Phil Layher did everything but sell popcorn at Jackson’s 1980-81 basketball season opener.
Layher is a coach’s ultimate fantasy; one of those kids who comes along once in a coach’s lifetime. He’s big, 6-foot-7, give or take an inch; he’s got beef on him besides being tall; he’s intimidating; he can kill you inside or with perimeter shots, and, perhaps equally important, he can bring the ball upcourt with the same finesse as a tiny guard.
“Did you see him break that press,” grinned coach Mel Hall after the Tigers had beaten Ripon, last year’s section playoff contenders, 59-48 last Friday night.
Layher led all scorers with 26 points and snagged 13 rebounds besides in a game in which Jackson easily won the battle of the boards, outrebounding the visitors 32-16.
Layher, of course, isn’t a one-man team. Hall has burly Clay Bassett back after a year’s absence because of a back injury. And Bassett, who looks about 6-foot-4, 240, is intimidating in his own right.
And Hall has a precision shooter in Wayne Woodard and an adequate guard in feisty Brian Thomas.
But, like we said, Layher did everything except sell popcorn.
Layher brought the ball upcourt several times while penetrating Ripon’s full-court press and his jumper from the top of the key seconds into the fourth quarter snatched the momentum from the Indians after they had outscored Jackson 16-6 in the third quarter.
“Phil’s basket was the key,” Hall acknowledged.
“Phil’s probably the best player we’ve ever had here. He’s a smart player. He’s big and he can shoot outside. And he can even break a press.”