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Caleb Turrentine / The Tribune Stanhope Elmore’s D.J. Jamerson (4) rises for a jump shot against Tallassee.

Stanhope Elmore’s DJ Jamerson is no stranger to success on the basketball court. During his time in South Korea, Jamerson was a leading scorer for the Osan Cougars and was named to the All-Far East team in his final season before his family moved to Millbrook.

The transition provided plenty of challenges both on and off the court but Jamerson made things look easy and quickly became a star for the Mustangs. He finished with an average of 16.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game to earn the honor of 2020 Elmore County Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

“I think he got a whole lot better as the year went on,” Stanhope Elmore coach Terry Hardy said. “Basketball is basketball wherever you play but the style is a little bit different than he was used to. He did a good job of adjusting and handled the whole thing really well.”

Jamerson was a shooting specialist during his time overseas and that success carried over. He knocked down 22 3-pointers at a 32.4% clip and he made an even bigger impact with his pullup shot between the paint and the arc.

However, that was one of the biggest adjustments Jamerson was forced to make. His length was often needed in the post rather than on the perimeter. He pushed himself to become more of an inside force including setting high goals for himself on the glass.

“It was definitely a learning experience for me but I think I did a good job,” Jamerson said. “I really had to increase my mental capacity for the game. I had to get used to basketball in the U.S. and how it’s played. I had to become more aggressive.”

Hardy said it did not take him long to realize he had something special but Jamerson made his presence known on a bigger stage when he earned MVP honors at the annual Montgomery Academy tournament in November. He averaged 20.1 ppg and 10 rpg, including a 27-and-14 performance to give the Mustangs a victory in the championship.

Jamerson seemed to save his best games for the biggest moments and it was the Mustangs’ rivals who were often on the wrong end. After getting a pair of double-doubles in two regular-season games against Wetumpka, Jamerson took it up a notch with the season on the line, recording 23 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in a win over Wetumpka in the area tournament.

“He is just very active player,” Wetumpka coach Byron Gaskin said. “With him being new, we didn’t really know what to expect from him. Just his presence changed the game and he really became a force on both ends.”

Stanhope Elmore relied on Jamerson’s offense but his impact on defense may have been more important. He finished with 84 blocks in just 26 games and there was a clear change in the Mustangs’ defensive success when he went off the floor.

“He was the anchor,” Hardy said. “Any time you have a 6-foot-7 (guy) in the middle, that’s tough to overcome. Other teams weren’t as tempted to drive into the lane. Who doesn’t want a kid like that on the inside?”

Stanhope was looking for someone to take on a leadership role and Hardy saw that trait begin to develop in Jamerson late in the season.

“I took a leap of faith and tried to take it head on,” Jamerson said. “Communication was the biggest challenge. I wanted to make sure my teammates kept their heads up and everyone stayed focused.”

Now with a year under his belt, Jamerson hopes to make an even bigger impact next year. Hardy shares those high expectations.

“He can be a big part of the future here,” Hardy said. “I don’t see why he can’t be back-to-back player of the year in the county and even push for player of the year in the state. It’s hard to stop a kid with that many weapons. With his skill set, there is no ceiling for him.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.