SP Boys Basketball

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 7, 2008

SP basketball starts season in rebuilding stage

By Angie Ledbetter

South Panola head coach Charlie Howard will start another year at South Panola as the boys basketball coach with 14 players. The team consists of six seniors, three juniors and five sophomores.

“We’re going to be real small this year. We’re not going to have anybody over 6’2” or 6’3” but we’re going to be very quick and very athletic. We should shoot the ball well and be a real up tempo team compared to the teams in the past.”

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Due to graduation, the Tigers lost Antonio Allen, who was good for 25 points a game most nights.

“It is going to be hard to replace 25 points a game but with our quickness and our ability to get up and down the floor, I think we can compensate for that.”

Keenon Draper is the point guard and the focal point of the team, according to Howard.

“He is the guy that makes things go.”

 Rico Keys shoots the ball well, Howard said.

“If I can keep Keenon focused, he is going to make Rico a better basketball player.”

Last year’s team was built around Allen, who got most of the balls to score.

“The team came to rely on him so much. I’ve seen teams that lose their best player and still be a whole lot better the next year. Now their focus isn’t really on that one individual, it’s more on the team. I’m thinking that this year’s team is going to be a lot better overall.”

South Panola did not go to camp this past summer but played a lot of basketball this summer. The team practiced all summer and had its own camp, a one day shootout and invited eight teams to participate.

“I’m a firm believer in being in the gym in the summer,” Howard said. “Camps are very expensive so instead of having the kids raise money to go, we spent all of our time here in the gym.”

This year’s team includes five football players, who will not play until the football season ends.

“A lot of people don’t see that behind the scenes the time and effort that these kids put in because the football coaches are demanding of their kids,” Howard said. “He wants them there in the morning lifting weights, running, and working out. Then, if they’re going to play basketball, the basketball coach is demanding and he wants them in the gym playing.

Howard advised against letting a child think about being a three-sport star.

He used quarterback/starting pitcher David Renfroe as an example of a student who could letter also in basketball.

“David Renfroe could be a three star but he is only a two star because his main focus is baseball and then football. If he played basketball, then I would want him in the gym, Coach Pogue would want him lifting weights and Coach Robey would want him on the baseball field. So we are spread kind of thin. ”

Howard predicts Division 2-5A will be the toughest 5A basketball division in the state. This past season Starkville was the No. 1 team in the state for most of the season.

“Of course when you have two players that are 6’8” and 6’9” on the front line and a 6’5” that’s very athletic and good guards out on the floor, you’re going to have a real good team,” Howard said. “He lost one of those players and has the bulk of his lineup back with a 6’9” inside post man compared to us with the tallest being 6’3”. I’m thinking David and Goliath and we’re going to have to force them out on the floor on the play. If we get them around the basket we’re in trouble.”

Tupelo is really good and they made the playoffs last year. They lost a couple of their outside players but they have two 6’6” players returning, according to Howard.

Columbus returns all of its players from last season.

“There are four of us and we were the fourth place team in the division. Again, size and how well you can play on the road is going to be a factor.”

Howard likes to play on the road because the players do not have the home distractions of relatives and friends in the bleachers and are more focused.

“I want to play at home but our advantage is on the road. Last year we had a better road record than at home. They know that right now everybody is against you on the road so it’s easier to motivate them on the road.”

Howard played basketball at Holmes Community College in Goodman where he grew up. He left there to play at Lyon College in Batesville, Ark.

His coaching career began in 1983 after he came back from Canada and was an assistant coach for two years where he once played, Lyon College. He left there and went to a small town in Beebe, Ark. where he coached for one year. From there he went on to coach in Little Rock.

Howard started out coaching boys but then coached girls for three years. His career at South Panola begin in 1994 when he coached until after the 1997 school year and he went to Pearl for one year. He returned to South Panola for three years, coaching the girls. Howard left and went to Grenada for two years and came back to South Panola to coach the boys.

“We never sold our house. I moved my family to Pearl but we didn’t sell our house here. When I moved to Grenada I just commuted every day and stayed here because the gas prices weren’t as bad as they are now.”

Howard and his wife, Arletha, have two sons. Patrick is a senior at South Panola and plays on the basketball team. Carlton is a sophomore and plays basketball and football.

Howard likes coaching  because he likes having the opportunity to deal with the young guys and try to teach them the game.

“I really try to teach them the way I was taught the game to just see them flourish in basketball.”

He coaches because he played the game and loves it.

“I’ve always been inspired to coach by the guy that I played college basketball for. I admire him so much. My father was visible in my life the whole time I played basketball and when I left Mississippi and went to Arkansas, the guy that coached me in college was more like a father figure. I just admired him as a coach. That was something I wanted to do.”

Howard watches college basketball more so than the NBA.

“I’ve always told people that the NBA is rigged and it’s like it’s staged. You can start watching it at the beginning of the ballgame, leave and miss the second and third quarter, and come back to the fourth quarter, picking up where you left off.

“College games are totally different,” Howard said. “The excitement around college basketball is a whole lot more. The NBA gets excited during the playoffs but not during the regular season. It might be that they have such a long season.”

Howard said he goes to Ole Miss and watches them play.

“I have a former player, Phil Turner at Mississippi State, playing and we go watch him play once or twice a year.”

South Panola starts the season tonight at Senatobia at 5 p.m. The first home game is November 11 against Independence at 6 p.m.