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Loyd Star coach says Ellis one of the best guards

CLINTON — Gene “Moochie” Britt of Loyd Star has been coachingbasketball 31 years and has seen his share of outstanding players.Take it from an expert, Lanier’s Monta Ellis is exceptional, one ofthe best guards to ever play the game in Mississippi.

“Monta is a great player,” said Britt. “He’ll just get betterwith age. As far as guard goes, he’s one of the best in thenation.”

Lanier’s opponents must deal with Ellis and the Bulldogs throughthe 2004-05 season. That’s not a pleasant thought, especially fordivision rivals.

Of course, anything can happen in basketball. Recall lastseason’s state championship game when Provide pulled off a shockingupset over Lanier.

Ellis, who got 29 points in the North’s narrow 93-87 victory,made an early commitment to play basketball at Mississippi StateUniversity. That decision thrilled all of the MSU faithful fromcoast-to-coast and around the world.

MSU basketball coach Rick Stansbury was in A.E. Wood ColiseumThursday night to watch his prize recruit play basketball. He alsohad his attractive wife, Meo, and their three children, theyoungest in a carry-all, in tow. Issac, age 4; and Noah, 2, weredressed in MSU maroon and white outfits.

Stansbury and his family sat on the bleachers directly behindthe North’s bench. Ellis appreciated their presence and providedanother impressive performance.

Ellis had 19 points and 3 personal fouls at halftime. He’s acomplete player, knowing how to make the nifty pass to the openman.

Lawrence County’s J.P. Lewis and David Clark played well for theSouth. Certainly, Coach Bobby Lee’s Cougars should be favored innext season’s Division 6-4A race.

The North was loaded with exceptional players. Another standoutwas 6-6 Shannon center Courtney Fells who made an early commitmentto North Carolina State.

Despite being outmanned, Britt and Coach Tony Woody of Columbiagot the most out of their players.

“We had a good week and the kids here had good attitudes,” saidBritt. “I enjoyed working with Coach Woody.”

This new rising senior format apparently drew more interest,judging from the capacity crowd of 3,000-plus. Britt said only 38players were nominated from the South. Apparently, some coacheshaven’t caught the news of the change.

Donairies Hair, a 6-8 center from Picayune, had the opportunityto showcase his skills against the North’s big men. Britt believesHair could play at a 4-year school. “He could grow to 6-10 by nextyear.”

Another exceptional talent, guard Craigory Craft of Raleigh,wowed the crowd with 3-point shooting from downtown Clinton.

“Craft really has some shooting range,” said Britt. “He couldhit them from the time line.”

Asked about the format, Britt said he would have preferred amixture of the top juniors and seniors. His own star player, guardJared Britt, had to miss the game due to the change in format. Sodid projected all-stars Irrie Catchings of Bogue Chitto and JasperHall of Brookhaven.

Personally speaking, I’m confident Britt, Catchings and Hallwould have shown up for all-star practice if they had beeninvited.

On the other hand, underclassmen have not developed senioritis,an acute attitude disease which frequently infects seniors. And itcan ruin a whole team, too.

Coaches John Stephens of North Pike and Walter Wilson of ChoctawCentral coached the South girls in a 95-84 loss. They played hardbut ran out of gas. They were short-handed when post players AshleyBoehnel of Hancock and LaToya Branch of Gulfport failed to show upfor practice.

Stephens said neither the coaches nor the players contacted theMississippi Association of coaches to explain their absence.Traditionally, the Gulf Coast is notorious for no-show players atall-star events.

Britta Stephens, a 5-7 guard from North Pike, scored 5 points inthe loss, hitting a trey and a 2-point field goal. She won the3-point field goal shooting contest prior to the game, making 10 in60 seconds to edge Jessica Houston of Provine who netted 8.

“The North was big but we gave them a run for their money,” saidBritta. “We made a lot of friends this week and we had a lot offun.”

Coach Stephens said he enjoyed coaching the all-stars. “Usuallywhen you get a bunch of star players together, they all have egosbut these kids were unselfish. There was no jealousy amongthem.”