Three takeaways from Spain Park’s victory over Helena
Helena played host to Spain Park on Friday night in one of the more intriguing matchups in the greater Birmingham area. It was a back-and-forth affair early on, but Spain Park ultimately ran away with things in the second half.
Here are my three takeaways from the Jaguars’ 61-35 victory over Helena…
1.) Jared Smith moves the needle for Spain Park
Spain Park, one of the top teams in 7A, has a handful of talented players in the stable, led by seniors Zach Gray and Sam Wright. However, their most important player may be 2025 big man Jared Smith.
Smith, a 6-foot-6 forward, is a stud on the football field and is regarded as one of the top players in the country in his respective class — but he can hoop, too.
The sophomore is a glass cleaner on both ends of the floor. He’s Spain Park’s enforcer and really sets the tone for the Jaguars while being one of the most productive players in the game. When he’s on the floor, head coach Chris Laatsch knows he’s going to be productive.
I also believe Smith is a difference-maker for Spain Park. He’s the type of guy that moves the needle and makes a really good team a perennial state title contender… and I think that’s exactly what Spain Park is right now.
2.) Spain Park has the pieces to get back to Birmingham
Spain Park lost in the Final Four to eventual-state 7A champion Enterprise last year. As expected, they’re back and looking to take the next step.
As I mentioned above, Zach Gray and Sam Wright are both talented seniors that should be valuable pieces this season.
Gray, a 6-foot-5 forward that is committed to Lee University, brings a nice mix of skill and shot-making. He’s also a capable ball-handler on the perimeter. And despite being a 6-foot-8 big man, Wright is mobile and has an inside-out flavor to his game. His ability to score in the paint and on the perimeter sets him apart from his peers.
Toss in a solid group of guards and Smith and you have a team that can really challenge for a state championship. It doesn’t hurt to include Laatsch, who many consider one of the top coaches in the state, regardless of class.
I have Spain Park as one of my top four teams in the 7A classification as it stands right now.
3.) Helena is talented and should make some noise in 6A
Simply put, Helena is better than what they showed on Friday night. The Huskies have had some good games in the last few weeks, but I think this was “one of those days” for the 6A program.
I’ve only heard good things about 2024 guard Joshua Williams and I’ve liked the video I’ve watched on him so far. But it just wasn’t his night, as he struggled to hit shots throughout the game. However, I liked some passes he made and how he carried himself. He looks like a player and I’ll definitely be back to see more.
Senior Owen Davis is a quality big man in-state schools should know about. The 6-foot-8 big man is a consistent double-double threat and sports a high GPA. Belhaven recently extended a scholarship offer, and I could see more schools jumping in as they see him in the coming months.
I was also really intrigued by 2025 forward Joseph Scott. A long, lanky forward, the sophomore is extremely intriguing with his combination of size, skill, and upside. He made some jumpers and showcased his smooth shot and looked comfortable on the floor. Scott was a nice name to add to my ever-growing 2025 list.
Helena is nestled in a tough area with Briarwood Christian and Pelham, but I think they can definitely make some noise. Keep an eye on them this season — I’ll definitely be watching again.