They’ll face a higher competition level than they typically see, and the event is a first-time experience for each of the rising seniors and recent graduates.
But if it all becomes too much, athletes can turn to Anniston coach Eddie Bullock, who will be making his third trip to All-Star Week.
After being the North All-Stars girls basketball coach in 2010 and one of the North football assistant coaches in 2011, Bullock will return to the gridiron again, this time coaching the defensive line.
His previous two trips educated him about how things operate in Montgomery from the coaching side.
“You go down there, and it’s not like you have to develop players. Most of them are already good players, so you get to do more strategizing with them,” Bullock said. “We went in and got seven practices and a walk-through last year, and that was it. You go in with a limited game plan, but most of the players are so good they catch on fast. You find yourself adding things as you go. They’re like sponges and just absorb everything.”
As the defensive line coach, Bullock will be working with Oxford graduate Ulric Jones and recent Piedmont standout Marquez Gamble on the North sideline. Jones will play for Butler (Kansas) Community College in the fall, while Gamble signed with Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) College. Former Anniston offensive lineman Trevekio Roberts, who will play for Huntington, is also on the team.
“Most of the players are going to smaller schools, and we are under limitations,” Bullock said. “Some of the larger schools don’t like their signees to play in the game, so most of the kids that signed with smaller schools want to show the bigger schools that they missed an opportunity. It encourages them to go out and show what they’re made of.”
For the remainder of the athletes — all rising seniors — recruiting plays a large part in competing.
Ranburne outfielder Mark David Smith said he’s most looking forward to playing in front of scouts, in an attempt to get more offers before his senior year begins. However, with college being one of two options for baseball players, Smith also worked out for the Cincinnati Reds this summer.
“You have to be consistent. That’s what my dad preaches to me is to be consistent,” Smith said. “They want to know what I can do all the time.
“One game, I could go 4-for-4, but the next three games I could go 0-for-4. They want consistency.”
While Smith and others are trying to build offers, Woodland girls basketball star Leah Strain already has numerous opportunities.
Strain’s list includes Samford, Jacksonville State and UAB.
While the game Wednesday will allow her to continue to show her skills, the never-ending sport of basketball already has allowed her to raise eyebrows. Four months ago, she was the Class 2A state tournament most valuable player after helping the Lady Bobcats to the championship.
“I know most of the girls on my team because I’ve played with them through AAU, and I know most of the other girls through the AAU circuit, as well,” Strain said. “Me and four others that are on my team actually all play for my traveling team, the Southern Starz, and we’ve talked about it and we’re really excited.”
And although Strain is familiar with her teammates, Faith Christian goalkeeper Sydney Nordan is entering something of a new world.
Despite Nordan playing for multiple club teams during the past six years — currently with goalkeeper and North teammate Alexandra Carroll of Vestavia Hills for the Vestavia Hills club team — she plays for the Faith boys soccer team, since the school does not have a girls team.
“It always is a little different because the speed is a little different. Next week will be a little slower for me than usual,” Nordan said. “But girls at this level are obviously still good and know their game. It’ll be difficult in the timing of making saves because there is the possibility of under-timing the game.”
Jacksonville volleyball star Katie Neisler is in the same shoes as Nordan. She only knows one player on the North team, Donoho’s Corey Phillis. And although Neisler has been committed to play at Samford for more than six months and isn’t looking for recruiting opportunities, she has high spirits about next week.
“I think it’ll be a great experience to play with people I’ve never played with before,” Neisler said. “It’ll be different to play around and against the best players in Alabama.
“Even if you’re committed, you still want to do your best. And, of course, if my coach is down there, I want to impress him.”
All-Star Sports Week provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for athletes around the state. From Nordan not thinking she would get picked (and getting the surprise news while in chemistry lab) to Strain having just another week of grinding while waiting patiently for one of her five days off in July, the experience is something that should be taken advantage of.
“It’s a great experience,” Bullock said. “They’re eager to show the other guys that they are good and belong there.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.