Sotonye “Soso” Jamabo possesses a level of athleticism that makes him incredibly dangerous with the ball in his hands. He uses shoulder feints and spin moves to evade some defenders while lowering his shoulder to power through others. He has enough breakaway speed to deliver big plays, too. At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Jamabo is an instinctual runner with the physical tools to match, a complete back still tapping into his potential.
It’s no surprise that his tremendous athleticism carries over from the football field to the basketball court. While football may be Jamabo’s best sport, it’s not the first one he played. Jamabo took up basketball when he was seven years old in first grade and continues to excel on the hardwood. But it’s his talent as a running back that’s the biggest reason -- though not the only one -- that colleges are clamoring for his services.
In a win over against Sachse (Texas) High, Jamabo carried 27 times for 469 yards with six touchdowns in a performance that highlighted why he’s considered one of the best high school running backs in the country.
“He has tremendous vision when it comes to seeing the field in front of him, seeing the running lanes, finding open spaces when he’s out and running routes out of the backfield,” said Jason Howell, the Mid-South recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, which has Jamabo ranked 5th among running backs in the class of 2015. “He’s got a tremendous sense of spacing.”
Added Mike Hughes, Jamabo’s coach at Plano West (Texas) High, “He’s just come together mentally, physically. [He has] size, speed, vision, ability to cut -- just the total package.”
In basketball, Jamabo says he was originally viewed as a power forward or center, but he fashioned himself a big point guard who “always had the ball in my hands.” Jamabo later transitioned to shooting guard, where he has drawn renown for his defense.
At the prestigious Peach Jam tournament in North Augusta, S.C., this July, less than two weeks after Jamabo was on the gridiron at Nike’s The Opening, he played significant minutes for a team featuring multiple high-major Division I prospects. In a game against Arkansas-based Wings Elite, Jamabo scored 16 points while helping limit heralded shooting guard Malik Monk, a lethal scorer who had dropped 40 points the previous game, to only 12 points on 3-of-20 shooting.
Could Jamabo play both sports in college? He’s certainly qualified athletically and based on skill. While Jamabo has drawn double-digit scholarship offers for football, multiple schools -- including Texas A&M and Baylor -- have dangled the possibility of playing both sports.
Although Jamabo has managed two sports at Plano West (Texas) High, doing so as a college athlete would be much more difficult. Assuming the program Jamabo eventually chooses qualifies for a bowl game, he may not be able to join the basketball team until after the start of conference play. Playing a second sport would also take time away from the football team’s offseason program.
Still, it’s not hard to find recent examples of athletes who have played both sports. Consider South Carolina product Bruce Ellington, who was selected in the third round of the 2014 NFL draft after recording more than 1,500 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns over three seasons with the football team and averaging over 11 points and three assists with the hoops team. (He played in three basketball games as a senior.)
“I know it’s tough, but if the opportunity presents itself, then I definitely would be open to playing basketball,” said Jamabo, who added that basketball will not be a factor in his college decision. “But football is my number one focus.”
Jamabo said he is still considering the following schools: Arizona State, Texas A&M, Baylor, Notre Dame, UCLA and Oregon. He says the Irish currently have a slight edge over the others after his recent official visit to South Bend, Ind. But Jamabo will visit other schools and probably won’t announce his decision until after the regular season, though he would like to do it before National Signing Day on Feb. 4.
While Jamabo plans to prioritize football in college, the basketball coach of whichever school he chooses may want to consider recruiting him, too.
Around the nation
• It appears high school football may be taking cues from the college game in changing up its postseason format. The Orlando Sentinel reported last week that there were discussions regarding a series of bowl games matching Florida state title winners against title winners from other states. The Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors voted to approve the concept Monday. The Illinois-based Paragon Marketing Group and ESPN, which reportedly conceived the idea of a “State Champions Bowl Series,” could stage one to three games in Florida on Dec. 27. This would not be a tournament, as each team would play one game. FAU in Boca Raton is considered a candidate to host the inaugural set of contests, according to The Sun-Sentinel. While intriguing in the abstract, it’s unknown how many states would allow their teams to participate.
• West Bladen (N.C.) High’s homecoming game against Union (N.C.) High was delayed due to a congregation of fire ants in one end zone. The game reportedly began after West Bladen athletic director and assistant football coach Kim Cain retrieved ant poison from inside the school and applied it to the ant mounds. West Bladen overcame the ant invasion to win, 50-21.
• After Cedar Hill (Texas) High receiver Damarkus Lodge announced his decommitment from Texas A&M earlier this month, he reportedly told GigEm247 that he was concerned about the Aggies’ depth at receiver. At a news conference last Tuesday, Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin appeared to be calling out Lodge when he said: "When you play in a system like we play, you've got eight guys at least that will rotate. A lot of things are being said out there in recruiting like, 'Why would you go there and play receiver, they're loaded.' That isn't the case. But if you're scared, you don't need to play here. The best players play here, and we rotate through that." Of course it’s impossible to be certain that Sumlin was alluding to Lodge because mentioning his name in front of media members would have violated NCAA recruiting rules.
• Tennessee sent North Davidson (N.C.) High defensive tackle Shy Tuttle a fake Rolling Stone magazine cover featuring Tuttle and Beyonce (which Tuttle famously posted on his Twitter account). Last week, Tuttle announced his verbal commitment to the Volunteers. Coincidence? Tuttle better not get his hopes up; there’s a strong chance Bae won’t be making her way to the school’s Knoxville, Tenn., campus over the next five years.
• Josh Sweat, the top-ranked weakside defensive end in the class of 2015, will undergo surgery and miss the rest of the season after dislocating his knee in a game last month. Sweat reportedly did not suffer any damage to his nerves or arteries. “After a period of rehab, it is expected that Josh will make a full recovery and be back to his dominant form in college,” Richard Morgan, Sweat’s coach at Oscar Smith (Va.) High, said in a statement, according to The Virginian-Pilot. “We look forward to seeing Josh on the field again next fall at the college of his choice.” Sweat, who plans to enroll early at whatever school he chooses, has taken an official visit to Ohio State and was scheduled to visit Virginia Tech on the weekend he suffered the injury. His top schools are believed to be Florida State, Oregon, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Georgia. It is not known when Sweat will announce his college decision.
• Pop song lip sync routines among sports teams are not a new phenomenon. Surely you remember (and maybe wish you could forget) the “Call me Maybe” fad. Here is Prosper (Texas) High’s football team’s rendition of “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift. The Eagles are 2-2 this season, including a 34-7 triumph on Friday over Sherman (Texas) High.
• Lincolnton (N.C.) High senior Darian Roseboro, the No. 6 defensive tackle in the class of 2015, announced on Twitter Monday night that he has decommitted from Michigan. Roseboro, who pledged to the Wolverines late last month, visited N.C. State for the Wolfpack’s game against Florida State over the weekend. Steven Lorenz of 247Sports reported earlier Monday that Tennessee, Oklahoma and Notre Dame are among the other schools Roseboro could be interested in visiting. Roseboro’s de-commitment comes amid speculation over Michigan coach Brady Hoke’s job security.
• Tempe Prep (Ariz.) has suspended coach Tommy Brittain two weeks after he asked his son to lead a prayer with the team following a Sept. 5 win over Show Low (Ariz.) High, according to a report from The Arizona Republic. Headmaster David Baum told the newspaper that Brittain helped formulate a policy on prayer last Winter. Meanwhile, at Madison County (Ga.) High, a statue bearing quotes from the Bible has drawn the attention of two religious groups. The TV station 11Alive reports that the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association have sent letters to the school district claiming the statue is unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates the separation of church and state. Players reportedly touch the statue on their way out of the school’s new fieldhouse.
• Let this serve notice to all undersized defensive backs: Think twice before trying to tackle Alabama quarterback commit Blake Barnett.
• Tennessee picked up a pair of commitments on the defensive side of the ball. In addition to the commitment of Tuttle, the No. 8 defensive tackle in the class of 2015, the Vols also picked up Hopewell (Va.) senior Darrell Taylor. Taylor (who is expected to play defensive end at Tennessee) is the No. 15 athlete.
• Woodland (S.C.) High senior Michael Barnett signed his early enrollee forms with Georgia after flipping from Florida State. Barnett is the No. 19 strongside defensive end in the class of 2015.
• Two junior offensive linemen committed to Nebraska. Valley (Iowa) High’s John Raridon pledged to the Cornhuskers, as did Lincoln-Way West (Ill.) High’s Bryan Brokop. Raridon is the No. 3 offensive guard in the class of 2016, while Brokop is ranked ninth at the same position.
• Madison Southern (Ky.) High senior running back Damien Harris rushed for 353 yards and seven touchdowns on 21 carries in a 54-51 win over South Laurel (Ky.) High. The uncommitted Harris is the No. 1 running back in the class of 2015.
• Senior wide receiver Nolan Borgersen, who is committed to Boston College, broke the New Jersey state record of 3,088 receiving yards while leading Westwood Regional (N.J.) High to a 48-14 win over Mahwah (N.J.) High. Borgersen, who finished with four receptions for 118 yards, needs three catches to eclipse the state record receptions.
• Woodland (Wash.) High freshman Wyatt Harsh completed 13 of his 17 pass attempts for 247 yards and six touchdowns in a 48-15 win over Ridgefield (Wash.) High.
• North Ridgeville (Ohio) High junior Demario McCall carried 19 times for 221 yards with six touchdowns and recorded nearly 400 all-purpose yards in a 55-21 win over Rocky River (Ohio) High. McCall, the No. 5 athlete in the class of 2016, had a 63-yard kickoff return and an interception.
All rankings according to Rivals.com.