File photo by Chris ToddCori Bell (15), going in for a lay-up in last year’s state tourney, returns to help lead the Hawks.
Hawks reload, look for another post-season run
Sylvester Kilgore doesn’t care for the word rebuilding.
“We prefer reloading,” said the head boys basketball coach at Holly Springs High School.
The Hawks, who finished as runner-up in the Class 3A State Tournament last season, lost one of the top players in school history to graduation. DaQuan Smith, who averaged 27.8 points a game and shattered the school’s career scoring record (more than 3,000 points), is a freshman at Murray State University.
“It’s tough losing a player like that, but it’s also an excellent opportunity for other guys to step up,” Kilgore said.
And there’s plenty of talent returning, led by all-state players Cori Bell, a junior guard, and Daveon Miller, a senior guard/forward.
Plus, Derek Fountain is back at Holly Springs after playing his ninth and 10th grade years at a school in Memphis, Tenn. The junior guard/forward is generating interest from several Division I colleges.
Up-and-coming players include seniors Shontaveous Harris and Rahmel Campbell and juniors Tyhem Reaves, Cardarius Autry and Lee Qinnn-Lake.
Last season was Holly High’s fourth straight trip to Jackson and the school’s first trip to the title game since 2006. The Hawks won back-to-back state championships in 2004 and 2005.
“The expectations are alway high,” said Kilgore, who is entering his sixth season as head coach of the Hawks. “It’s our goal to get back to the state championship game and win it this time around. That’s what we are shooting for, nothing less.”
Magnolia Hoops recently released its Preseason Class 3A Top 10. Atop the list is the Hawks. A Region 2-3A foe, North Panola, is second.
Kilgore said he expects a solid eight- or nine-man rotation.
“We potentially have four guys who can average double-digit scoring, which is very good at the high school level,” he said. “And we’re versatile. Everybody can play every position, which is very helpful on defense, too.”
He said coming together as a team is the key.
“I have high-character guys who get along well off the court and usually that transfers to on the court,” Kilgore said. “We just need to get experience as a unit.”
The schedule, as usual, is rugged. It includes Memphis area teams like Southwind, Mitchell and Cordova, plus Tennessee schools Fayette-Ware and Bolivar. The Hawks will face Tupelo in the Rumble on the River at Itawamba Community College, Grenada in the Domino’s Pizza Challenge at South Panola, and the host school, New Albany, in the prestigious Hotbed Classic.
“We would not have it any other way,” Kilgore said. “We had the most difficult schedule in 3A last year (according to Magnolia Hoops). I’d much rather play up in competition. We have to get our claws sharpened for district and state play. It pays off in the long run. We’re looking forward to taking on all comers.”
Holly High opened its season with a two-point loss to Class 6A Horn Lake. They visited H.W. Byers this past Tuesday. They will travel to Byhalia Friday.