2023 All-County Basketball: Stewart, Carter led Vicksburg to a great year

Published 8:05 am Sunday, March 12, 2023

To see how their teams were doing, all Vicksburg High basketball coaches Troy Stewart and Kelvin Carter had to do was look and listen.

Fans, hundreds of them every night, packed the school’s gym to see the Missy Gators and Gators dispatch another opponent. The crowds were large and vocal, and made a great season even more fun.

“It’s not for the coaches. It’s not even for the ticket sales or gate. It’s for the atmosphere that they bring for the young ladies and the guys playing,” Stewart said. “The atmosphere when you walk in this gym is endearing for us, but it’s hostile to other people. It’s a good feeling to know that every time you walk in that gym it’s a crowd that’s behind you 100 percent.”

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Both Vicksburg teams gave the fans plenty to cheer about. Stewart’s Missy Gators finished with a 25-6 record and won their fourth consecutive MHSAA Region 4-5A tournament championship. Carter’s boys’ team went 28-4 and won the Region 4-5A regular-season title.

In a fitting bit of symmetry for two men who were once high school teammates at VHS, and who were both hired to lead their alma mater’s programs in 2017, they’re sharing the 2023 Vicksburg Post basketball Coach of the Year award for their teams’ joint success.

“We’ve been together a long time,” Carter said. “Doing it together is so special. I’m so proud of him. I love him as a brother and I hope we can continue this thing going.”

Stewart’s girls’ team continued a four-year run of success that included a trip to the Class 5A semifinals in 2020. The freshmen on that team won 81 games and four region titles in their high school careers.

Several of this year’s eight seniors will play college basketball next season. The list includes Layla Carter, a Southern Arkansas signee who won the MHSAA’s Miss Basketball award as the top player in Class 5A.

“As a coach, you don’t get that type of group often. When you do, you realize it real early. That’s one of the reasons we kept them together so long, was because we knew that group was special,” Stewart said. “It’s a good feeling to have them play for us, to play for the school and this city. Every one of them, whatever they choose to do, we know they’re going to be successful with it.”

Carter’s boys’ team had a more sudden rise.

The Gators had a large graduating class in the 2021-22 season, rebuilt with a strong backcourt led by Malik Franklin — this year’s Class 5A Mr. Basketball award winner — and juniors Davian Williams and Jaylin Jackson, and took off like a rocket.

The Gators blew past last season’s total of 12 wins by Christmas. They won their first 10 games and finished with a 28-4 record that took them to a No. 1 ranking in Class 5A for most of the season. Two of their four losses were to Yazoo City and Northwest Rankin, the eventual champions in Class 4A and 6A respectively.

“The chemistry, the accountability that they hold each other to got us to this point,” Carter said. “We put a lot of work in in the summer time and Christmas time. I think we do a lot of things a lot of coaches don’t care to do. But having small teams, you have to put them in a position where they can see what basketball players look like.”

Both Stewart and Carter said they saw the potential for both teams long before it arrived. Both teams dominated their summer schedules to set the stage for success in the winter.

“We saw it happening this summer. My girls only lost two or three games this summer. His guys only lost one. We knew it was going to be a fun ride,” Stewart said. “I was excited to see us play well, and I was excited to see them play well. Night in and night out, going into any gym whether it was here or somewhere else, every opponent knew they had to play their best game. It’s a fun ride watching that.”

Both coaches also said the crowds were a big part of the fun. Besides thanking their families, assistant coaches, administration and players for the Coach of the Year award, they credited Vicksburg High’s basketball fans for being part of the ride.

Stewart said seeing players from other Warren County teams showing up to VHS games after they’d played elsewhere earlier in the night was especially appreciated.

“We appreciate the fans because they were here all year. I want to personally thank Vicksburg, Mississippi, because all the (schools) have come in this gym to watch girls play,” Stewart said. “Traditionally, the gym doesn’t fill up until the boys play. Here at this school they’ve been full for the last four or five years.”

The two VHS coaches are also hoping to give them plenty more to cheer about in the future.

Stewart will have to restock his roster after losing the eight seniors who led the team to so much success the past four years. Carter, though, is only losing two seniors — Franklin and guard Jalen Banks — and should have the Gators back in the state championship mix in 2024.

“We’ve got a veteran group now,” Carter said. “We started as sophomores and took some whuppin’s. This year we gave some whuppin’s out and we’ve got pretty much everybody coming back.”

Vicksburg Post Coaches of the Year
2022 – Troy Stewart and Kelvin Carter, Vicksburg
2022 – Walter Hallberg, Porter’s Chapel
2021 – Troy Stewart, Vicksburg
2020 – Troy Stewart, Vicksburg
2019 – Eddie Pickle, St. Aloysius
2018 – Bruce Robinson, Warren Central
2017 – Jackie Glass, Warren Central
2016 – Jackie Glass, Warren Central
2015 – Jackie Glass, Warren Central
2014 – Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
2013 – E.J. Creel, Porters Chapel
2012 – E.J. Creel, Porters Chapel
2011 – Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
2010 – Jackie Martin-Glass, Warren Central
2009 – Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
2008 – Dellie. C. Robinson, Vicksburg
2007 – Kyt Bonner, St. Aloysius and Penn Majors, St. Aloysius
2006 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and Drew McBrayer, St. Aloysius
2005 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and Mike Grzanich, Porters Chapel
2004 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and Jesse Johnson, Warren Central
2003 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
2002 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
2001 – Mitchell Willis, Porters Chapel and Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
2000 – Mike Coleman, Vicksburg and Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
1999 – Debbie Carr, Porters Chapel and Noah Hamilton, St. Aloysius
1998 – Debbie Carr, Porters Chapel and John Duett, Warren Central
1997 – Doc Stephens, Vicksburg and Kenny Bizot, Porters Chapel
1996 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
1995 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
1994 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and John Duett, Warren Central

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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