Sinking 10 consecutive free throws in the fourth quarter to send your team to its first-ever state tournament? That is stuff of local folklore that will be talked about for decades to come and long after Sullivan South shuts its doors.
For that standout performance in the sectional road game against Alcoa and countless others in a school record 30-win campaign for the Rebels, senior point guard Ben Diamond was chosen as the Johnson City Press and Kingsport Times-News boys basketball player of the year.
The boys state tournament is indefinitely suspended, but if and when the event finally does get under way, Columbia blue, red and white will be proudly displayed inside the Murphy Center as long as the Rebels are still playing. The first-round matchup for South is Pearl-Cohn.
“It was an amazing feeling going down to Alcoa and winning that game,” Diamond said. “It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe and I was so happy that this team was able to accomplish the goal we set at the beginning of the season.”
ICE WATER IN HIS VEINS
Being an undersized player at his position, Diamond naturally plays with a chip on his shoulder and loves taking contact on his way to the cup.
“I love being able to take a slower defender off the dribble and get to the bucket,” he said. “Even if I don’t get the finish, I still get to go to the line and am able to help my team out in that way.”
And he shoots the ball from the free-throw line at an exceptional rate of 76% while averaging 18.5 points and four assists per game.
In the regional finals loss against Greeneville, Diamond almost solely kept South in the game with 35 points. He went 24 of 28 from the charity stripe.
“Those are the kinds of moments I live for,” Diamond said. “I like having the ball in my hands at the line with the game on the line.”
“You know you have a very special player when he’s not afraid to take those free throws at the end of the game,” South head coach Michael McMeans said. “Ben probably took over 180 free throws in the fourth quarter alone this year. He wants the ball at the end and I wouldn’t want the ball in anyone else’s hands.”
OFF THE HARDWOOD
In his minuscule free time, Diamond volunteers at nursing homes and at the local hospital. Most of the time it's early in the morning before school.
“I love helping people in need,” Diamond said. “I draw a lot of inspiration from my parents because they’re both teachers and they’ve always been there to help others. I don’t want to be a teacher, but I can still help others in any way that I can.”
“Ben is one of those kids that you look at as a parent and you want your kids to be like him,” McMeans said. “He works so hard in everything and he’s reaping the rewards right now. He’s got almost a 4.0 GPA and he’s doing a lot with the local hospitals.”
Diamond’s favorite school subject is mathematics and wants to be a doctor someday.
“Math has always come naturally to me,” he said. “I really like numbers and one of our goals at the beginning of the season was to beat the school record for wins, which was 28.”
Diamond believes that the best word to describe his style of basketball is “aggressive.”
“I have to be aggressive being a little undersized, but it creates opportunities for me to score and help my team win,” he said.