New coach, new goal

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chris Marquette

Picayune Item

CARRIERE — Pearl River Central Head Basketball Coach Kelton Thompson enters his first year in Carriere with a great deal of excitement and a breadth of basketball knowledge and experience. 

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Coach Thompson accepted the job the last week of the 2015 school year and wasted no time getting the Blue Devil basketball program in gear. 

“I had to come in do tryouts, get down to a workable roster for the whole program high school and junior high, and put together a summer schedule within a matter of days,” Thompson said. “We had a good summer. For six weeks we went Monday through Friday. We figured out a lot about each other. They figured out a lot about me.”

Thompson, a Folsom, Louisiana native, graduated from St. Stanislaus High School where he lettered in basketball and went on to play collegiately at William Carey University. Following his playing career, Thompson said he went back to his high school alma mater and served as the assistant coach there until he accepted the head coaching job at Bay High School where his 2010 squad captured the school’s first AAAA State Championship and he earned the Sun Herald South Mississippi Coach of the Year and the Mississippi AAAA Coach of the Year honors that same year. 

After a stint in the college ranks, Thompson took a break from coaching and moved to Memphis. A year later, he found himself coaching and teaching in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward which then led to his hire at PRC.

Although Thompson has experienced success as a coach, he will have his work cut out for him at PRC. 

The school has made the playoffs once in the program’s history since consolidating schools, Thompson said. The kids have also not had stability at the coaching position—Thompson will be the fifth head coach in as many years.

Coach Thompson said he is committed to turning it around.  So much so that he paid for the summer basketball activities out of his own pocket. He said that PRC wasn’t accustomed to having a summer basketball program.

“Every Wednesday we went and played in the New Orleans summer league.  We played St. Aug, we played Jesuit—schools we have no business playing right now, but I wanted to get them exposed to what real basketball is,” Thompson said. 

He said a real bonding experience for the team was when they went to Simpson Academy where Thompson’s friend is the head coach, for two days. 

“We went up there and stayed for two days, we handle the food for the kids and you play ball all day and camp out at night and play ball the next day. The kids love it. It was good for me. I needed to get to know these kids,” Thompson said.

The Blue Devils are in a year where they are young and they look young, said Thompson. But he believes they have some good leaders on their team and he said he is encouraged by that. Thompson said he is looking to count on the work ethic and leadership of seniors Donte Stephens, Matt Spence and Donavan Jenkins down the stretch. He also said he expects sophomore AJ Banks to contribute scoring the ball and defensively. 

Despite the odds, Thompson believes strongly that the Blue Devils can prevail this coming season.

“I told the guys when I got here. I think that if they’re willing to dedicate and commit themselves, I don’t see why we cant get to the playoffs this year. That’s one of our main goals,” Thompson said.