Flashes land MC graduate Wilkerson as coach

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 14, 2004

[5/14/04]Joe Graves’ sudden departure from St. Aloysius opened the door for change, bringing in one familiar face and another fresh, new one.

St. Al football coach Jim Taylor will take over Graves’ position as athletic director. And in his first move on the job, Taylor chose Mississippi College graduate assistant Clint Wilkerson, 25, to be the school’s new baseball coach.

Taylor said he and principal Peter Pikul came to the decision that Taylor would fill the void at AD as long as assistant football coach Jimmy Salmon could help him along as assistant AD.

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“It was seemingly the best thing to do,” Taylor said of the new position. “It wasn’t something that I desired to do, but without hoping that someone would do it, the best thing for me to do was do it myself.”

Wilkerson, who also will be an assistant coach for the football team, is coming in with plenty of enthusiasm, ready to make changes.

“I knew I was ready to have a head-coaching job,” Wilkerson said. “I just felt like St. Al was a good fit for me at this point right now a 1A school with a lot of rich tradition and a lot of great kids.”

Taylor began the search for a new baseball coach after Graves resigned in mid-April. Taylor, a former baseball coach at Warren Central, called another former Viking, Sam Temple, who is now an assistant coach at Mississippi College. Temple strongly recommended Wilkerson, so Taylor did more research.

He called an old friend, Jack French, who was Wilkerson’s high school football coach at Forest. French gave nothing but praise as well.

“We basically had two avenues in hiring someone here,” Taylor said. “We could either get someone that’s older and had retired from other areas with a lot of experience or be lucky enough to get a good, energetic guy fresh out of college.

“That was really my first choice to get a young guy that could relate to the kids. We were just lucky enough to find Clint.”

Taylor and Pikul then wasted little time in pulling the trigger.

“He came highly recommended,” Pikul said. “We talked to him and just felt really comfortable that this is the man that can step in and keep a strong program going.”

The most tenured baseball coach in Warren County, Graves ended his 22nd season with the Flashes by turning in his resignation on April 13. Graves had taken the team to the state semifinals six times and advanced to the state championship in 2002.

“Coach Graves has been here a long time and won a lot of ballgames,” Wilkerson said. “I have him to thank for coming into the situation that I’m in right now.”

Wilkerson enters with aspirations of keeping the program strong, but taking it one step further.

“There’s going to be a lot of things changed,” he said. “A lot of things are going to be different, but it’s going to be for the better, I promise.”

The first big change for the Flashes will start in the weight room, where Wilkerson plans to install an intense lifting program to bulk up the players.

“We will not play a team that works harder than us, I can promise that,” he said. “We may not beat everybody, but we’re going to be more prepared than anybody else.”

Wilkerson starred in baseball for Mississippi College, and earned all-conference honors three straight years. As a senior, Wilkerson hit .333 and led the team in home runs (10), RBIs (42) and walks (29).

He then played professionally for two years with the Baton Rouge Riverbats of the Southeastern Professional Baseball League while working on his graduate degree in social science at MC.

“I’m not saying we’re going to come in and win a state championship this year, but that’s what our goal is,” Wilkerson said.