• 68°

Harrell takes McComb to state in major rebuilding campaign

McCOMB — Big 6-foot-10 all-state center Jackie Butler andstandout guard D.J. Carr were gone from the McComb Tigers. Thatleft some big shoes for McComb coach Hilton Harrell to fill for the2003-04 Tiger basketball team.

How well would they do minus Butler and Carr?

Based on this year’s 25-10 team record, Butler wasn’t missed alot. Harrell’s Tigers won the Division 6-2A title, finished secondin the South State tournament and made it to the state tournamentin the Big House (Mississippi Coliseum) in Jackson.

For his accomplishments, Harrell has been selected as The DAILYLEADER’s All-Area Boys Basketball Coach of the Year for the 2003-04season. Harrell was also All-Area Coach of the Year in 2001-02.

“We felt like we were overachievers this year,” said Harrell ofhis Tiger team. “We had lost some good players from last year’steam. We stressed quickness and fundamentals.”

Harrell and his Tigers adjusted well with the loss of Butler,Carr and other players.

“We adapted with the athletes we had,” smiled Harrell.”Sometimes you go with what you have.”

McComb has had several successful winning seasons and it rubbedoff on the younger Tigers.

‘This group of guys got used to winning,” stated Harrell.”Winning breeds winning. “We played power for four years. Thisyear, we went to a more pressure defense.

“They came together as a team,” continued Harrell. “All fiveplayers worked well together.”

Harrell knew his team was good when they played road gamesagainst tough opponents.

“Going on the road, we beat most of the better teams on theirhome floor,” explained Harrell.

Harrell, who stands 6-foot-4, has been head coach at McComb for13 years. He is a 1976 graduate of Liberty Central.

Harrell excelled at forward on the Liberty Central basketballteam that was coached by Ernest Dunlap. He and his team made it tothe state tournament. Harrell was selected as the Most ImprovedPlayer.

Following his high school graduation, Harrell attended SouthwestCommunity College where he played basketball for coach OliverYoung. During that time, Harrell was named All-State and played inthe All-Star game.

According to Harrell, he averaged around 24 points per game hissophomore year. He was named Most Valuable Player.

Harrell, who was pursuing a career in welding, took Young’sadvice and worked on his basketball skills. Young felt Harrell hada bright future ahead as a player.

“I listened to him,” said Harrell. “I thank God I did.”

Harrell’s basketball talents were elevated when he attendedMississippi College in Clinton. Coached by Doug Hines, Harrell wasnamed MVP his junior year and team captain his senior year.

Harrell led the nation in the Division II college standings,averaging 31 points per game for 25 weeks. The record still standstoday.

Harrell graduated with a bachelor’s degree in science. In 1981.He signed his first professional basketball contract with theHouston Rockets. After three months with Houston, Harrell was sentto the CBA’s Rochester Zenits where he played for the next twoyears.

Following the stint with Rochester, Harrell signed to play withValencia Venezuela, a South American team located in Trotomuda. Heplayed there for five years.

Harrell returns to the USA and took over as head boys basketballcoach at McLaurin High School for three years. His team compiled a62-19 record.

Harrell left McLaurin and accepted the boys coaching position atMcComb High and has been there the last 13 years.

“We are very proud of these players,” said Harrell. “We have acouple of good ones coming back. Patrick Barnes, our No. 2 guard,was a big lift for us. He also played forward too. Chris Danielsplayed hurt most of the year. The guys just picked it up.

“The guys just didn’t miss doing what needed to be done to win.We’ve had fun. We love the game.”

Harrell and his wife, Twilla, were married in 1982 and havethree children; Jarrold, Jeremy and Jakayla.

Harrell is also a pastor at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptistand Webb Chapel in Amite County. He has been preaching for 15years.