Former ACCS coach Gray makes return

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2004

Twenty-one years of success with five Mississippi Private School Association teams is paying off for Ricky Gray’s glass-half-full approach.

Many coaches in the midst of Gray’s current situation at Enterprise (1-17, 1-4) would not be as optimistic as the former Adams County Christian coach would be.

Less than a year removed from taking the Rebels to their first MPSA Overall tournament in more than 20 years, Gray is finding new challenges with his Yellow Jacket club that visits Cathedral (5-12, 2-2) with the first of three Region 7-1A games beginning at 5 p.m. today.

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&uot;It’s been a unique challenge. You look at our record and say that team is not very good, but I’m starting a freshman and three sophomores,&uot; said Gray, who coaches at Wilkinson County Christian Academy, Hillcrest Christian, Brookhaven Academy and Indianola Academy before leaving AC last August. &uot;They’re getting more competitive every night.&uot;

Gray said the toughest adjustment he has had to make in the Mississippi High School Athletic Association is the uncertainty of each opponent.

With ACCS and Cathedral practicing with one another over the summer &045; while Gray was still in Natchez &045; it has allowed Gray to carry that familiar positive attitude into tonight.

He commended Green Wave head coach Bobby Holder for his continued strive to right the Cathedral ship.

&uot;The little things certainly make a difference. It makes easier to tell when things are going to happen before they happen,&uot; Gray said. &uot;Teams we’ve had trouble with this year are the quick teams, and Cathedral is certainly that.&uot;

Those in attendance at Roy Garcia Gymnasium will notice a lot of similarities between Gray’s current squad and the ones he ushered to the court in the Miss-Lou.

Gray still runs a post-oriented offense, with 6-6 sophomore Cory Everett manning the middle.

Everett, who has been out with a broken jaw, is expected to play.

&uot;I hope he’ll be back (tonight). He’s just a big sophomore that is doing better ever day,&uot; Gray said. &uot;We’re inexperienced and learning as we go. But you’ll see a team that is gonna get after it.&uot;

Gray, who will watch his father, John Gray, man the sidelines at his former school, as AC hosts Lamar Saturday, has not thrown in the towel on this season.

However, with such a young squad, he cannot avoid treating this season as a rebuilding once.

&uot;Our guard play is improving a lot. Out of 20 guys, I’ll have 17 returning next year and four starters,&uot; Gray said. &uot;If we continue to get better as the year progresses, I feel like the future is bright.&uot;

Jefferson at Franklin

Nothing comes cozy in Region 7-3A.

However, with only two of their seven league games being away from the friendly confines of Fayette, Jefferson County (10-11, 6-1) has had it relatively easy.

That all changes today, as the first-place Tigers begin a four-game road stretch, which head coach Marcus Walton could be the turning point in the season &045; good or bad.

&uot;With all the things we’ve been able to do at home in region this season, we’ve only lost one game,&uot; he said. &uot;Now comes the tough task with four straight games on the road. (Tonight) will dictate the rest of our season.&uot;

Beginning tonight Jefferson County’s next week and a half includes stops in Meadville, Woodville (Tuesday) &045; who dealt the Tigers their lone loss at home before Christmas &045; Liberty (Jan. 23) and Hazlehurst (Jan. 27).

Walton believes 6-5 post Joseph Kemp must play a vital role in containing Bulldog (8-3, 3-2) big man Zach Thomas (6-4).

&uot;I’ve put (Kemp’s) feet to the fire early on and he responded,&uot; Walton said. &uot;With him and (6-4 Dudley Guice Jr.) that’s all the size we have. He has to play for me. The guys have brought him along real well.&uot;

Walton said, despite the departure of Anthony Wilcher, now playing at Copiah-Lincoln in Wesson, Franklin County head coach Chris Jordan has done a tremendous job to center the offense around Thomas.

&uot;If Zach can get on roll, you know you’re going to have your hands are full.

Vidalia at McCall

A long week off, a hostile environment and a team that is near perfection are all things that worry Viking head coach Robert Sanders as he takes his bunch up to Tallulah, La., for their district 4-2A opener with McCall.

The Dragons lost the first meeting to the Vikings a year ago, but then attained some retribution with a 73-72 win and then a 85-68 drubbing to decide district 3-2A’s crown a year ago.

Sanders probably wishes McCall would not have followed when the Louisiana High School Athletic Association did its redistricting last year.

The Dragons are 23-2 with a 1-0 mark in 4-2A and are once again playing district games at home after the LHSAA banned the team from home district games after an incident in 2002.

&uot;It’s always tough to play them at their place no matter what their record is,&uot; Sanders said. Last year &uot; our first game here was easy until the fourth quarter when we started substituting heavily and (McCall) made a comeback with 47 points. In those second and third games, (the Dragons) appeared like a different team. I expect that kinds of effort.&uot;

Sanders needs to see more production from his inside play of post 6-4 Louis McNulty and aggressiveness from his defense as the Vikings (7-2) enter the meat of the season

&uot;We’re still having problems focusing for four quarters,&uot; Sanders added. &uot;It’s still been a hindrance for us. Last Friday we started aggressive and then we relaxed with a big lead.&uot;