Gators looking for leadership in summer

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Vicksburg High’s boys’ basketball team finished 13-17 last season, but its record doesn’t tell the whole story. They engineered a midseason turnaround and won eight of their last 11 games before losing to Canton in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.

Now, the Gators are tasked with building on that closing stretch while adapting to the loss of three seniors as they plow through the summer schedule. They lost 43-26 to Warren Central on Monday night, and will host Clinton and Raymond Thursday at 4 and 6 p.m., respectively.

Darius Johnson led the Gators with seven points against Warren Central. Vicksburg had beaten the Vikings earlier this summer.

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“It’s been up and down. We’ve had good days and had bad days,” coach Kelvin Carter said. “Trying to get guys to buy in is the biggest thing, but we’ve been working on it.”

Carter said it was a big challenge to replace last year’s seniors. Guard Ke’Darrion Parson averaged a team-high 12.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, and fellow guard Kamari English averaged 5.0 points per game. The only other senior on the roster was backup Alonzo Blackmore.

At this point in the summer, Carter said no one player had stepped up to take on the leadership void those players left behind.

“Really it’s been a team thing. We’re trying to find a leader right now, that’s what we’re searching for,” Carter said. “We need to improve on playing together, and the seniors that we have being seniors. A lot of leadership is what’s needed.”

One member of this year’s senior class is 6-foot-4 forward Jaymeson Norfort, whose athleticism and emphatic shot blocks were huge for the Gators last season. Norfort only averaged 4.3 points, but also had 3.2 blocks per game and was a breakout star in the second half of the season.

Carter said that rising senior Ty’Ron Moore has also shown some flashes of brilliance this summer. Moore averaged 4.8 points in 25 games last season.

“Darius Johnson could contribute, Jermiyah Brown could contribute, Greg Jenkins, they just have to come back and play, but Ty’Ron Moore has been the plus for us so far this summer,” Carter said. “Moore has played defense, shooting the three-ball well, and just playing the all-around game.”

However, Carter said the competition has been tight this summer as some of the younger players have started to make a name for themselves. Their play had Carter very optimistic about the future.

“Really, the young people are playing so much better than the seniors,” Carter said. “Jayden Williams and Keshawn Brown, those guys are coming.”