Gators finish summer schedule with tournament championship in Texas

Published 2:26 pm Tuesday, June 27, 2023

After the Vicksburg Gators won 28 games and the MHSAA Region 4-5A regular-season championship last season, boys’ basketball coach Kelvin Carter credited the lessons learned the previous summer for a lot of the success.

He’s hoping another outstanding June yields even better results next winter.

The Gators capped off their summer schedule last weekend by going undefeated and winning the Pre Nationals Tune Up Tournament in Plano, Texas, for the second consecutive year. Four of their five victories were by nine points or more.

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Carter said how the Gators won was as impressive as that they won.

“It’s summertime. You’re trying to get better. You really can’t judge by the summer, but you can take a lot from it. You can get back to the drawing board and figure out some things you need to work on,” Carter said. “One thing I will say, is this is the most resilient group that I’ve ever had. They’re not going to get rattled, and if they get up 15 they’re going to keep pressing.”

The undefeated run through the Texas tournament brought Vicksburg’s record to 25-4 during its monthlong summer schedule. The four losses all occurred with several key players absent because of schedule conflicts.

Rising senior guard Davian Williams averaged more than 20 points per game and had six games with 28 points or more. Williams was a Mississippi all-star who averaged a team-high 17 points per game last season. He has four college offers already, including one from Alcorn State.

“He’s going to shake up the state of Mississippi,” Carter said.

While Williams is a budding superstar, Carter added that the summer also saw the emergence of several others who will play big roles next season. Tyler Henderson and Jaylin Jackson both averaged 15 points per game during the June schedule, sophomore Michael Johnson averaged 10, and 6-foot-7 center Kameryn Bailey averaged a double-double.

“Kameryn Bailey was phenomenal out here. We haven’t had that in years,” Carter said of having a dominant big man. “It’s going to be a major plus moving forward.”

Carter said one of the biggest leaps his players made was in their mental approach to the game. Their ability to show poise in crucial spots, knowing when to press the gas and finish off an opponent, and when to slow down and bleed the clock were all much better than in previous years.

“I think this summer gave us a few more critical thinkers,” Carter said. “Knowing what I want in certain situations in the game. That kind of thing has been essential this summer. Critical thinkers were born this summer. I’m about to jump up and call the set and they’re already hardened out.”

Carter also tried to build some depth, which will be more important than usual during the 2023-24 season. The MHSAA realignment will create a 10-game region schedule that starts in December, rather than January.

Vicksburg has five players, including Henderson and Johnson, who play football and might not be available or at full speed for basketball for the first couple of region games. Having reserves who can fill in for them in December and then play key roles off the bench in January and February, will be important.

“I’m telling them every game we play that we need you guys now. And you have an opportunity to show me that when the football guys come back, I can play a little bit and help our team,” Carter said. “Hopefully those guys take the bull by the horns and take advantage of the opportunity they have. If we can become 10-deep, that would be phenomenal. We’re eight-deep, and if we can add two more to that it’s going to be a wonderful year.”

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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