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Vicksburg-flavored Mean Green eye AAU title

[07/20/01] Mike Coleman’s 15-and-under state champion Mean Green team, short on height but not talent, begins its quest for a national championship Saturday.

The Raymond-based girls squad will be playing in the Amateur Athletic Union’s 70-team national championship tournament in Oklahoma City.

Coleman, Vicksburg High’s girls basketball coach for the past two seasons, and Yazoo County’s Patrick Nutter lead the group of all-stars from seven schools into the weeklong tournament.

With Coleman will be a pair of his VHS players Shalonda Williams and Tiffany Hubbard and Warren Central’s Porsha Ferguson.

“I think we’ll do really good,” said Hubbard, who was not on Mean Green last summer. “If we play together and do the things we’ve always done, we have a chance.”

Mean Green, coached by Coleman for the past two seasons, breezed through the state tournament at Yazoo County and are 8-0 during the summer.

The team won both its practice games leading up to the tournament this week.

“Two years ago when we were in line waiting for opening ceremonies, we found out a team from Louisiana had played 65 games already,” Coleman said. “I think it’s an advantage to play that many games together, but we’ve been together for two years now and our players all know each other.”

In addition to the three local standouts, Mean Green had three from Yazoo County, two from West Lauderdale and one each from Canton, Jackson Academy and John F. Kennedy in Mound Bayou.

“We had two scrimmages this week and our second bunch was as good as the first,” said Coleman, who was a Mean Green assistant for six years. “So, we really didn’t lose anything.

“Over the years, it seems like the most talented kids want to play for us. We have a very good reputation around the state.”

Williams earned Vicksburg Post All-County honors and is a fixture in the Missy Gators’ lineup. Williams was on the Mean Green 14-under team last year that was eliminated from the national tournament in pool play.

Mean Green, which has been to nationals in each of the last eight years, advanced to the Sweet 16 several years ago, but has not advanced past the opening weekend the last two years.

“We’ll have to be able to break people’s press and get the ball across half court,” said Williams, who also played on Vicksburg’s summer team. “We couldn’t get the ball across half court last year.”

Size again will be a factor, Coleman said. His team will need its depth and quickness to overtake some much taller teams.

“We can run the ball,” Coleman said. “But we’ll be playing teams with 6-3s and 6-4s that are as quick as our guards.”

Mean Green opens the tournament on Saturday afternoon against Boo Williams Red Tide of Virginia. On Sunday, Mean Green plays the Albany (N.Y.) Capitals, then the Georgia Pistols, ranked third nationally by AAU. The top two teams from each pool advance.

“It might not be too hard if we play together,” said Hubbard, who played for Vicksburg’s ninth-grade team last year. “We have a good chance to beat everyone, even if they are No. 1”

Ferguson, who is battling for a spot on the Lady Vikes’ team this year, said it’s not at all difficult playing for Vicksburg High’s coach or some VHS players.

“It’s all Mean Green now,” she said.