December 16, 2009 9:07:00 AM
Torrance Beard has fond memories of Columbus High School.
The former CHS boys basketball player played for current coach Sammy Smith as a senior for 1995-96.
Back then, at 6-foot-2, 145 pounds, Beard played wherever Smith needed him, primarily at guard and forward.
He had a feeling then that his love for basketball was going to help keep him involved in the sport.
That dream came reality after he graduated from Stillman College and went on to become an elementary school teacher and an assistant boys basketball coach in Alabama.
This year, Beard has moved over one chair to become the head boys basketball coach at Holt High School in Duncanville, Ala. He will bring his young team to Columbus High on Saturday afternoon to take on East Oktibbeha at 2 p.m. as part of the 13th annual Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Invitational.
Holt, which was 4-5 before a scheduled game Tuesday night, is going through growing pains after finishing very young team 5-19 last season. Beard said his team is still learning how to play basketball and how not to beat itself. He said free throw shooting problems have prevented the team from having a chance of being 9-0.
"We have five or six juniors and we start two sophomores," Beard said. "We have three seniors, but only one of them has ever played in a varsity game."
Beard said he is trying to instill many of the same lessons he learned from Smith at Columbus High. He said he is trying to help the players build self confidence and pride school.
In fact, he sounds a lot like Smith when he talks about how he is trying to develop relationships with his players.
"If you continue to work hard in basketball and in life there will be a payoff in the end," Beard said. "I think they''re really buying into that."
Beard played basketball for three years at Stillman College and graduated in 2000 with a degree in health and physical education. He took a job two months after graduating at Maxwell Elementary, where is teaches kids in pre-kindergarten through grade five.
Beard spent his first seven years as an assistant junior varsity coach at Hillcrest High School, which is the No. 1 boys basketball school in the state of Alabama. He said he always wanted to be a coach, so he decided it was time to transition from an assistant to a head coach.
"I am the same kind of coach," Beard said. "I am demanding. If you have to ask one of my players they will tell you that I expect nothing but the best from them and that I ask them to play hard all of the time and to give it their all."
Beard said Smith preached the same things to him when he was a senior at Columbus High. He said he never told Smith that he considers him an important role model in his life.
"I can call him anytime and he will always answer me and give me a little guidance," Beard said. "As far as basketball, he taught us how to prepare ourselves and told us what we put into it is what we''re going to get out of it."
Smith has fond memories of Beard. He said Beard remains one of his favorite players because he was willing to do what it took to help the team succeed.
"He made the mistake and went into coaching," Smith said. "He is a great guy. Torrance always was one of my better players. He was a real versatile kid and was very studious. He was the kind of kid you wanted to coach."
Beard said he has been back to Columbus six or seven times in recent years to watch games at the Joe Horne Invitational. He said he hopes his players benefit from the experience of seeing different styles of basketball and some of the state of Mississippi''s top boys and girls teams.
The trip home also will give him a chance to visit with his mother, Billie, who is a nurse in the Columbus Municipal School District, his sister, and other family members.
"Any player who has played in high school always has a dream if they want to coach to come back and coach at their high school," Beard said. "I don''t have an opportunity to be the head coach (of the Columbus High boys), but at least I can do some playcalling in that gym."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.