PRC basketball in good hands

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The path from Cameroon to Carriere is not a highly traveled one. Eric Vianney, assistant basketball coach and French teacher at Pearl River Central High School,

grew up in Yaoundé, Cameroon. He grew up on a military base where his father worked as the chief mechanic on the Cameroon military base.

Vianney said he became interested in basketball because of his father. His dad played the equivalent of high school basketball and was the captain and coach of the basketball team on the base, he said.

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“So we always had a bunch of balls at the house and because he played that really interested me. I would practice basketball on the asphalt court. I played soccer first but basketball soon became everything. I played volleyball, soccer, tennis, everything but basketball,” Vianney said. “When I got to high school the basketball coach, soccer coach, track coach, handball coach and tennis coach all wanted me for to play for their team.”

Vianney made basketball his priority but he managed to lend his talents to the other sports too.

For his senior year in high school Vianney went to Picayune Memorial High School as an exchange student in 2004, he said. He was not fluent in English at that point, so he had to wake up early and read his history book in order to keep up with his coursework, he said. “It was a different experience. I was excited about the opportunity, but it was a risk and I didn’t know what to expect but I just stayed positive and I took one moment at a time and tried to make the best of it,” Vianney said. “It was so nice to play on a wood floor indoors, but for me I was just excited to do what I love which is to play basketball. I just came and tried to make the team better as a point guard and practice hard every day and we had a really good year.”

Vianney had a successful senior campaign for the Tide as he helped them to a 31-4 record and the Class 5A South State Championship in 2005. He garnered a number of collegiate basketball scholarship offers despite only being in the United States for one season. He chose to attend Illinois State on a full basketball scholarship.

“It was a good experience. I went to Illinois State for the summer before and I spent the whole time working with the other international students and improving my English in the summer program.”

Vianney came back to Picayune for the summer after his freshman year and went to New Orleans and liked the situation at Tulane and transferred there for his sophomore year. He said it was a first class education experience and enjoyed the basketball component of the school.

He was a computer information systems major and a business minor. He also speaks five languages.

When he graduated he worked at Tulane in residence life for a year and then decided to go play professionally in Qatar for the Alsaad basketball team.

“I was there for a couple months and they didn’t honor my contract. I moved back to Slidell and worked at some different stores and then Tower Loan for 17 months and then decided to try to get into coaching because I always loved basketball.  I would go back to Picayune High School and work with those kids after school and always enjoyed showing the younger kids what I know,” Vianney said.

When Vianney realized he wanted to get back into basketball he talked to Alan Lumpkin, Pearl River County School District’s superintendent, and he hired Vianney to teach French and be the assistant basketball coach in January 2015.

Vianney and Head Basketball Coach Kelton Thompson have a great working relationship and are very excited for the season.

“We just clicked. The way we go about doing things and he’s been a real leader. He’s got those guys to think about the process of becoming better players and raising expectations. He has a lot of experience and I just gotta learn as much from him as I can and follow his lead,” Vianney said.

In addition to his love of coaching, Vianney loves seeing his students’ progress in the classroom.

“I asked some of my students what they’ve learned so far after 9 weeks in French and you can just see how much they’ve learned. It’s a pleasure to see people learn something to try to grow and improve them,” Vianney said.