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MAC tags Watts for Hall of Fame

It was only a matter of time.

     The Mississippi Association of Coaches officially welcomesBrookhaven native Shelby Watts and four other coaching legends toits Hall of Fame Friday night during a ceremony at the HiltonHotel. The 39th annual awards banquet is sponsored by BankPlus. Itbegins at 7 p.m.

     “It was quite a surprise to me but Ill take it,” saidWatts, during a Wednesday morning interview. Watts coachedbasketball for 42 years, with stints at Raymond, Forest Hill andCentral Hinds Academy. He compiled a won-lost record of 806-438,including 12 conference or district titles, one South State crown,the Class AA state title, the 1981 Grand Slam crown and the MPSAClass A state title in 1995.

     He was inducted into the Copiah-Lincoln Athletic Hall ofFame in 2006.

     Watts, 73, played high school basketball at Brookhaven. A1955 BHS graduate, he helped the Panthers win the Big EightTournament his senior year. The Big Eight title also was considereda state championship. Watts played point guard for Coach JamesSinclair.

     Watts, along with big Henry Hoskins working at the postposition, was flanked by wings Ralph “Catfish” Smith and JoeBrueck, and guard Buzzy Cummins. They were the starting five forthe Panthers.

      “We had a lot of fun playing basketball,” Watts recalled.”The administration was proud of us and so was the student body. Itried to carry that spirit on to my coaching career.”

     Watts later played for Coach Alton Ricks at Co-Lin.

     “Coach Ricks was from the old school,” said Watts. “Hebelieved in hard work and determination.”

     Another veteran taught Watts in his final two years ofcollege basketball. “Coach Stute Allen believed in the same thingat Mississippi College.”

     In 1981 Watts and his Forest Hill Rebels beat West Lincolnfor the MHSAA Overall Tournament championship in the MississippiColiseum. Jack Case was coaching West Lincoln at that time and hisson, Jason, was filling it up from the guard position.

     “We had a good basketball team who knew everything aboutthe game,” said Watts. “They were taught by Coach (Jessie) Suttonin junior high. They were taught to play hard and respect thegame.”

     Forest Hill’s star forward, Mark Coleman, later played forHinds Community College and Mississippi Valley State University.Colorful Lafayette Stribling was coaching the Delta Devils toanother great campaign and the SWAC Tournament championship. Thatlanded the Delta Devils in the NCAA Tournament where they lost tonational powerhouse Duke in the opening round. MVSU was leading theBlue Devils by five points when Coleman fouled out with about fiveminutes left. Duke rallied to win by seven points.

     “That was the high point of my career when I was coachingat Forest Hill,” said Watts. “I got  to know all those kids injunior high.”

     How much has basketball changed in  his long career?

     Watts said he has seen every rule in the book changed.”Most of the changes turned out pretty good. The 3-point line wasbig.”

     Sharing a veteran coach’s wisdom, Watts said, “It all boilsdown to who works hard in the gym. If you try to cut corners, youare going to get beat.”

     He retired from coaching in 2006 from Central HindsAcademy. He and his family have lived in Raymond since 1965. “I’vehad three coaching jobs and stayed living there.”


     Nowadays, Watts and his wife, the former Sylvia Whiteheadof Roxie, are enjoying retirement at their home in Raymond.  Theyraised two daughters, Lisa Banes of San Antonio, Texas, and LaurenUpchurch of Tupelo. There are four grandchildren. Conner Banes, theoldest, is a freshman at Ole Miss.

     Lauren and her husband have two girls, Caroline and Emily,and a boy, David, who is five years old.

     “That’s enough to keep grandma and grandpa busy,” saidWatts, flashing a paternal smile.

     Most of  his family will gather for the Friday nightceremony. His sister and brother-in-law, Margie and Wade Ratliff ofMonticello; will be there, too.

     The coaching professional often resembles a nomadic way oflife as coaches drift from one school to another.

     Watts remembered a practice session on the MC campus.”Coach Allen talked to us players one day. He said, ‘Boys, if yougo into coaching, you better buy yourself a good car and lots ofsuitcases.’ I’ll always remember that.”

     Watts and his four associates will enlarge the MAC Hall ofFame membership to 202, featuring 190 lifetime and 12 honorarymembers. The MAC Coaches Hall of Fame was created in 1973.

     Also scheduled for induction tomorrow night are footballcoach Neil Hitchcock, baseball coach D.M. Howie, basketball coachLucy Seaberry-Moore and softball coach Cary Shepherd.

     For more banquet information and tickets, contact the MACoffices at 601-924-3020 or Email www.mscoaches.com



     Catcher Kolby Byrd of Brookhaven made a rousingprofessional debut Tuesday night with the Johnson City (Tenn.)Cardinals in the Appalachian League opener. Byrd hit a line drivesingle to center field for a single and it was misplayed, allowingthe winning run to race home. He had a double and two singles asthe Cards edged the Kingsport (Tenn.) Mets 7-6 in 10 innings. Theformer Brookhaven Academy and Co-Lin standout is listed as a BogueChitto resident on the team roster.

     Johnson City is a Class A rookie league affiliate of theSt. Louis Cardinals. Their season runs through the end of August.The JC Cards are defending league champions.


     To contact sports editor Tom Goetz, Emailtgoetz@dailyleader.com