The Mississippi Delta Elite AAU basketball program was set to head into its fourth season when the coronavirus delayed plans, but that is not stopping coach and team founder Dennis Dupree Jr. from moving forward.
Dupree Jr. plans to make the Elite a year-round program and start the program once social distancing is no longer necessary. The boys and girls varsity teams will be sophomores through seniors. They will also have a ninth grade team, a seventh and eighth grade team, a fifth and sixth grade team and a six-week spring developmental league
for ages 9 to 15 to take place at the Coahoma County Expo Center.
Dupree Jr. talked about the bright future with some of the freshmen including Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy’s son, Henry; his own son from Plano, Texas, Jonathan Dupree; Kelley Jones from Clarksdale High School; and Cartavian Lakes from West Tallahatchie High School. He said Shecora Jurden, who played for him at WA Higgins Middle School, helped lead the team to one of its best records in recent years at 12-3. He said she will bring good defensive presence and ball handling skills to the ninth grade Elite team.
Dupree Jr. said recent Coahoma Community College signees Bentavious Galmore, Markevious Holmes and Keyshaun Holly from Coahoma County High School and Tre Payno from Coahoma Early College High School all played for the Elite. Holmes Community College signee Thomas Williams Jr. from CECHS also played for the Elite.
The girls program got off the ground later than the boys.
As a result, CCHS seniors Nakia Cheatham, Calysia Phillips and Shakira Artis did not play for the Elite. CHS senior A'myiah Fizer, who recently committed to playing for Hinds Community College, played for an AAU team out of Jackson.
“With Amayah Fizer and Nakia Cheatham and Calysia Phillips, Clarksdale would have had one of the best AAU girls teams in the nation at that level,” Dupree Jr. said. “Most of the talent that we’ve missed in the area has been on the girls side.”
The Elite has had opportunities to go against teams from places such as Canada, Illinois and Virginia with sponsors such as Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.
Dupree Jr. was proud of the way his team represented itself on the big stage.
“Once they really get on the court, they take care of business,” he said.
“They really represent the Delta well when they get on the national circuit.”
Other high school athletes expected to play this year are Tyana McClenton from Coahoma County High School and Shaw High School sophomore guard Katelyn Coleman.
Dupree Jr. said Coleman’s skills were as close to Ruleville High School senior Jacorriah Bracey, who has committed to Ole Miss, as anyone.
“She’s a gym rat,” Dupree Jr. said. “I really look forward to what she’s going to do.”
Dupree Jr. said one big loss for the team will be Clarksdale High School senior guard Patrice Broomfield, one local girl who stuck with the program and scored 40 points in a game against a team from Arkansas.
Destiny Earl, at 6 feet, 2 inches, from Clarksdale High School, and seventh grader Caitlin Hall from WA Higgins Middle School, who is 12 years old and 6-2, are expected to help their teams in the post.
“If we were not in the Mississippi Delta, people would be all over Caitlin,” Dupree Jr. said.
Kamarin Wright, at 6-5, from North Side High School, was also set to play on the team.
Dupree Jr. said he plans to watch and support athletes from all local high schools. He noted part of his mission with the Elite is to make sure kids become good people. He has workshops to help them be more well-rounded citizens.
Dupree Jr. acknowledged it was tougher for him to start the team as a stigma came with his father Dennis Dupree Sr. being superintendent of the Clarksdale Municipal School District at the time.
In spite of reservations adults had, kids stuck with the program.
“What I could tell them is I don’t know why people aren’t supporting you the way they should,” Dupree Jr. said. “They said, ‘Coach, it’s going to be OK.’
“I love those kids. I truly love them.”
Dupree Jr. asked for the community to help support the team financially or in any way possible as it plans to travel to games.
More information can be found at the team’s Facebook page or on its website www.msdeltaelite.org