Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Baseball safe? Former NFL player offers to fund half of sport, if district matches

Cutline: Greenville-Weston High senior baseball players pose after their last home game of the 2010 season.

GREENVILLE – “Change starts with one person.”
One Greenville native and former NFL receiver hopes that he can successfully put that popular quote to the test.
Cleo Montgomery, who played six seasons for three NFL teams beginning in 1980, says he wants to help revive the high school baseball program, which was recently suspended by the Greenville Public School District.
But it can’t be a one-way street, said the Abilene Christian University alum.
“I can assist, but (the school district) has to meet me halfway,” Montgomery said of the GPSD’s estimated $23,000 baseball budget. “I’ll put up half of what it takes to run the (baseball) program. But (the district) has to show me how much they want it, too.”
Montgomery also said he has thought of ideas to continuously keep the program going without his help in the future. Weekend school dances was one avenue worth exploring, he said.
Superintendent Dr. Harvey Franklin would not confirm nor deny Montgomery’s offer, but said the district is looking at soliciting “different vendors and alumni” for support. A public “presentation” regarding the issue will also be scheduled in July, he said.
Franklin would not specify on the exact date.
The GPSD recently suspended baseball, slow-pitch softball, tennis, golf, soccer and power-lifting due to a $163,000 cut in the athletic budget.
Montgomery also offered ideas to make it easier on the district, by allowing assistant baseball coaches to drive to away games, saving the district roughly $3,000.
The $23,000 baseball budget, which includes all costs including the salaries for a head coach and two assistant coaches, also contains a meal stipend of $8 per player. Another way to slice costs would be if parents footed the bill for fast-food on the way back from away games.
“It would only take about $4,” said Montgomery. Players are allowed meals when they travel at least 35 miles away.
Matching the district’s funds would be a short-term fix, Montgomery said. In order to get things going for the long haul, the football stadium needs to be packed on Friday nights.
“The focus needs to be on football; that’s the money-making sport,” Montgomery explained. “We have to fill the stands. That can take care of baseball.”
Baseball legend and Greenville great George Scott echoed Montgomery’s statement.
“If you can fill the seats at five or six football games a year and fill up the gym (for basketball games), that will take care of other athletic programs.”
Recently, the Jackson Clarion Ledger reported that the Jackson Public School District sliced its athletic budget by nearly 60 percent, lowering the original $700,000 total to 300,000.
Bennie Tillman, a former GWHS assistant football coach from 2002-04 and current Callaway High employee, said athletics play an important role, just as academics.
“The school systems in a lot of districts, same here in Jackson, overemphasize academics. Academics has its place, and so does athletics,” said Tillman, who was Callaway’s head football coach before Daryl Jones took over in 2009.
“The kids are getting blamed for adults mismanagement of funds. And they're denying kids the opportunity for development.”
As for Montgomery, he thinks if the ban stays in place, Greenville athletes will have to pay a huge price in the long run.
“The district would be stopping 5-7 kids from getting scholarships,” he said. “They’ll take that away from them.”

Monday, June 28, 2010

DSU's McClain confident GSC will be saved

CLEVELAND — Delta State University and the Gulf South Conference may have football scheduling conflicts in the near future if the six Arkansas schools depart to form their own conference with at least three Oklahoma schools.
But DSU athletic director Jeremy McClain is confident that the GSC will implement a plan before it's too late.
“I think there will be a short-term and long-term plan in place,” McClain said this morning.
The GSC had their annual meetings last week in Birmingham, and although no final decision has been made on whether the six schools will make the leap, all signs point toward their eventual exit.
If the six Arkansas schools leave the Gulf South Conference as expected, the GSC will be left with only five football playing institutions.
Six are needed for NCAA funding.
Lambuth, a NAIA school, UNC-Pembroke and West Florida, who is considering adding a football program, have been rumored to fill the needed void.
The six schools expected to leave Arkansas Tech, Southern Arkansas, Henderson State, Ouachita Baptist, Harding and Arkansas-Monticello.
McClain acknowledged that the GSC has considered adding Lambuth and that “several other options” are on the table.
A message for GSC commissioner Nate Salant was not returned by press time.
However, he reportedly said he would like for all the GSC schools to remain together, if possible.
“UNC-Pembroke is interested in a scheduling relationship with our schools and West Florida is considering adding football,” Salant told the Birmingham News. “But I want to make it clear that we'd rather remain together.
Salant cited one of the biggest reasons for the schools possible departure are travel costs.
“The two biggest things are cost of operation and cost of travel,” he told the newspaper. “We can't change geography, but what we need to do is, given the economy, is eliminate as much travel as we can — especially in football because it's the greatest cost to transport.”
The GSC issued a statement Friday saying that a final decision is expected no later than August 1.
There will be no scheduling conflicts during the 2010-11 year, according to the release.
“Considerations of geography and cost are driving these discussions,” the statement said.
DSU's 2010 football schedule includes five of the six Arkansas schools.
The Statesmen open their schedule Sept. 4 when they travel to Jackson State.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Kenneth Mister: Turner is newest victim of collegiate politics

Disclaimer: I've known Phil Turner, the subject of this column, for nearly my entire life. As next door neighbors, we grew up together in Grenada, Miss.

In life, timing is everything. Back in 2005, It took me one day to find out I wasn’t built to be a insurance salesman. The next day I dropped by the boss’ office and told him as long as pit bulls breathe, I wouldn’t be soliciting life insurance door-to-door anytime soon.
The point is, I didn’t depend on co-workers to pass the word. I had enough respect for him not to get the news via telephone. And I sure as hell wouldn’t send him a letter describing my intentions. (That’s no way to do business.)
But apparently, Mississippi State basketball coach Rick Stansbury and I don’t have the same values.
Unless you just awoke from a coma or you don’t follow Kyle Keazey’s (the Clarion Ledger’s Mississippi State beat reporter) every move on Twitter, you’ve heard the news that MSU basketball player Phil Turner had his scholarship yanked after reportedly missing a year-end meeting(s), while indicating to the several people that he didn’t plan on returning.
Turner, who says he has text messages stating the year-end meeting was cancelled, was informed via letter that he would have to foot the bill for his final four classes.
I understand college athletics is business. But this is an university, not Goldman Sachs.
Turner is the same guy who, despite his 6-foot-3 stature and guard-play abilities, took up the role as power forward for Stansbury. He took (and mostly hit) all late game shots for Stansbury. He redshirted for Stansbury.
How was Turner rewarded?....With a blatant slap to the face.
So if Renardo Sidney had of missed that meeting or be rumored to turn pro, would he have gotten a letter? Simply put, _____ (insert word) no!
The common sense in me screams there’s something missing to this story. And my guess would be that "Old Stans" is banking on Dee Bost pulling a miracle and filling that scholarship.
This is another eye-opening example that college athletes should be referred to as athlete-students, instead of the opposite. Loyalty takes a backseat to money and win totals. And trust no one, especially those who will bench you for Riley Benock.
Collegiate athletics has become collegiate politics. And you can call Phil Turner the new Al Gore.

Get news the second I get it. Follow me at Twitter.com/kennymr

6 Arkansas school likely to leave GSC

The departure of the six Arkansas schools from the Gulf South Conference looks to be on its way.
A statement released by the GSC Friday morning said that the process is ongoing, but no final decision has been made.
“Talks are progressing well among the Arkansas schools, with the expectation of creating a new conference,” the statement reads. “No final decision has been made, and an announcement is anticipated no later than August 1, 2010.”
If the news holds up, Arkansas-Monticello, Arkansas Tech, Harding, Henderson State, Ouachita Baptist and Southern Arkansas will join several Oklahoma Schools, who are currently members of the Lone Star Conference, to form their own D-II conference.
However, despite the outcome, the schools will remain with GSC through the 2010-11 year. The following year, 2011-12, is up in the air. The schools have failed to meet the 392-day advance notice, which would subject them to penalties dealt by the conference.
Efforts to reach Delta State athletic director Jeremy McClain by press time were unsuccessful.
DSU football coach Ron Roberts stated Thursday that he would love for the Arkansas schools to stay, but the GSC would have to go on if they were to leave.
Arkansas schools, who have cited the distance and costs of travel to GSC schools as a reason for their possible departure, insist that the decision is not final, according to the Florence Ala. Times Daily.
“There are a lot of details to be worked out,” Arkansas Tech president Robert Charles Brown told the newspaper. “Forming a new conference is not an uncomplicated piece of business. Leaving a conference is not an uncomplicated piece of business. We have many, many friends in the (GSC) and we want to do everything we can to preserve those relationships and friendships.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Former Arena League player Epson hoping hard work really does pay off

GREENVILLE — Before the sun has even set on the steep hill nested between the two downtown casinos, a group of eight athletes can be seen training — doing squat jumps, broad jumps and tire lunges, trying to gain a competitive edge in their respective sport.
Their strenuous workout last from about 5 a.m. until the sun starts to peek from the shadows, around 6:30 a.m.
They stop to get a quick breather when time allows, taking advantage of the lack of Mississippi heat during the early hours.
The activities can be demanding and exhausting, but the athletes may not be the one’s with the largest weight on their shoulder; it’s the instructor.
Lavante Epson, who trains the group daily, wakes up at 4:15 a.m. before the 5 a.m. training session. He leaves there and works on agility drills with several soccer players. Afterwards, he’s off to drop his two sons off at school, which is followed by another training session at Washington School. He then leaves to go to Bobby Henry Memorial Pool, where he works until 6:30 p.m., helping maintain the upkeep the facilities. His day finally ends after instructing a workout class at the same place his day began — between those two casinos.
The 33-year-old Epson, a Greenville-Weston High graduate who spent two years at Mississippi Delta Community College before transferring to University of Tennessee at Martin, knows a thing or two about hard work; it was the key to his seven year professional football career in Europe and the Arena League.
“When I was at (GWHS), I wasn’t the strongest or fastest, but I was the most dedicated,” said Epson, who now is on track to graduate from Mississippi Valley State University this summer, in hopes of becoming a strength and conditioning coach on the college level.
“I was a project kid. I was turned down at (MDCC) at first, but I got a letter two weeks later telling me to show up for two-a-days,” he continued. After leading MDCC to a divisional title, Epson transferred to UT Martin where he named to the All-Ohio Valley Conference second team in 1999, while recording 118 tackles.
Before receiving his degree, Epson left college to pursue his dream of playing professional football. After playing in Europe for the Hamburg Huskies, he eventually landed at the Arena League where he played for the Grand Rapids Rampage, Memphis Xplorers and Philadelphia Soul, owned by well-known musician Jon Bon Jovi.
Epson came back to Greenville in 2007, after a foot injury ended his career.
Now he spends his time helping aspiring professional athletes get to where he once was, while juggling his own aspirations simultaneously.
“I see myself as a bridge builder, so they won’t have to make the same swim I made,” Epson said.
Epson said in sports, hard work pays off.
“A lot of kids say they want to play on the next level, but I tell them it’s not easy. You have to work when no one’s looking,” he said. “Some things you have to let go, like friends. When my friends saw that I was serious (about football), they took me serious.”
Epson has trained several area athletes including former Washington School standout and Hinds Community College signee Matt Summers and Hollandale’s Carlos Thompson, who recently left for Ole Miss.
Epson, who said he had to take “two steps back to take a giant leap forward,” lives off the motto “hard work beats talent, when talent isn’t working hard,” he said.
The first step to success is believing. And excuses are not an option, he explained.
Asked what would be his response if an athlete thought they had a dim future because of their income level, location or ability, Epson said, “if you have that mindset, then you’re already lost. If you think you’re lost, (then) you’re lost.
“I grew up in (an area) called Soybean City. It had one way in, and one way out,” said the 1996 GWHS graduate. “I knew football was my way out. My projects was my stepping stone and not my barrier.
“Football is a game of life. Through football you learn to be a man, you learn to work not as an individual, but as as team.”
Epson’s training program is a win-win for both him and athletes; the players get hands-on training, while Epson gets to perfect his craft of strength and conditioning.
Once he’s finished at MVSU, Epson said he hopes to get into graduate school en route to reaching his goal.
“When I got injured (in Arena League) the first thing on my mind was I left school and I didn’t get my degree. What am I going to do? I prayed about it and I cried. And I prayed and cried,” he said.
But now things seem to be looking up for the Arena Cup champion, with a bachelor’s degree and a strength and conditioning internship hopefully waiting in the wings.
It’s all a part of a design prepared by a higher power, Epson said.
“God has a plan. It’s destined for (everyone) to go somewhere to do something,” he said, “but if you don’t work towards that, it won’t happen.”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ray Brooks hoops coach Goins adds another title: head football coach

BENOIT — Familiarity was the key to choosing a new head high school football coach at Ray Brooks School.
After six years of coaching high school basketball junior high football at Ray Brooks, none of the five candidates were as prepared for the head football coaching position as Jordan Goins, said Walter McDavid Jr., principal at Ray Brooks.
“(Goins) was already acclimated to our children (and) our system),” said McDavid. “And we didn’t fell like now was a good time to stray away from that course.”
Goins, who is also Ray Brooks’ head basketball coach, will begin his new contract July 1, said McDavid.
The transition should be an easy one, Goins said.
“I took the football position because I already have a relationship with the boys,” said Goins, who was the head junior high football coach last year and served as an assistant last year under Jerry Walker. “I’ve coached them in junior high and they know my expectations.”
Goins’ predecessor, Jerry Walker, recently accepted the head coaching duties at Gentry High, after spending his entire coaching career at his alma mater, Ray Brooks.
Under Walker, the Tigers experienced a ton of success including a 12-1 record and a 1A title in 2007. Last year, however, Ray Brooks had a rare losing season, finishing 4-6.
Despite last year’s hiccups, Goins said he’s ready to re-energize a Tigers team who for years has been know to be a 1A powerhouse.
“I’m anxious,” said Goins. “I’m ready to get it started to see how things go. (The players) are in the weight room and the assistant coaches are keeping them focused. The main thing is to get out there and start working.”
McDavid also added that the Tigers have added Frederick Patterson, a former running backs coach at Mississippi Valley State, to its defensive coaching staff.

Monday, June 21, 2010

New Shaw coach Kendrick Smith hopes first time is a charm

SHAW — For the first time in his five-year coaching career, former Greenville-Weston High assistant football coach Kendrick Smith will have the opportunity to lead a high school program.
Smith, who spent the last four seasons as the defensive coordinator for Shaw, was officially tabbed Thursday as the new head football coach for the Hawks.
Smith, who spent one season as a defensive backs coach at GWHS in 2005-06 under Mario Kirksey, said he’s up for the challenge.
“First and foremost I want to develop young men into productive citizens into society,” said the Cleveland High graduate. “The main thing I want to do is build off what Inmon started and turn Shaw into the best 1A team in the state of Mississippi.”
The newly tabbed 30-year-old coach will have big shoes to fill at Shaw. Inmon, a Delta coaching legend who worked in the area for 37 years, stepped down from the position in May, citing the unwillingness to both coach and take on a full load of classes as a math instructor.
Smith said he learned a lot from Inmon, who spent the last four seasons coaching the Hawks.
“The No. 1 thing I learned from (Inmon) was how to manage a football team,” said Smith, who played at Mississippi Delta Community for two seasons before moving on to the University of Tennessee at Martin.
As for his coaching staff, Smith said Damius Robinson, a former offensive lineman at Murray State, will stay on as the offensive and defensive line coach.
“(Robinson) is my right hand man,” said Smith. “He’s been here every step of the way, running an off-season program. He does a great job of getting kids strong.”
Smith said he will be bringing in two additional coaches.
“(Our staff) is going to be young, but they will be experienced,” he said. “(All the coaches) will have played college football before.”
Shaw Superintendent Dr. Cederick Ellis, Sr. said he has confidence that Smith will get the job done.
“Smith’s familiarity with the school’s traditions and values, coupled with serving under coach Butch Inmon’s reign, made him an ideal choice to lead the next generation of football athletes,” Ellis said.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Local resident, Red Sox Hall of Famer Scott responds to baseball ban

GREENVILLE – Thursday’s decision by the Greenville School District to suspend six high school sports was a wake up call for the community, confirming the fears that most had suspected for weeks. Soft-pitch softball, soccer, tennis, golf, power-lifting and baseball were all “suspended” by the district, due to a crushing $163,000 cut in the athletic budget.
Now one legendary area athlete, who catapulted from Coleman High School to a three-time MLB All-Star and Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer, wants the community to come together to save baseball and other sports from extinction.
“This is going to be devastating if (students) don’t have high school baseball to look forward to,” said George Scott, a Greenville native and 14-year MLB veteran, who last played in 1979.
“Because baseball has not been doing well for a while, I think that’s one of the reasons they’re getting rid of baseball,” he continued. “(Eliminating baseball) would be as huge a mistake as when they made Coleman High a junior high school. People are still haunted today because of that.”
Scott said despite recent reports, Thursday was the first he had heard of the athletic cuts. In order for baseball and the five other sports to be renewed, the community will have to play a larger role in athletics, he explained.
“When we played (high school sports) in my day the community came to our games. Not only did mom and father attend the game, but brother, sister and cousin came because they wanted to support their child,” said the 1962 Coleman High graduate, who played quarterback for coach Davis Weathersby.
“It was about developing a support system,” he continued. “If I didn’t have a support system (in high school), I wouldn’t have ever played pro ball.
“But nowadays when you go the (football stadium) on a Friday night, it’s empty.”
Despite Scott’s pleas to save baseball, tough decisions must be made to educate the district’s students, said Superintendent Dr. Harvey Franklin
“Educating our kids is our No. 1 priority,” Franklin said after Thursday’s open budget meeting. Franklin also said that the sports could only be continued if the community rallies together to financially support the programs.
Scott said he is willing to do anything to keep the sport alive that brought him national recognition during his career.
“My knees hurt right now, but I will still give my help,” he said. “I will sit in a chair and help players. Anything I can do to help, I’m willing to do it.”
Sports that were not included in Thursday’s budget cuts were basketball, football, track and field, cross country and fast-pitch softball.
The demise of high school baseball will cause a domino effect to the sport in the area, Scott said.
“Once you take out high school baseball, the rest of the programs will die,” he said. “Little league will be gone too. Kids will stop playing because they don’t have anything to look forward to.”
Scott, a eight-time Gold Glove Award winner, who still lives in the city where his baseball career began, said if the community doesn’t rise up to the challenge, it would be a forceful blow to the education system.
“Everybody says don’t leave a child behind. That’s been the logo for a while,” said Scott. “Well, take a long look at that. This is leaving a lot of children behind.
“If you’re intention is to lose a lot of children, then you’re going about it the right way.”

Friday, June 18, 2010

GPSD suspends 6 high school sports

GREENVILLE – The stadium lights were turned off for six Greenville School District sports Thursday during a public budget hearing at Coleman Middle School.
Soccer, slow-pitch softball, baseball, tennis, golf and power-lifting were suspended by the school board, as a result of a $163,000 decrease in the 2010-11 athletic budget.
The funds for district athletics took a steep plunge from $517,000 in 2009-10 to $354,000 for the upcoming term.
However, Superintendent Dr. Harvey Franklin, explained that the sports could go on, if sponsors or booster clubs step to the plate.
“These are things any business has to do to get its business in order,” Franklin said during the meeting. “A struggling time for the nation economy means a struggling time for the state economy, and a struggling time for a state economy means a struggling time for a local economy.
“We’re not saying we don’t want these sports, we’re saying we need more local support.”
Greenville sports not listed were basketball, football, track, cross country and fast-pitch softball.
Coaches of the affected sports will stay on as teachers, Franklin said. Certified teachers will work games as ticket takers, cash handlers and security.
Basketball and football produces the bulk of athletic funds, Franklin said. Track and cross country must remain because of federal guidelines.
“Track is a sport where we have girls Title IX compliance,” he explained. “And they’re state champions as well.”
Franklin, who stated some parents of affected athletes have already come to him with ideas to raise money for the sports, said he hopes the community now understands the position the district is in, and reacts appropriately.
“(The suspension) is a wake up call for our community to advocate for these sports and support these sports,” said the superintendent. “It’s an opportunity for us to now redefine how we’re going to go about supporting all sports.”
Athletics, which was one of the many departments bitten by a $4 million estimated shortfall, will need a huge boost from boosters and the community to survive now, and in the future, Franklin said.
“As we heard earlier, there are more cuts down the road,” he said. “More cuts mean more cuts in other areas, and (sports) may be another area where we have to cut it.”
During the meeting, attended by a crowd of 75, several audience members – including Rep. John Hines and former Coleman High and Mississippi Valley coach Davis Weathersby – gave their view on the board’s decision to axe six sports.
“When I first started working at Coleman, we didn’t receive any money from the (district). Everyone worked to together to get money for athletic programs,” said Weathersby, a retired long-time football coach and athletic director.
“It’s too important to cut these sports out,” he continued. “There could be a Serena Williams or a Tiger Woods out there. I think to just cut sports out would be bad for students.”
Said Hines, “I played on the last championship football team this city had (in 1982). I can’t see closing the door on baseball. There are so many opportunities there for our kids.
“We’re closing the door on kids who say ‘ “I’m not big enough for football, not athletic enough for basketball and not fast enough for track. Some (kids) need sports to keep them off the street. ‘ “
Hines also brought up the possibility of finding coaches who will work the position voluntarily.
“That’s always an option,” Franklin said.

MVSU football to play home games at GWHS

GREENVILLE – The Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils football team will be playing in town on three occasions this upcoming season.
The Delta Devils, led by new head coach Karl Morgan, will play at Greenville-Weston High Oct. 2, Oct. 23 and Nov. 13.
The Greenville Public School Board approved the games at Thursday’s open budget meeting.
The games will be played at Greenville-Weston’s Charles R. Kerg Field due to the renovations planned for Rice-Totten Stadium — the home field for the Delta Devils.
“It is an interesting state of circumstances that has brought about the changes to the schedule,” said interim director of athletics Donald Sims on the school’s website. “After speaking with university administration and other professional personnel, the stadium is in the process of undergoing renovations. We hoped to have the entire process completed by November, however, we have been notified that that will not be the case. However, do we look forward to the opportunity of keeping Delta Devil football in the Mississippi Delta.”
The games will bring much needed revenue to a cash-strapped school district, which was forced to cut six high school sports Thursday during an open budget meeting due to a lack of funding.
Thursday’s news was especially exciting for Greenville school board member and MVSU alum Dr. Loretta Shannon.
“Think about the hotel rooms, food places, all the things that will benefit people coming here for the weekend,” said Shannon during the meeting.
The three games played in Greenville will be be considered the Delta Devils’ only homes games. They will host Prairie View A&M Oct. 2 for homecoming, Grambling State on Oct. 23 and Alabama A&M on Nov. 13.
MVSU will open their 2010 football schedule Sept. 4 at Alabama State. Next, they will travel to South Carolina State on Sept. 11 and play Alcorn State in Chicago at Soldier Field Sept. 18.
The much-anticipated matchup against Jackson State will be Sept. 25.

Shaw tabs Smith as next football coach

SHAW — The Shaw School District didn’t have to look far when searching for a replacement for former head football coach Butch Inmon.
On Thursday, the school board approved the hiring of Kendrick Smith, a former assistant football coach and track and cross country instructor.
Smith could not be reached for comment by press time.
Smith takes over for Inmon, who spent four seasons coaching the Hawks before stepping down in May.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

6 Arkansas schools may leave GSC; DSU optimistic

GREENVILLE — The Gulf South Conference seems to have caught the re-alignment fever.
After the nationally reported departure of Nebraska and Colorado from the Big 12, the talk of conference re-alignment has died down — until now.
Although not as well-known as the Big 12 and Pac-10, the GSC might reportedly have to deal with its own losses.
According to recent reports and Delta State University President John Hilpert, the six Arkansas teams in the GSC are in talks with three Oklahoma schools from the Lone Star Conference regarding starting up their own conference, which would leave only eight teams in the GCS — including only five football-playing schools.
“There will be (conference) meetings (next week in Birmingham). I don’t know when schools plan to make a final decision, “ said Hilpert. “GSC is taking action to keep the Arkansas schools in (the conference). They’re good members and it’s important to keep them around.”‘
According to Florence Ala. Daily Times, the six Arkansas schools are committed for the 2010-11 year, but could begin play as early as 2011.
Lone Star Conference Commissioner Stan Wagnon dismissed the talks of the Oklahoma schools departing to form a new conference.
“I’ve heard the rumors, but I have had no official conversations about anything,”‘ he told the newspaper.
DSU, along with West Alabama, North Alabama and Valdosta State are charter members of the GSC.
DSU Athletic Director Jeremy McClain said he hopes that all 14 teams remain in tact, but the school will have to move on if the rumored institutions do decide to leave.
“Obviously we’d love for them to stay,”‘ McClain said. “We’re going to exhaust every effort (to keep them). If they were to leave, the GCS is still a tough conference. We will have eight very competitive members. Regardless of the outcome, I think the conference is still very strong.”‘
One big problem does exist if the six schools decide to leave the GCS: six teams are needed to have a conference football championship, per NCAA guidelines; however, there would only be five teams remaining.
“It’s something we would have to look at,”‘ McClain said.
Hilpert remains optimistic about the GCS’s future.
“My hope is that we can continue as a 14 team conference,”‘ he said. “And I think that’s as great a likelihood as the departure.”‘

Amidst World Cup, soccer camp hopes to crank up interest in sport

GREENVILLE — After years of speculation, futbol looks to be on the rise. No, not the American version that has captured the attention of viewers worldwide for numerous years, but the game that traces its ties as far back as 1004 B.C. — soccer.
According to the reports, World Cup ratings on ESPN and ABC for the first five games doubled from 2006, averaging a whopping 4.9 million viewers — up a whopping 108 percent from 2006.
In the midst of the sudden interest in the sport, which for years was unable to capture the interest of casual American sports fans, the Greenville YMCA along with England native instructor Ed Callaghan will be holding the Callaghan English Soccer Camp June 21-25 at the GYSA soccer fields on Bowman Road. The camp will be from 9 a.m. - noon for those age 5-14 and 5 - 8 p.m. for 15-18 year olds. The fee will be $105 for ‘Y’ members and $130 for non-members. Campers are asked to bring a soccer ball, water, shin guards and sunscreen.
Callaghan believes the interest in soccer can be attributed the ever-growing world of media.
“The general awareness is a lot more aware because of Fox soccer channels, Spanish channels, a lot more ESPN World Cup qualifying games, the International Cup, and there’s always a live showing which wasn’t the case 10 to 15 years ago. said the veteran coach who has lived in the U.S. for the last 19 years, before playing semi-pro soccer from 1987-91 in England.
“The more you’re on TV, the better,” he added. “Players get a chance to find their own heroes in soccer.”
This will be the third year Callaghan has come to town for the camp. Last year, he said there were about 63 total campers.
“Last year it was hot and humid, which might have put some people off,” Callaghan said.
Callaghan, who is a U.S.S.F. “A” licensed coach — the highest ranking available, has held camps for the last 19 years, and also holds the event annually in another Mississippi town: Petal. The camp has been held throughout the country in Georgia, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida — among other places.
Although he’s been in the states for nearly two decades, Callaghan jokes about one characteristic he just can’t shake.
“I still have my accent,” he said by phone while at camp at Arizona.
For more information about the camp, contact Allison Mullen at 662-335-7258 or check out www.callaghansoccer.com.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Archie Manning, others compete in local golf tournament

GREENVILLE – Archie Manning was pretty reliable on the football field, earning College Football Hall of Fame honors and two Pro Bowl selections while playing for the New Orleans Saints in the late 1970s.
The father of the NFL’s most well-known brothers, Peyton and Eli Manning, isn’t in the football realm anymore, but he’s coming through in the clutch in a totally different demeanor.
Before Monday afternoon, Archie had traveled to town for 26 out of the 28 annual Jesse Brent – Merrick Jones Memorial Golf Tournament’s.
Monday morning, he arrived at the Greenville Golf & Country Club for his 27th scramble.
“I was fortunate to come to the first (tournament),” said Manning, whose oldest son Cooper also took part in the event.
Manning said unlike other comparable events, each year the tournament seems to grow substantially.
“It’s hard (for tournaments) to last,” he said. “You can keep doing something and it kind of wears out. But nothing’s ever faded here.”
But Manning wasn’t the only recognizable face in the crowd at the tournament, which this year also honored Bernie Goldstein, a former 40-year vet at Alter Companies and casino businessman, who died last year.
Legendary Delta State coach and Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Dave “Boo” Ferriss, former NFL receiver and Greenville native Willie Richardson, former Mississippi State great and NBA Hall of Famer Bailey Howell, MSU Athletic Director Scott Stricklin and others were on hand for the event.
Although Manning has been out to 27 of the 29 tournaments, he’s still one step behind the “Old Ball Coach.”
“I’ve been out to 28 of the 29,” said Ferriss.
The tournament, which will donate all of its proceeds to various causes including cancer research, is able to succeed because of the generous people in and outside the Delta, said Jesse Brent’s granddaughter and tournament committee member Jessica Brent.
“This makes me proud that a little town like Greenville can put on something like this,” she said. “Last year we raised over $75,000, in one day. So I just think about that and the good causes that we’re supporting: cancer research, mariners – people on the water, rivers and oceans that make their living that way, we’ve given to veterans in the past. There are a lot of good causes out there. It just inspires me to keep going. Next year will be 30 years.”
Willie Richardson, a Greenville native who played nine seasons for the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins, said the tournament serves as a way to catch up with old friends while benefiting a worthy cause.
“I think the most important and exciting thing is coming out to Greenville Country Club, said Richardson, a 10-year tournament vet who now runs a golf course in Jackson. “When I was 13 or 14, I used to come out and caddy and make a little money on weekends. It’s bring backs some old memories. I get a chance to see some old coaches, friends I haven’t seen in years.”
Richardson also talked about the possibility to holding football camps in the area in the future.
“I talked with some guys from Greenville,” he said, “and told them we need to come back to hold football camps, basketball camps and get the kids involved in some things we didn’t when we were growing up here. Because they need to realize that can do things here and move on to bigger things from here.”

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Welcome Home: Groves plans free football clinic

GREENVILLE — Quentin Groves has learned a lot on and off the football field.
Now the 6-foot-3, 265 pound Oakland Raiders linebacker wants to bring his newfound knowledge home.
Groves, who was traded to the Raiders from the Jacksonville Jaquars in April, will hold his second annual Quest for Greatness Football Clinic at his alma mater, Greenville-Weston.
“I want them to learn some life lessons,” said Groves by phone. “We’re going to be doing some drills and a 7-on-7.”
Last year’s camp had over 250 participants, Groves said. He said while at GWHS, he attended camps at LSU, Georgia and Mississippi State. Camps are where he said he found out there was a bigger world outside of the Delta.
“There’s more than just the Delta,” he said. “I want to kids to learn about a better life, (rather than) the same ole, same ole.”
The free camp will take place Saturday at the GWHS football field for those grades 6-12 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Campers are asked to bring cleets, if they have them.
After spending two years with the Jaguars, the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2008 draft, Groves was dealt to the Raiders for a fifth round pick in this year’s draft.
Groves said he’s adjusting to California.
“It’s more laid back (in California),” said the 2003 GWHS alum. “We’re still trying to work out the kinks, trying to get training camp packages ready.”
Groves, who played for coach Phil Short in high school, was a phenomenal force at GWHS. As a senior defensive end, he finished with 86 tackles, 22 sacks and three fumble recoveries. He also played tight end and caught three passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns. He was rated the nation’s No.3 defensive end by ESPN.com.
Groves signed with Auburn, where he was named first-team All-SEC and tied the school’s all-time sack record.
Now, his God-brother, former Simmons High defensive end Carlos Thompson Jr., looks to be following in his same footsteps after signing with Ole Miss.
Groves said Thompson has some of the same characteristics that made him successful.
“He has the same physical mindset (that I do),” said Groves. “He does some of the same things I used to do. He’s going to bring speed and a leadership role to (Ole Miss).”
What has Groves learned during his time in the NFL?
“I’ve learned how to persevere, how to fight through the tough times” he said. “
The same things you (did) in college, you can’t do in the NFL

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bulldog Bound: OBHS's Evans signs with MGCCC

GREENVILLE — Weeks ago, Lekendrick Evans watched as his right-hand man on the basketball court at O’Bannon High, Cadarrius Nelson, did interviews and posed for the camera after signing with Mississippi Delta Community College.
This time around, however, the spotlight was on Evans.
On Thursday, the 6-foot-5 highly touted forward inked with a team that will put him against Nelson in the upcoming season: Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
“If I (had to) rank this (accomplishment), it’s probably the most important day of my life,” said Evans, who put up 22 points, nine rebounds and blocks per game during his senior campaign.
“Most people aren’t able to sign a (scholarship) to play basketball. For me to be able to do that, it’s real important,” he continued.
Evans was the key ingredient for a successful OBHS basketball team, which won 19 games in 2009-10, the most in recent years. He’s also one of the three OBHS seniors who will be playing college ball — Nelson signed with MDCC and guard Quadriguez Carter will join him in Moorhead during the 2011-12 season.
Evans racked up a plethora of awards during his prep career. He was named to the first-team All-DDT squad, Honorable Mention All-State by the Jackson Clarion Ledger, and first team all-district and O’Bannon MVP in both his junior and senior year.
Evans should adjust quickly at MGCCC, said OBHS coach George Christian.
“(Evans) has outstanding leaping ability. He probably jumps better than any player I’ve ever coached,” said Christian, who is losing eight players, including the entire starting five from last season. “His upside is out of the world,” George continued. “If he continues to work hard, the sky is the limit for him.”
Evans, who said he hopes to play for Georgia Tech once he’s done at MGCCC, said the distance from home won’t be a problem.
“I had the opportunity to be close, but I really wanted to get away.....Maybe I’ll learn the highway,” he said.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The 'Handyman' can

LELAND — Eugene Sanders calls himself the Handyman.
No, he's not your usual fixer-upper. You won't find him underneath a sink or fixing a water heater.
But chances are you might see him doing almost any and everything else.
For the last 18 years, Sanders has served as head football and boys basketball coach, an assistant to the athletic director and a full-time bus driver at Leland High School.
"Around here, I call myself the Handyman. Just real modest, I just help to make the school day go smoothly," said Sanders, who has coached and drove buses for the last 29 years.
Before landing at Leland, Sanders coached at Leflore County, Ray Brooks, Shaw and Brookhaven. And like his current job at Leland, Sanders' took on a range of job duties including bus driver, football coach, track instructor and boy's basketball coach.
Are the 10-12 hour days -- and even more on game days -- tiring to the old ball coach?
"Naw, because I don't have any bad habits," Sanders joked.
The day starts at 5:30 a.m. for Sanders, who afterwards begins his bus route at 6:45 a.m. As the majority of Washington County residents are just awaking, the Shaw native heads over to Leland High to begin a day of securing the hallways and being the "handyman" the school needs.
Sanders said the position he's in now is a dream come true. Since high school, he has always longed to be a coach.
"I always knew I wanted to be a coach," Sanders recalled. "My high school mentor, Herman Smith, at Shaw inspired me. I always loved the way he motivated kids. He used athletics, but he always motivated kids to be more than they could be be in whatever they were good at, not just sports.
And that's what I try to do at (Leland). I try to motivate kids to be the best they can be - not just in athletics."
As for the weekends, that's the time when Sanders visits relatives and relaxes for the upcoming week.
"I go two places: my mom's house in Shaw and church. I go to my mom's house on Saturday and on church on Sunday - usually I'm done by 1 (p.m.). And after that I just relax."
And no, Sanders doesn't kick back and relax in the summer, either. He spends his summers training and re-certifying Delta bus drivers.
"All the bus drivers in the Delta," Sanders said, "I've either re-certified or I've trained them."
Since his coaching career began 29 years ago, Sanders has had the pleasure of coaching several NFL players including Antonio Johnson who was the starting defensive tackle for the Indianapolis Colts in 2010 Super Bowl.
Sanders said he has enjoyed every moment of coaching, but it's not the most rewarding part of his day.
"A lot of people probably think its coaching. But the best part of my day is driving the bus," said Sanders. "Because a lot of the time I'm supervising. When I'm driving the bus, I get to see the community and you get the children outside the classroom."
With 29 years in education, Sanders admits he's not the same guy who begun it all back at Leflore County in 1981. And when the time does come for him to hang up his whistle and bus keys, he knows exactly how he would like to be remembered.
Sanders said, "I would love to be remembered as a coach that always tried to do it the right way. That's all."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Olympic gold medalist makes a splash in Greenville

GREENVILLE — Nearly 4,000 people die each year from unintentional drownings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And African-Americans age 10-19 are three times more likely to die in the water.
As a youngster, Olympic gold medalist swimmer Cullen Jones almost became a statistic.
“I almost drowned when I was five years old. It happened at an amusement park,” said Jones, who was at the Bobby Henry Memorial Pool Wednesday morning giving hands-on instructions to youngsters.
“We get on the biggest (ride) there because my dad wanted to get on it, and slide down this ride and I end up flipping upside down. I didn’t know how to swim so I ended up drowning. The lifeguard and my dad had to come get me. They had to revive me.”
Now the 2008 gold medalist wants to ensure that incidents like his are a thing of the past. He travels to cities across the world as part of the Cullen Jones Diversity Tour to help put an end to water accidents.
Youngsters from the YMCA, the Delta State swim team and the Delta Acquatic Club were on hand to get a picture, an autograph and word of advice from the proclaimed “Tiger Woods of swimming.”
Jones said he has heard the comparisons and is proud to be associated with such an athlete.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment,” said the New York native. “I can’t believe that I’m associated with that name. I’d love to meet him. I’ve met Michael Jordan.
“I try not to let that pressure get to me. I kinda do what I can and practice what I preach by trying to get kids water safe.”
Ed Johnson, CEO of the Delta Economic Development Center, said Jones is one of two individuals he would like to see make a visit to the Delta.
“Dr. Ben Carson, who wrote the book Gifted Hands and is the top brain surgeon in the world, and Cullen Jones,” said Johnson.
“Swimming is a life skill and I realize that I see kids and adults drown here every summer.”
Johnson said he and news anchor Jenese Harris of WABG tracked down Jones’ agent to bring Jones to the Delta.
The Bobby Henry Memorial Pool, which is in its final stages of a major facelift, was the perfect spot for his visit, said Johnson.
“This is one of four Olympic-size pools in the state of Mississippi,” Johnson explained. “And it was in a bad condition two weeks ago. And I said we have to do something as a community piece for the city. So for me, it’s what we’re supposed to do.”
YMCA Director Phillip Doiron echoed Johnson’s statements.
“It’s amazing not to just have an Olympian here, but someone who just got a gold medal in 2008, and is going for another one in 2012,” said Doiron. “It’s real inspirational for these kids.”
At the end of Jones’ visit, he competed in a relay race against DSU swimmers and the Delta Acquatic Club. Teammed up with Mayor Heather Hudson, the Greenville All-Stars, as they were dubbed, didn’t win the match, but the trip to the Delta was like no other, said Jones.
“It’s definitely different from what I’m usually used to because I grew up in the city,” he said. “I definitely can respect and love the other side of the coin.
“While coming here, I was pressed against the glass, looking out the window, (saying) ‘this is so green, so beautiful.’
(Others in the car) were like ‘ this is everyday.’ “

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Desperate times call for desperate measures

GREENVILLE — Jeron Collins has a gift.
He knows it. His coach knows it. And so does his father.
Earlier this year, Collins, a member of the Greenville-Weston High golf team, was named the Most Valuable Player on the squad. It wouldn’t be an unusual accomplishment, except for the fact that Collins is a seventh-grader.
“He picked up the sport about three years ago, and I saw certain shots he was hitting....He has a God-given talent,” said the star athlete’s father, Kirk Collins.
Jeron’s golf coach Claude Courtney also considers the youngster to be a extraordinary talent, who will most likely end up playing on the next level.
But there’s one problem: Jeron’s chances of playing on the college level may take a huge hit if the Greenville Public School District is forced to eliminate or suspend golf and several other sports due to lack of funding.
“We have some kids who can’t play basketball or football, but they excel in other sports,” said the elder Collins. “If you can’t play those sports, how can you get a scholarship?”
Jeron is one of many student-athletes in the Greenville School District who may see their sport axed in the coming weeks if the final budget is insufficient.
But, according to Superintendent Harvey Franklin, desperate times call for desperate measures.
“We can’t support all sports at this economic time,” said Franklin Thursday afternoon. “We have to make some choices.”
Franklin said the first responsibility of the district is to educate students.
“I have to put more money on academics,” he explained. “We have to sustain that.”
Kirk Collins said he understands the predicament Franklin is in and knows he has some tough decisions to make.
“You can’t fault the superintendent because he has to keep everything going,” said Collins. “....They have to do what they have to do. Their hands are tied.”
Still, Collins explained that the sport of golf teaches athletes about life, not just athletics.
“You learn a lot about teamwork, etiquette and being quiet in certain situations,” said Collins, who said he picked up the sport three years ago.
Collins also stated that high school students should give some of the non-traditional sports a shot. In some instances, students have a better opportunity in turning pro in golf than they would in basketball or football.
“The chances of you being a pro basketball or football player are like 1 in 800 million,” said Collins. “While in golf colleges are giving away (golf) scholarships. College coaches always call high schools to see what kind of talent they have."