Prep basketball Both Vicksburg teams reload

Published 11:37 am Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vicksburg High’s basketball program has undergone a facelift for the 2011-12 season.

In the gym, there’s new lights and bleachers, and a refinished floor with a fresh paint job. In the center of the floor, a snarling gator logo has replaced the old green “V” that sat there for years.

The teams themselves have gotten new uniforms. And, seemingly as part of a package deal, there’s a whole bunch of new players to go with all of the other renovations.

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Vicksburg’s boys team, which lost to Meridian in the Class 6A championship game last season, will only have one senior on the roster when it opens the season tonight at home against Wingfield. Ten of the 15 players are sophomores.

The girls’ team has a few more familiar faces, but still only two seniors among its 11 players. Coach Barbara Hartzog said two freshmen and a sophomore will be in the starting lineup tonight.

It’s a jarring transition for two teams that over the past few years have been among the state’s best, on the boys’ side, and extremely competitive on the girls’.

“I know what I’m getting,” Gators coach Dellie C. Robinson said. “It’s going to be tough. But I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’s probably the biggest challenge I’ve had in 12 years.”

Robinson knew this rebuilding project was coming for a long time. Last season’s Class 6A runner-up used six seniors in its regular rotation and didn’t have a lot of depth beyond that.

The one senior on this year’s team, Rashad Tucker, did not play last season, and the three juniors saw limited time in mop-up duty.

Other than inexperience, however, Robinson has high hopes for this young group. The 10 sophomores went 18-1 and won the Little Six Conference championship as ninth-graders.

Junior center Tre’Darius Carter is 6-foot-8, and Robinson said sophomore Edward Davis is “probably going to be the best point guard I’ve ever coached.”

It’s high praise from a coach who’s been in the business for 30-plus years and won the Class 5A championship in 2003 with an outstanding point guard in Devin Jones.

“I think what we’re trying to do now is lay the foundation for the next couple years,” Robinson said. “We’re young. We’re going to make some mistakes. They’re not without talent, so that’s a good thing.”

Hartzog, the Missy Gators’ coach, is trying to accomplish the same thing as Robinson. Among her dozen players, only senior center Antoinette Mayfield and junior forward Brittany Farris saw significant playing time last season. A few others got minutes here and there.

The youth has forced Hartzog to balance high expectations with patience as her players develop.

“One day they look good, and one day they don’t,” Hartzog said. “The age they are, if they work hard and work together, they can blossom.”

Among the young players the Missy Gators will be counting on are freshmen Ama Arkoful and Ruddie Shears. Arkoful played in Vicksburg’s last three games last season and averaged three points. Shears started last weekend’s classic game against Humphreys County.

“I like the energy the young ones have. If they keep it up, they’re going to be good,” Hartzog said. “I have high expectations for them, and I won’t accept anything less.”