Craft’s Lady Panthers raise record to 21-8

Published 10:00 pm Sunday, March 24, 2013

Freda Craft has been coaching basketball for 23 years. Obviously, she enjoys her job coaching the Brookhaven Lady Panthers.

Craft’s latest edition achieved a 21-8 record. The Lady Panthers were runners-up in the Region 6-5A Tournament and advanced to the state playoffs. That achievement has earned Craft The DAILY LEADER’s Coach of the Year honors on the 2013 All-Lincoln County Girls Basketball Team.

“I enjoy being around the children,” said the 57-year-old Craft. “It keeps me young.”

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Craft also teaches physical education and coaches girls track. She was pleased with her latest edition, the first winning season in several years.

“It all came together this season,” said Craft. “I was happy for my seniors. I’ve had them since the ninth grade.”

Still, Craft admitted to being disappointed with the end of the campaign. “The only way you end your season happy is to win a state title. We should have won our region and South State.”

Pascagoula eliminated the Lady Panthers in the opening round of the South State playoffs. Pascagoula advanced to the State Tournament before being eliminated.

Craft loses four seniors to graduation in Christen Benson, Carey Crozier, Archea Brotherns and Raven Smith. Benson, Brotherns and Crozier started.

In her seventh year at the helm of the Lady Panthers, Craft had previous coaching stints at Hazlehurst and South Pike. She served in the Air Force for 11.5 years. She reached the rank of E-6 tech sergeant, as a computer maintenance specialist.

A 1973 Hazlehurst graduate, Craft earned All-Star honors with the Lady Indians and played four years for Mississippi College.

She said players have changed over the years. Due to modern technology, youngsters spend more time on the couch playing video games and texting their friends.

“Nowadays, our kids have more things to do,” said Craft. “They don’t have that strong desire to be in the gym all the time and to work on their shooting.”

Craft was proud to point out that 9 of her 12 varsity members have a 3.0 GPA or higher. Benson, named the DL’s Most Valuable Player on the All-Lincoln County squad, said she appreciated Craft’s work ethic and her personal concern for the players.”

“Coach Craft hollers and runs us a lot,” said Benson. “She cares about us. She wants us to be young ladies, on and off the court.”

Craft said her new assistant coach this year, Zariah Hamilton, was a true asset to the team. “She did an excellent job of handling the non-basketball situations. She freed me so I could have more time to work with my players.”

“Coach Hamilton took care of keeping up with the grades,” she continued. She also took care of the team’s statistics.

Craft is married to Jason Miles and they have two grown children: Daimeon and Aiesha Collins, plus two grandchildren.