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Boys All-Metro: Veal selected as coach of the year

At top, Wilkinson County High School boys head coach Terry Veal has been named All-Metro coach of the year after his Wildcats posted an 8-2 record in Region 7-3A, winning the No. 1 seed in the regional tournament. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
At top, Wilkinson County High School boys head coach Terry Veal has been named All-Metro coach of the year after his Wildcats posted an 8-2 record in Region 7-3A, winning the No. 1 seed in the regional tournament. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

WOODVILLE — The distance factor made Terry Veal hesitant to take the job at first.

In his first year as boys basketball coach at Wilkinson County High School, Veal led the team to a 17-12 record and a regular-season Region 7-3A title with an 8-2 record. Not bad for someone who doesn’t even teach at Wilkinson County.

“I teach at Finch Elementary 13 miles away in Centreville,” Veal explained. “I knew we’d be able to compete, but I had question marks about being that far away.”

Looking back, Veal said he doesn’t have any regrets about taking the job. Though the Wildcats lost to Hazlehurst in the Region 7-3A tournament championship, his work in leading the Wildcats to a regular-season regional title earned him The Natchez Democrat’s All-Metro boys coach of the year honors.

Familiarity with the Wildcats’ squad allowed for a smooth transition for Veal, who previously coached middle school football and boys basketball.

“Most of the players played for me in seventh and eighth grade,” Veal said.

Having not accepted the job until last September, Veal said his team got off to a slow start simply because they hadn’t had a chance to get much work in.

“The last time they had played was the district tournament in 2012,” Veal said. “I didn’t have time to come in and teach fundamentals. A majority of them played football, and once we got them, it was come in, put in the defense and offense and let’s go to work.”

After the Wildcats’ final playoff game in football, Veal said the team had only three days of practice before their opening game at Port Gibson.

A three-overtime loss to Dexter High School in the Dexter Tournament over the Christmas holidays was the turning point of the season, Veal said.

“After Christmas break, we went to Hazlehurst and beat them by one,” Veal said. “Then we won six straight. It’s an amazing season when you look at it. At this point last year, I didn’t know I’d be the boys basketball coach.”

Veal said a bulk of the coaching credit goes to assistant coach Rodrick Lewis. He also said inside player Trae McKenzie was huge for the Wildcats down the stretch. Having so many good athletes also helped, Veal said.

“Our tallest players were McKenzie and (Devin) Voorhies at 6-foot-2, so we probably had one of the shortest teams in our district,” Veal said. “But we have good kids and good athletes who gave 100 percent every time they played. Once they bought in, the puzzle came together.”

Getting to meet the top-notch basketball coaches in Region 7-3A was a big plus, Veal said, and he also enjoyed giving Wildcat fans something to cheer about.

“Everything has been positive,” Veal said. “It was a great season.”

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