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Former Trojan’s love of basketball continues with opportunity to play in Florida

By  Thomas Sellers Jr.Willie Mudbone cutout

‘Basketball Never Stops,’ was written across Willie Mudbone’s shirt and heart.
On July 10 in the Millington Central High School Library, that was the ideal choice of outfit for the MCHS graduate as he celebrated with friends, family, teammates and coaches his signing to Florida National University outside of Miami.
Examining Mudbone’s love of the game, his signing day would have never been in doubt. But the academic side put his dream in jeopardy. Mudbone will be the first to admit it was basketball that kept him motivated in the classroom and it was the MCHS administration, teachers and his coaches that kept him on course to walk across the stage this past May.
“This day means a lot,” Mudbone said. “Where I was coming from before, there were a lot of problems. So my family moved me out here and gave me a better opportunity to pursue an education and to better myself in basketball.
“I took advantage of basketball more than anything because that means a lot,” he added. “For me to have enough grades to get into this school means a lot. You see people in college and you don’t know how hard they had to work to get there. You just see them there. I had  to work to get there. It means a lot to me to actually achieve this goal.”
The signing day meant a lot to Mudbone’s parents Caroline and Butch and his Trojan coaches including Head Coach Rob Sabau.
“Willie never gave up on his dream,” Sabau said. “April passed and May, and he stayed with it. He worked hard and I hope this serves as an example of perseverance for our younger guys.
“Willie might be the best shooter I’ve coached,” he added. “And he has a good basketball IQ and hopefully in a new environment he will concentrate and become an even more consistent basketball player. He can help contribute to that new program from day one.”
Florida National University was established in 1982 as a higher learning institution accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate, baccalaureate, and master degrees.
FNU hired Scott Schmidt as the Athletic Director for its new Athletic Department earlier this year and opened tryouts for their first ever men’s basketball team. Mudbone will be a part of the inagurual team this coming fall.
Mudbone’s road to making FNU history started in Memphis. Growing up the shooting guard played all over the city from Frayser to Binghampton.
“He’s been playing since he could run,” Caroline recalled. “He really got into it when he was in Kindergarten. His dad taught him the basics like dribbling and shooting. Then Willie has had some great coaches over the years. We want to thank them for helping him get here.”
With his trademark long braid, Willie groomed his game on courts from Lester to Kingsbury, his previous stop before arriving to Millington.
“I remember him going down the driveway dribbling with his right hand,” Butch said. “Then he would come back up the driveway dribbling the ball in his left hand. He has always been a good ball handler. He has always loved basketball.”
There were other sports that aimed for Willie’s heart like soccer, baseball and even football. But he always kept returning back to basketball.
Growing up in Memphis, the basketball culture was rich for Willie playing against elite level talent like Nick King, Austin Nichols and other college signees from Class of 2013. But as a Mexican/Native American mix, he didn’t have many role models to look up to playing hoops.
Butch and Caroline made sure they supported Willie’s love of the game and taught him his rich heritage.
“We are proud that he carries the name Mudbone,” Caroline said. “When he was growing up, he used to perform traditional dances. He had the long hair too. People used to think he was a girl. And he went out to prove himself that he was a boy.”
The long hair was quickly forgotten once Willie started dribbling the ball, driving to the rim for layups and hitting his trademark long-range jumper.
He earned respect for his overall game from Memphis to Millington. And his skills helped him become part of the first FNU team.
“I get to carry on my name,” Willie said. “I”m the only son that gets to carry on my name. And I get to carry it on in a positive and good way. Being me the ethnicity I am, lately our race has been stepping up with people like Sam Bradford. I get to make that next step.”
Bradford is the quarterback for the NFL’s St. Louis Rams. He reached that level after a successful stent at The University of Oklahoma winning the Heisman Trophy.
Now Willie has the opportunity to win college awards with his support team from Millington helping him get his grades.
“It was a lot different because people at Kingsburg cared,” Willie acknowledged. “But they just expressed it in a different way. Here, they knew what it takes to get there because they’ve been there. They’ve been through the grades and stuff. Being here really taught me I have to really work hard in the classroom.”
Caroline and Butch said FNU will help their son reach the next level in his game and continue his progress to manhood.
“He will have to prove himself now,” Butch said. “He has no choice now. He will get down there and show what he can do.”
So Willie’s education and basketball continues. And never giving up on his dream motivated him, and now he’s a member of the first FNU Basketball team.
“It’s a new program,” Willie concluded. “So I just want to go down there and work hard and hopefully earn a starting spot. I want to be able to compete for championship at the next level as soon as I get there. That’s everyone’s goal, right?”

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