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No football in his future, but Lafferty able to show off his athleticism on the hardwood

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If Jacob Lafferty ever wondered who he inherited his off-the-charts athletic genes from, he got his answer very unexpectedly during a recent visit to the Ozark Community Center.

"I went to the OC with my Dad (Larry) and he jumps off his right foot and dunks at 42 years old," Jacob said. "He's 6-foot-2. He got up. I was amazed.

"We played some pick-up games and he was always on my team because I didn't want other people picking on him," Jacob added. "I had to carry him. He's not very good, but is athletic."

Larry Lafferty never passed along to his son any tales from his glory days shooting hoops at Sparta simply because there were none. 

"He never played any sports," Jacob said. "He was a country boy, hunting and fishing that's all he did."

Basketball is all Jacob does and from the perspective of many fans, particular football fans, that's a crying shame. With Lafferty's size, strength, speed, quickness, leaping ability and sheer instincts all rating as exceptional, it's human nature to envision what kind of player the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder could be on the gridiron at multiple positions.

"I've had people say the same thing to me and I tell them, 'Yeah, he could be (an elite football player), but I'm glad we'll never know,'" Sparta coach Deric Link said.

"I get told a lot I'd be a D-I tight end," Lafferty said.

There was some talk out of Sparta several years back of the Trojans trying to start a football program, but not much materialized.

"That would have been nice," Lafferty said of the Trojans having football.

Lafferty's only experience playing football came during his eighth-grade year in the Ozark Football League.

"We had a Sparta team and we teamed up with a few other schools," he said. "No one could really guard me. I used to catch it with my big hands. I stopped going, though. I wanted to focus more on basketball." 

Those in the know generally acknowledge Nixa's Kael Combs as currently being the best prep athlete throughout SWMO. Who knows, if Lafferty would have had the chance to showcase his skills in football, there might be an argument in support of him.

Even those who have watched Lafferty all season were left further impressed with his strength and hang time during Sparta's Class 3 District 11 semifinal win against Greenwood on Wednesday. 

He made a move to the bucket hoping for a layup, only to be met by a Greenwood defensive player while in flight. With the weight of the defender on his upper body, Lafferty was still able to maneuver himself under and around the basket. With no room to try a reverse layup, he actually was able to almost completely square up to the hoop. He was fouled while trying to bank in a fadeaway.

Lafferty went on to collect 16 points and 13 rebounds. He averages a double-double.

Blanketed by double-teams all night, Lafferty was relatively quiet until breaking free for a pair of dunks late in the game. As Sparta worked the clock with repeated passes along the perimeter, that twice freed up Lafferty enough for him to  receive a pass and proceed to dribble right pass the overwhelmed defender trying hopelessly to stop him. 

"I'm so used to doubles. But in those late-game situations, we're passing it around, so they're really high up (in the front court). They give me a one-on-one and  I can go dunk on them," Lafferty said. "My favorite thing to do is rip the baseline and jump up and hammer it."

Lafferty projects to have plenty of upside upon getting to the college level. The weight training at that level figures to tap further into his potential.

Currently, his maxes in the weight room include 245 pounds on the bench press and 385 for squats. He'll likely be doing reps at those weights in a couple years.

"I'm worried about having so much school work, the 6 a.m. lifts and practices and individual workouts," Lafferty said. "But I'm so excited for college."

Lafferty and Sparta (22-5) will tip off against Strafford (15-10) for the Class 3 District 11 championship at 7 tonight at Fair Grove.

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