Craft knows how to motivate

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 3, 2006

HAZLEHURST — Lady Indian head girls basketball coach FredaCraft she said her Hazlehurst team told her she would be Coach ofthe Year. Craft didn’t take much stock in it, knowing the girlsmeant well. If they won a championship, she might be Coach of theYear.

They may not have won a state title, but efforts of theHazlehurst girls have landed Craft the 2006 DAILY LEADER All-AreaGirls Coach of the Year honors.

The Lady Indians finished the season 29-7 and made it to thesemifinals of the Class 3A State Girls Basketball Tournament in theBig House (Mississippi Fairground Coliseum) in Jackson lastMarch.

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“I am so excited,” smiled Craft. “My girls presented me as Coachof the Year. It shouldn’t be me. It’s all about them. It’s reallytheir award.”

Craft talked about this year’s team. “We had a ton of offense.All the players started together since the seventh grade. They knewtheir roles. Everybody did a little of everything.”

Hazlehurst lost to powerhouse Choctaw Central 73-48 in thesecond round of state.

“They were supposed to be weaker,” smiled Craft. “They beat usworse than last year.”

In the first round of the State Tournament, Hazlehursteliminated Cleveland East Side 76-64 .

“I want them to be coached so that they can be anything theywant to be,” said Craft. “And stay focused.”

Craft was born in Copiah County and is a graduate of HazlehurstHigh. In high school, Craft played basketball and ran track. Shewas named a Mississippi All-Star.

Her high school coach was Mason Dedham who helped her 1973senior team to No. 2 in the state.

Craft learned some important points from Dedham. “I learned toenjoy what I am doing. I get the kids to enjoy what they aredoing.”

After Hazlehurst, Craft spent the next four years at MississippiCollege. As a member of the Lady Choctaw, she learned how to play 5of 5 basketball.

At Mississippi College, Ed Nixon was her coach and she learned alot about basketball.

“I learned everything I know from him,” stated Craft who wasnamed an All-American her freshman year at MC.

The Lady Choctaw team was averaging 90 points a game when sheplayed.

Craft graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree ineducation.

Her first job was as head girls basketball coach at Biloxi HighSchool. She taught for four years. It was not a pleasantexperience, according to Craft.

“I jumped out of the water into the frying pan,” laughed Craft.”I was terrible.”

After that job, Craft enlisted in the Air Force where she stayedfor the next 11 1/2 years. She left the service as a staffsergeant.

“I really learned discipline,” said Craft. “It will make youbetter.”

She returned to Hazlehurst for three years and had success. “Thefirst time, in 1997, we got second in the state,” explainedCraft.

Craft left Hazlehurst for a three-year stint as head coach atSouth Pike. She said the best the Lady Eagles did at South Pike wasreach the first round of the South Tournament.

Six years ago, Craft returned to Hazlehurst where she remains ashead coach.

Craft and her husband Brian Miles, an assistant football coachat Hazlehurst, are the parents Aiesha Collins (who played forCo-Lin) and Daimeon Collins.

“He (Brian) coaches football on the championship team,” smiledCraft.

Craft appreciates the support she and her girls have receivedduring the season.

“I’d like to thank the fans, administration and families fortheir support,” stated Craft. “Especially the families for lettingtheir kids spend long hours in the gym.”

And a special thanks to Hazlehurst Superintendent of EducationHenry Dorsey who is retiring this year. “He’s the man who hired meback.”