Vicksburg basketball players Caples, Carter celebrate college opportunities

Published 6:40 pm Friday, April 14, 2023

For more than a decade, Vicksburg High’s senior basketball players have played together. They’ve won games and lost them, celebrated championships and consoled each other in defeat.

And, last week, they celebrated a huge achievement for a couple of their own.

The Missy Gators joined friends and family members in toasting Layla Carter and Janiah Caples in a belated signing day ceremony at VHS. Carter signed with Southern Arkansas and Caples with Pearl River Community College in December, but they had not had a formal ceremony until this week.

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“It’s a bittersweet moment. I’m going to miss playing with them. I’ve been with them since as long as I can remember,” Caples said. “It’s going to be hard to adapt to a new team, but you’ve got to do it one day.”

Caples came into her own over the past two seasons as an all-around point guard. She averaged 17 points and 7 assists per game this season, after putting up 9.5 points, 3.2 assists and 3.4 steals per game in 2021-22.

Vicksburg coach Troy Stewart said Caples’ improvement over the course of her four-year high school career was impressive.

“Janiah probably had more growth from her freshman year to her senior year than any player I have ever coached, boys included,” Stewart said. “She went from a person that was looking for offense, to a person that transitioned into what we thought was a point guard, into what colleges would think was a point guard. She made everything go.”

Pearl River, which went 24-3 and reached the NJCAA Region 23 championship game last season, certainly thought she was what they were looking for, and Caples said the feeling was mutual.

Caples said she liked the up-tempo style of basketball that the Wildcats play.

“I felt the vibe when I went on the visit,” she said. “It was a great school for me. I was going to fit in, and they play our style of basketball.”

Carter, meanwhile, signed with Division II Southern Arkansas because of a personal connection. VHS alum Alexus Stirgus is an assistant coach there, and taught Carter the game. The chance to reunite with Stirgus was something Carter was eager to do.

“I’ve been with her since I was a baby. We’ve been through a lot physically and emotionally,” Carter said. “She’s always been there for me, helping me get better on the court and off the court. I’m just glad to go to college and be there with her.”

Carter obviously learned well from Stirgus, as well as all of her other coaches. She averaged about 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.5 steals per game in her sophomore and junior seasons, and this season increased that to 22 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks per game.

Carter was selected as Miss Basketball in Class 5A by the Mississippi High School Activities Association after leading the Missy Gators to their fourth consecutive MHSAA Region 4-5A tournament championship.
Carter said she was proud of her resume, and thanked everyone who helped her build it.

“I’m very proud, and I appreciate everybody. I’ve been putting the work in and it finally paid off,” Carter said. “I really appreciate everybody being here because I know all of the love and support that they have for me.”

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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