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MAC tags Watts for Hall of Fame (3161 hits)

Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2011 1:44 pm | Updated: 1:47 pm, Thu Jun 23, 2011.

It was only a matter of time.

The Mississippi Association of Coaches officially welcomes Brookhaven native Shelby Watts and four other coaching legends to its Hall of Fame Friday night during a ceremony at the Hilton Hotel. The 39th annual awards banquet is sponsored by BankPlus. It begins at 7 p.m.

"It was quite a surprise to me but Ill take it," said Watts, during a Wednesday morning interview. Watts coached basketball for 42 years, with stints at Raymond, Forest Hill and Central 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 MPSA Class A state title in 1995.

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

Watts, 73, played high school basketball at Brookhaven. A 1955 BHS graduate, he helped the Panthers win the Big Eight Tournament his senior year. The Big Eight title also was considered a state championship. Watts played point guard for Coach James Sinclair.

Watts, along with big Henry Hoskins working at the post position, was flanked by wings Ralph "Catfish" Smith and Joe Brueck, and guard Buzzy Cummins. They were the starting five for the Panthers.

"We had a lot of fun playing basketball," Watts recalled. "The administration was proud of us and so was the student body. I tried 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. "He believed in hard work and determination."

Another veteran taught Watts in his final two years of college basketball. "Coach Stute Allen believed in the same thing at Mississippi College."

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

"We had a good basketball team who knew everything about the game," said Watts. "They were taught by Coach (Jessie) Sutton in junior high. They were taught to play hard and respect the game."

Forest Hill's star forward, Mark Coleman, later played for Hinds Community College and Mississippi Valley State University. Colorful Lafayette Stribling was coaching the Delta Devils to another great campaign and the SWAC Tournament championship. That landed the Delta Devils in the NCAA Tournament where they lost to national powerhouse Duke in the opening round. MVSU was leading the Blue Devils by five points when Coleman fouled out with about five minutes left. Duke rallied to win by seven points.

"That was the high point of my career when I was coaching at Forest Hill," said Watts. "I got to know all those kids in junior 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 was big."

Sharing a veteran coach's wisdom, Watts said, "It all boils down to who works hard in the gym. If you try to cut corners, you are going to get beat."

He retired from coaching in 2006 from Central Hinds Academy. He and his family have lived in Raymond since 1965. "I've had three coaching jobs and stayed living there."

Nowadays, Watts and his wife, the former Sylvia Whitehead of Roxie, are enjoying retirement at their home in Raymond. They raised two daughters, Lisa Banes of San Antonio, Texas, and Lauren Upchurch of Tupelo. There are four grandchildren. Conner Banes, the oldest, 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," said Watts, flashing a paternal smile.

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

The coaching professional often resembles a nomadic way of life 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 you go into coaching, you better buy yourself a good car and lots of suitcases.' I'll always remember that."

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

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

For more banquet information and tickets, contact the MAC offices at 601-924-3020 or Email www.mscoaches.com[1]

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

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

To contact sports editor Tom Goetz, Email tgoetz@dailyleader.com[2]


  1. ^ www.mscoaches.com (www.mscoaches.com)
  2. ^ tgoetz@dailyleader.com (www.dailyleader.com)

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