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NHS hoops team does well in camp

NATCHEZ — The Natchez High School boy’s basketball team has taken to the court in hopes of improving on last season’s 12-12 record.

To aid in their preparation, the Bulldogs attended the Copiah-Lincoln Community College High School basketball team camp June 9-12. After a week of summer workouts, head coach Mike Martin said they went to the team camp and left 11-1.

“I was relieved that they were doing better,” he said. “We always want to head in a positive direction.”

Senior shooting guard Lorenzo Smith said he definitely noticed the difference in his teammates poise, among other things.

“We kept our composure when we were down,” Smith said. “We would find a way to come back and keep the lead.”

Smith said the time they spend together off the court helped them have better unity on the court.

“We spend a lot of time together, and I think we trust each other more,” Smith said. “We don’t depend on one person to do it all.”

Senior center Keylan Wimley said after going .500 last year, something had to give.

“The way we played needed to change,” he said. “We had a better spark about us because we communicated more. We played together and not just for ourselves.”

Martin said Wimley will be a key factor in the Bulldogs’ lineup, as his size will help in the paint.

“We’re trying to continue to develop his game,” Martin said. “We hadn’t had a strong inside game, and we want him to be that presence.”

Wimley said he felt he did really well at the team camp, and he looks to build off of his improvements.

“I was a good factor on defense for us, and I rebounded well,” Wimley said. “Most of my shots in the paint were falling. I made it to the free-throw line often and made most of my free throws.”

Wimley recalled one specific game during the camp that meant the most to him.

The Bulldogs went up against Brookhaven High School, a former regional rival, and immediately felt the rivalry was still there.

“They had an attitude about them like they just knew they were going to beat us, but it felt good to beat them,” Wimley said.

Winning 11 games at Co-Lin meant more to the Bulldogs than just improving on last season.

The Bulldogs dedicated their wins to Natchez High and Co-Lin alumnus Kelli Puckett, who was deployed to Afghanistan in February.

Wimley said he looks up to Puckett and wouldn’t be the player that he is today without him.

“He’s a great person; he inspired me to play harder,” Wimley said. “He’s strong-minded and always keeps a positive attitude.”

Smith said even though he didn’t get a chance to play with Puckett, he was a vital part of his success.

“We weren’t in high school when he played, but he was always around and helping us with out game. I know he would have liked to see us do well,” Smith said.

After leaving the camp, Martin said the boys got right back in the gym to prepare for the winter.

“We have our gym open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to noon, and they go through drills and skill work,” Martin said.

Smith said doing well at the camp just motivates him to continue to do well.

“Every morning we come practice with the coaches,” Smith said. “What you do in practice will reflect your game, so we have to practice hard to get ready for the season.”