However, that could change in the near future. There is a young man by the name of Derick Westbrook who may add basketball to the resume of Caledonia high school.
Derick, a junior-to-be, was recently named to the Mississippi team that will play in the USA Junior Nationals Championship Sports Festival which will be held in Columbus, Ohio on July 8-14th.
The USA Junior Nationals Championship Sports Festival showcases top players throughout the nation with a total of four games per day per team with a national championship game Sunday, July 14th.
It is no accident that Derick was good enough to make the team. He comes from excellent basketball bloodlines on both sides of his family.
His dad, Willie C., was a pretty fair basketball player during his teenage years. To this day, even at the age of 49, he can outshoot Derick.
According to Willie (his twin brother was named Willie D.), the shortest of 12 brothers at 6-2, he and several of his brothers (they ranged in height from 6-2 to 6-7) used to to play basketball until 10 o'clock at night.
"Daddy would have to come out at 10 o'clock at night and make us come in the house," said Willie. "We eventually got a team together and played at Hunt High (in Columbus, Mississippi). We won a trophy down there several years. As a matter of fact, we broke the league up. The team that was so good that no one could beat was OLS. Once we started whupping them, the league vanished."
Willie and his brothers also played organized basketball in school.
"I started playing ball when I was in the 6th grade," said Willie. "When the schools intergrated, I went to Caledonia. I played my 9th and 10th grades on the B team. My twin brother (Willie D.) played on the high school team. My junior year I had to go to work to support a daughter (from his first marriage). I managed to stay in school and work a full eight-hour shift down at Beneke."
Willie's basketball career had ended before it had really gotten a chance to develop. However, one of Willie's brothers, Clarence Westbrook, has a son, Clarence, who is a very good basketball player and was even listed as a potential NBA draft selection this year.
Clarence is not the only relative that has played basketball beyond high school. On Virginia's side of the family two cousins have played college and pro basketball. The first one is a name very familiar to Mississippi State folks, Darryl Wilson. Darryl, who played for MSU during the Final Four year and has played pro ball in various countries since his career at MSU, is her third cousin. Former University of Indiana Hoosier and current Chicago Bulls player A. J. Guyton is also a cousin of hers.
Now you understand what I mean when I say Derick comes from good basketball bloodlines.
However, as we all know, even with good bloodlines it takes much more to be special in a sport. You also have to talent and, more importantly, confidence in that talent. Derick, from an early age started developing both of those traits.
"When I was 7, I could run past them," said Derick referring to the other kids he played with. "I was just quicker than everybody else. I just ran past them and went to the hole and laid it up."
Even his dad and mom noticed this special ability even at an early age.
"He started playing with the basketball when he was about 4 years old," said his mother Virginia. "He would pass it between his legs. One of my friends came by and saw him playing. She told me that little boy is going to play basketball."
While his mom and her friend noticed some basketball talent when he was 4, his dad started noticing real talent a few years later.
"I knew Derick could play ball in the 6th grade," said Willie. "We used to play in the backyard. I would watch him shoot. And he would also come home and tell me things that happened. He said, 'we played today.' I would ask him what the score was and he would say 24 to nothing. When I asked him how many points he scored, he said 24."
Derick, who has two sisters, Tieria and Margo, continued to progress and other folks, folks who had the ability to allow Derick to showcase his talent, started noticing his basketball talent.
"When he was in the 8th grade, (Caledonia head basketball) coach Josh Scott sent word to me that he wanted to see me," said Willie. "I went in there and he said that he wanted to move Derick up (to the high school team)."
Willie agreed and Derick was added to the high school roster.
Derick's basketball career was now about to take off. The first high school game he played in showed folks the special talent of this youngster.
"The first (high school) game I saw Derick play in was over at Maben," said Willie. "The point guard got into foul trouble. (Coach Scott) brought Derick in. I could tell he was scared to death. He got that ball and made a move to the goal on the guy. That guy knocked him to the floor. He got up and I saw him take that deep breath. I said to myself that my son is ready now. He went to the line and made both of his free throws. One of the guys filming the game came up to me after the game and told me that he had never seen a kid with a first step like that. He got MVP of the team in the 8th grade. I believe he averaged 18 or 19 points per game."
Derick, who has also won awards in baseball, track and football, remembers that first high school game against Maben.
"I didn't think I would get that much playing time because I was in the 8th grade," said Derick. "I thought I would be sitting on the bench most of the time. Then I got called up to play. I was real scared. All the fans were loud and I couldn't handle it. When I was in the 7th grade everybody was cheering for everybody. But in high school the other team's fans don't cheer for you. Then I got knocked down. That was when I found out that high school ball is just like middle school ball except the players are just bigger. At the end of the game I had 21 points."
Since that first high school game, Derick has worked to improve his game because he realized the players are better in high school.
"I found out that I can't get to the hole like I used to," said Derick. "I have to rely on my jumper a lot. My dad has helped me out a lot with that. He has told me that I have to become more than a one dimensional player."
Derick, now more than just a one dimensional player at 6-1, 160-pounds, gets the chance at the USA Junior Nationals Championship Sports Festival to show the nation what a player from the small Mississippi town of Caledonia can do.
[If you own a company in the Lowndes County area and you would like to make a donation to help the Westbrook family cover their expenses to attend the USA Junior Nationals Championship Sports Festival, you can contact them by telephone. Their Caledonia phone number is 356-4030 (it is local to Columbus). Due to NCAA recruiting regulations, individual donations from boosters of colleges are not allowed. I have talked to MSU NCAA Compliance Officer Bracky Brett and he explained that businesses within the local area are allowed to make donations.-Gene Swindoll]
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.