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More than trophies: Collegiate choices aim of AAU program

Charles Credit, 13, practices driving to the basket during practice at North Natchez Park Wednesday. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)
Charles Credit, 13, practices driving to the basket during practice at North Natchez Park Wednesday. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — The game plan for the Mississippi Bobcats Amateur Athletic Union traveling teams is to set the table for the future.

Setting the table has multiple meanings for director Tony Credit. The ultimate goal is to get athletic scholarships for local youth, which is something he’s done roughly 30 times since starting the Bobcats in 2001. The objective along the way, however, is to gain enough experience to compete in state and national AAU tournaments next season.

“Right now, we’re just trying to see which kids are going to stick with it this year,” Credit said.

Though Credit has been coaching in AAU tournaments since 2001, he admitted that he’s in a rebuilding mode right now with his main priority on boys. From 2001 to 2011, Credit had several age groups of teams comprised of girls competing in various tournaments, which helped an estimated 15 of them gain Division 1 scholarships. After all of those girls graduated, Credit started the boys’ teams.

Dionna Jackson, 16, takes shots during practice. Jackson transferred from Jefferson County High School to Trinity Day Episcopal School and has been steadily working out with the Mississippi Bobcats Amateur Athletic Union. ( Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)
Dionna Jackson, 16, takes shots during practice. Jackson transferred from Jefferson County High School to Trinity Day Episcopal School and has been steadily working out with the Mississippi Bobcats Amateur Athletic Union. ( Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Despite not participating in the state tournament to qualify for nationals, Martin’s four Bobcat teams — fifth graders, seventh graders, eighth graders and 10th graders — have kept busy by participating in tournaments as much as possible.

“You want to play in as many games as possible,” Credit said. “At this time, it’s so important for high school players to play in these tournaments because the NCAA only has so many viewing periods. It’s April, July and maybe some dates in May. You don’t want to miss those dates.”

Credit, who tries to get the best talent in Mississippi to compete, is interested in starting another girls’ team next season. The main reason he started with girls in 2001 was because his goddaughter wanted to know how to get noticed by college coaches, and because Credit’s uncle, William Creidt, was unable to gain attention as an All-American years ago, Tony did his homework.

“That made me start digging deeper,” Credit said. “So we started doing AAU stuff. We started traveling, running into sports writers and asking coaches how they get their players noticed.”

Now, Credit is setting the table once again, and this time it’s in preparation for a girls’ team he hopes to have next season. One of the girls he’s working with that will be on the team is Dionna Jackson, who transferred from Jefferson County High School to Trinity Day Episcopal School and has been steadily working out with Credit.

“I’ve been here since last year,” Dionna said. “I’m excited about them starting up another girls’ team. It will help me better myself.”

Dionna’s brother David, who recently joined the Trinity Saints football team from Jefferson County, has been playing with the 10th graders, juggling football obligations as well as AAU tournaments.

“It’s busy, but I’m willing to take the time out and do it,” David said. “I don’t consider myself to be better in basketball or football. I consider myself an athlete.”

The Bobcats’ high school team finished third in the New Orleans tournament, as did the fifth grade squad.

Credit’s son, Charles, lit it up from beyond the arc in the tournament for the Bobcats’ seventh grade team, scoring 20 3-pointers.

“Just catch and shoot,” Charles said.

Cedric Green, who coached the seventh graders, said the 90 teams that participated in that tournament spoke volumes about the opportunity the Bobcats provide.

“It’s very important because it gets our kids exposed,” said Green who’s son, Cedric Green Jr., plays on the seventh grade team.

As Tony continues to rebuild the Bobcats, he said he hopes state championships and trophies don’t become the main goal with any team. As he alluded, the Bobcats are playing for much more.

“I’m not concerned about trophies,” Credit said. “My trophy at the end of the day is when an 11th grader can call me and say, ‘Coach, I’ve narrowed my picks down, and I have four colleges to choose from.’”