Unbreakable bond: Lifelong friends take Oak Ridge basketball team to state tournament

OAK RIDGE (WATE) – At first glance, it’s not hard to tell that Jayson Tallent is an Oak Ridge basketball fan.

“He gets up in the morning talking about it. We talk about it during the day. We goes to bed talking about it,” Tallent’s mother Jo Evans said. “He loves Oak Ridge basketball.”

Tallent has Down syndrome. To go along with that extra chromosome, he is filled with a surplus of other traits that make him awesome.

“I wouldn’t have Jayson any other way than what he is now,” Evans said. “If I could change him, I wouldn’t change him.”

Tallent had no ties to Oak Ridge before seven years ago.

A lot of people at Sweetwater are maybe a little jealous because he’s an Oak Ridge guy but he’s still a Sweetwater guy at heart, Oak Ridge boys basketball coach Aaron Green said.

Aaron Green took over the Oak Ridge program in 2010. He was a standout guard at Sweetwater in the 1990s. The Wildcats won it all in 1994, the school’s first and only state title. Aaron Green was the MVP. Jayson, meanwhile, was right by his side.

“Jayson was our manager when I played at Sweetwater High School,” Aaron Green said. “I played for my dad. My dad was my coach. My mom and my dad to this day still credit Jayson for our state championship in 1994. He was our good luck charm.

Aaron Green’s father, former Sweetwater coach Danny Green, said he had the numbers to back up the lucky charm.

“I guess you count on both hands how many games I lost in basketball, softball, baseball,” Danny Green said. “Anything he’s associated with, you got a chance.”

Aaron Green and Jayson Tallent graduated together in 1995. Green went on to play for Tennessee. Jayson stayed on as his number one fan.

“Sometimes you lose contacts with your high school friends when you get in your careers and get older but with Jayson, I haven’t really lost that contact,” Aaron Green said. “He texts me at least 15 times a day, sometimes more.”

Aside from leading the team on the court with his signature Oak Ridge flag, Jayson also lends a hand helping coach up the Wildcats.

“He’ll call some plays every now and then,” Aaron Green said.

“I tell him to do the Alabama play,” Tallent said.

‘What’s the Alabama play?’

“Pass to Tee Higgins to the dunk,” he said.

“His mom and them thank me for allowing him to be a part of it,” Aaron said. “I really thank him for being a part of it. He puts others first, he’s unselfish. He’s got a big, big heart and I like being around people like that. He exemplifies what I want to be around and  really what I want to be about. He’s helped me more than I’ve helped him. I can assure you that.”

“He’s my brother for life,” Tallent said.

The Oak Ridge boys basketball team is three wins away from becoming the 32nd program in Tennessee to own three state titles. The Wildcats meet Brentwood Wednesday in the AAA Quarterfinals in Murfreesboro. The game is set for 3:45 p.m. ET at MTSU.

Tallent will be traveling with the team.

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