,” the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Townser said last week in Edwardsville. “Everything is going well and I’m adjusting to a different style.”
He adapted to playing in front of some of his most ardent fans on Jan. 1 when Jacksonville State lost to SIUE, 73-57, in the OVC opener for both teams.
“It felt good playing here,” Townser said of the 4,000-seat Vadalabene Center. “I thought it was like a homecoming for me. The atmosphere was different.”
Townser had former AHS coaches Layne Bennett and Will Gordon, along with SWIC coach Jay Harrington, cheering him. It appeared Townser had his own rooting section.
“I had a lot of friends and family here,” he said. “And the coaches that were here today were ones that really inspired me. They really helped me to develop a lot.”
Although the Gamecocks never got on track against the Cougars, don’t blame Townser. He scored a team-best 11 points and had three steals to go along with two assists. Townser is the team leader in steals and assists, plus he’s averaging 8.9 points per game through Wednesday. Jacksonville State played host to Austin Peay on Thursday following press time.
“He’s a good player for them,” SIUE coach Lennox Forrester said of Townser, a business major. “He can score, he can create and he can do a lot of things on the floor.
“We watched him grow up (at AHS) and he was someone we looked at to bring here.”
Instead, Jacksonville State, a member of the OVC East, snared him from SWIC following two solid seasons for the Blue Storm. Townser’s goal was to play D-I basketball and the Gamecocks are giving him that opportunity. He scored a season-high 24 points in an overtime victory over Winthrop earlier this season.
“He has been really good, especially the last few games” Jacksonville State coach James Green said. “He plays with a lot of confidence and we like the way he can do things for us. He finds people open on the floor and his biggest asset is the way he can dish the ball.”
His opportunities to set up teammates didn’t develop as much as Green sought against the Cougars. Jacksonville State made only 20 of 59 field goals, or 34 percent, while the Cougars hit on 26 of 48 attempts, or 54 percent. SIUE belongs to the OVC West.
“To be honest about it, we weren’t ready to play,” Green said of the Gamecocks’ lopsided loss. “Give SIUE credit. They were ready to play and they played hard. Our focus was absolutely horrible and that’s all on me. It was disappointing. We’re in a little bit of a funk right now.”
The Cougars are seeking bigger and better results after qualifying for the OVC Tournament last season.
“Getting there was nice for the first time last year,” SIUE’s Kris Davis said. “But we want to win it all this year.”
Townser’s task is to get Jacksonville State in position to make a run for the league playoffs. It’s a work in progress and he’s one of the progressive ones. Townser scored in double figures seven times through Jacksonville State’s first 16 (7-9 record) games. He was averaging 3.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game through Wednesday.
“Right now, we’re still trying to find ourselves as a team,” he said. “We’re trying to mold everything together and fix some things.”
Green said the team’s guard play, guided by Townser at the point position, could determine if the Gamecocks enjoy a successful season.
“I think we are probably deeper on the perimeter and deeper and better at the point,” the seventh-year coach said. “We should be able to extend the court more and play a little faster. I hope that will make us a better defensive team.”
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