When Dalen Qualls and Reed Johnson burst onto area high school basketball scene in the fall of 2007, they were considered two of the most exciting freshmen to enter their respective programs — Qualls at Stratford and Johnson at Latta — in years.
So it’s only fitting that they finish outstanding varsity careers on the same floor.
Qualls, Oklahoma’s leading scorer in any class over the past three seasons and the state’s fifth leading scorer all-time with 3,290 points, and Johnson, who scored over 1,800 points in his four varsity campaigns, will square off for the final time — Qualls as a member of the Small West and Johnson as part of the Small East squad — July 28 as during the Oklahoma Coaches All-State games at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.
And to give the contest even more local flavor, veteran Stratford head man Mark Qualls will coach his son in his final appearance as a high school player.
“It’s a real honor to coach in the game. You get selected by your peers,” Qualls said. “It’s pretty neat to get to coach in it this year. To get to share that with him will be real special. It’s the last time I’ll get to be with him in that situation.
“It’s strange that we’re in the west and Latta is in the east,” he added. “To be honest with you, I haven’t seen a lot of these kids (on the West squad). I’m a lot more aware of the East kids and know them better.”
Dalen Qualls capped his career with his second trip to the state tournament in three seasons to close out one of the most unique seasons in basketball history at any level. Qualls averaged almost 31 points per game as a senior, and he did it without scoring as many as 40 points in a single game.
“He’s well-deserving,” Mark Qualls said. “He’s put in a lot of hours. It’s something they can’t ever take away from him. It’s just kind of icing on the cake, and it’s even bettr because I’ll get to coach him.
“Everybody has a different criteria about what an All-Stater is, and I think Dalen covered it,” he added. “He went to two state tournaments, and he had the stats. It would have been a shocker if he hadn’t made it, but there are a lot of good players who don’t make it, so you don’t want to take anything for granted.”
While Qualls averaged 29.2 points per game as a freshman and had his best season, scoring-wise, as a sophomore (when he averaged over 36 points per game), Johnson entered high school as a 3-point specialist. His game evolved year-by-year, and, although he never reached a state tournament with the Panthers, his senior season was his easily his best.
Johnson averaged over 21.3 points per game in his final varsity campaign, and, while he was still one of the state’s most accurate 3-point shooters (41.6 percent on 125 attempts), he also averaged 7.3 rebounds and two assists per game as a senior.
“I don’t think there’s any question that he lived up to expectations,” Latta coach Donnie Husband said of Johnson. “I think there were even times when he exceeded them. Because of the work ethic and the time he spent in the gym, I think he more than fulfilled his promise.”
Husband said being named to the All-State squad was even more of an accomplishment because the Panthers weren’t a state tournament team during Johnson’s career.
“It’s always tough without going to a state tournament — that’s something you have to be concerned about — but his numbers were so good that you had to take a look at them,” he noted. “I was pleasantly surprised, but there’s no doubt that he was deserving. A lot of factors go into going or not going to the state tournament, but his character and his stats got him past that.
“We’ve got a ton of good kids at Latta, but he is right there with the best as far as being a great young man,” Husband said. “People have always been impressed with him as a young man as well as player.”
Husband said Johnson’s efficiency was one of the most impressive things about his senior season.
“He didn’t take a lot of shots to score his points, and he learned to get himself to the foul line (where he was an 80 percent free throw shooter),” Husband said. “That helped his numbers and helped him overcome junk defenses. He got better at both ends of the floor, and his ball-handling improved. I think the entire package just improve during his career.”
Qualls and Johnson will also be in action when the Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Association Class-by-Class All Stars clash at OBU in Shawnee on Saturday, June 11. Johnson (Class 2A) will join Ada standout Nick Anderson (4A), Denzel Hughes from Holdenville (3A) and Roff's Brendan Barr (Class A) in all-star games matching some of the best players from each class.
Anderson will play in a game matching stars from Classes 4A through 6A, Hughes will be part of a 3A squad that will face a 2A squad that includes Johnson, and Barr will be part of the Class A team that will face Class B.
On the same program, Qualls will be part of a team of a team of Oklahoma stars who will face a Texas all-star squad in the annual Faith 7 game.
ALL-STATE NOTES: Ada star Erin Walling and Konawa standout Nikki Nail added to their list of poseason honors last week, when they were named to the OCA All-State team. Earlier, Walling and Nail had joined Konawa’s Chelsea Gillum, Stonewall’s Brettney Brady and Tupelo’s Shanna Davidson on the Oklahoma Girls Basketball Coaches Association All-State squad.