McDaniel knows Hazlehurst sports

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 20, 2009

HAZLEHURST – Hazlehurst boys head basketball coach RobertMcDaniel, Jr. knows sports very well at Hazlehurst, having playedthere and now coaching the Indians. In his three years as headcoach, he has taken the boys teams to the State Tournament twice,in 2007 and in 2009.

McDaniel’s Indians (25-10) captured the Division 6-3A title andadvanced to the semifinals of the Class 3A state basketballtournament in Jackson.

For his accomplishments, McDaniel has been named the The DAILYLEADER’S Coach of the Years on the 2009 All-Area Boys BasketballTeam.

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The Indians made it to the semifinals before falling toCleveland.

“It’s humbling,” said McDaniel of the honor. “But I contributeit to the kids and to the effort that they put out through theyear.”

The Indians were a senior-rich ball club. The seniors includeFred Fuller, Eric Walker, Justin Durr, Warren Perry, D. Goodwin andJay Townsend.

“Fred was our best player,” said McDaniel. “He was our scoringpoint guard. That was his role. Everybody contributed. We wanted tomake things happen defensively.”

McDaniel’s team played full-court pres the entire game.

“We had to press all night because we had no one over 6-foot,”stated McDaniel.

McDaniel say his favorite game was against Copiah County rival,the Crystal Springs Tigers.

“We were down 23 points to Crystal Springs with five minutesleft in the third quarter,” explained McDaniel. “The guys cametogether. Crystal Springs is our rival. There weren’t going to beany quitters. This was the springboard game to our season. Ithelped carry us into the playoffs.”

Once the players learned their roles, they came together as ateam.

“This was a great group of guys,” said McDaniel. “We learned toplay as a team once they understood their roles. “

McDaniel hopes the players take the skills they learned as ateam into the outside world.

“Education is the key,” said McDaniel. “There is a world outsideof athletics. I hope to lift this district area and return to thelegacy it was once before.”

McDaniel knows academics as well as athletics. His late father,Robert, Sr., was the Hazlehurst Superintendent of Education for 13years and a great influence in his life.

A 1991 graduate of Hazlehurst, McDaniel played in all threemajor sports, football, basketball and baseball. He played forcurrent South Pike head football coach Randall Huffman and theywere district champs for three years. In basketball, he was a pointguard and a pitcher in baseball.

McDaniel played for the Co-Lin Wolves as a wingback. He attainedhis degree from Alcorn State in elementary education.

McDaniel also serves as assistant football coach under hisbrother, head coach and athletic director Todd McDaniel. He teachesseventh grade science.

Carl Palmer served as assistant boys basketball coach for hisfirst year at Hazlehurst.

“We work well together,” said McDaniel.

McDaniel wants to see Hazlehurst back to where it once wasacademically and athletically. “Hopefully we can get this turnedaround academically.”