Area teams benefit from new league and new facility

July 1, 2009

Danny P Smith -


STARKVILLE -- Starkville Academy believes it has an up and coming point guard in freshman Tiffany Huddleston. 


Having a summer league to help develop her talents has been considered a good thing for the Lady Volunteers. 


The Starkville Park and Recreation Department provided just that and concluded its June high school basketball league on Tuesday. 


"It keeps us in practice when we are not in season and it gives us a feel of the game because we''re playing against other teams," Huddleston said. 


Public schools and private schools were able to compete against each other with games twice a week at the new multi-purpose facility at the Starkville Sportsplex. 


Boys and girls teams from Starkville Academy, Heritage Academy, Oak Hill Academy, Starkville High School, West Point High School and Eupora High School, and the boys team from East Webster High School made up the league. 


It''s the hope of Starkville Park and Recreation Assistant Director for Youth Athletics Sammy Willcutt that the league continues to grow. 


"We had several other teams that found out about it, but we were kind of late getting started," Willcutt said. "We''ve had several other people who want to come. We''re going to try and develop it as much as we can." 


The Starkville Academy Lady Volunteers and West Point Lady Green Wave met in one of the games of the final day and the coaches agree that it has benefited their programs. 


"We played games against teams we don''t usually see," West Point girls coach Jemmye Ann Helms said. "To keep our kids together in June makes for a better summer. We''ve moved some kids up from our ninth grade team and we are getting them involved with another group that we already had." 


Starkville Academy assistant coach Jessica Dickens said the Lady Volunteers gained experience from the league and camps this summer. 


"We''ve had a lot of good competition with public schools and I think playing as much as we have in the month of June has helped a lot," Dickens said. "We lost five seniors so we have a lot of improvement to make and we''re growing still so it will be a challenge, but we''re all looking forward to it." 


Since the Lady Volunteers lost so many veterans, Dickens and Starkville Academy head coach Glenn Schmidt will rely on the leadership of Huddleston at the point. 


Huddleston has been hampered by a sore hamstring, but Dickens doesn''t worry about her work ethic. 


"She''s a tough worker, will pull through and tough it out," Dickens said. "We expect big things from her." 


During his time as a coach in this area, Willcutt said he tried to take advantage of opportunities such as camps and a basketball league so he knew what the other coaches were looking for. 


He has enjoyed watching the players improve during the summer. 


"The more they play the better they are going to get," Willcutt said. "This is ideal. It''s a good opportunity for the coaches to evaluate their players and their players to get better. We''re happy with the turnout." 


Heritage coach Bruce Allsup said the league provided some of his girls who might not get off the bench during the school season a chance to play and develop their skills, while Oak Hill girls coach Stan Hughey also worked different combinations and said it really helped his junior high squad. 


"My junior high team doesn''t get to play in as many camps as some junior highs," Hughey said. "It''s been really beneficial for them." 


The coaches say that Willcutt and Starkville Park and Recreation Director Matthew Rye have done an excellent job of managing the league. 


Allsup has enjoyed developing relationships with other coaches and players. 


"It''s been great competition, we''ve seen different type of people and it has allowed us to get to know some public school people," Allsup said. "From that standpoint, it has been great." 


Hughey looked around the multi-purpose facility before his last game on Tuesday and was thankful to be able to play in such a beautiful building. 


Helms echoed those thoughts and was glad that the Starkville Rec Department made it available. 


"This is one of the nicest facilities around," Helms said. "If you go to camp at State, you have the Sanderson (Center), but even that is harder for some programs to do because of the cost of team camp so this has helped us out a ton."