By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Jewell Gates wants to start writing some successful chapters in the Millington Basketball History Book.
In his basketball coaching career, Gates has been affiliated with winning teams and championships. A man who loves the game, Gates enjoys reflecting on the legacy of his favorite college basketball team the Kentucky Wildcats.
On story in the history of Wildcat Hoops remains Gates of his situation entering his first season as the head coach of the Millington Trojans. Entering the opening game tonight, Gates has been trying to change the mental state of his players and build cohesion.
“That’s the big thing that takes a mediocre team into a different stratosphere,” he said. “That togetherness. I’m a big Kentucky fan. I will go back to 1989-90, Rick Pitino’s first year at Kentucky. That team didn’t have a superstar because all of them had left because the school got into trouble.
“Pitino was stuck with the Kentucky boys Deron Feldhaus, John Pelphrey, Richie Farmer and Sean Woods. “That team was thinking about, ‘We’re not supposed to win. But we’re going to put on that Kentucky jersey every night. And we’re going to fight.’ They had come back to they played the big guys on the campus at that time, the Duke Blue Devils. They played them basket for basket and maybe deserved to be in the Final Four.”
Gates is ready to take a blend of his returning varsity players Cameron Tubbs, Bryce Mattox, Justin Austin, Johnnie Mattox and Mac Coulter mixing them with the newcomers in 2016-17.
“We’re trying to establish a mind set, a culture,” Gates said. “A culture of not backing down, not giving in, not getting frustrated, but tough. Mentally, physically, spiritually, just a special type of toughness right there. It just a certain toughness we’re trying to achieve right now. It’s a tough thing to get over being in a different mindset for years. Just to change the mind set has been the biggest obstacle. But it’s coming.”
Gates, a Tipton County native, has coached basketball in Shelby County for several years helping to build the Southwind Jaguar program into a state power winning a championship in 2013.
“At a certain level, I might have got accustomed to a certain thing,” Gates said. “I will admit to that. But we had to build that also. Because when we first opened down there it was just ninth and 10th grade. I know the foundation we build out there. I’m bringing that same foundation 30 miles north.
“They hear me talk about Southwind all the time,” he acknowledged. “I’m not ashamed of that and I never will be. The mindset we developed out there, I’m developing that same mind set using the same tools and the same blueprint that we used down there to hopefully get it here.”
Gates has a reminder of the 2013 season nearby. The members of the Trojan Basketball program might see that symbol of a championship as motivation.
“I wear my State championship ring every day,” he said. “They see it and I tell them when we get one with a ‘M’ on it, I’ll put the Southwind one back in the case and never wear it again. Until that moment I’m going to wear it. I’m going to make sure they understand what that means that’s hard work and toughness.”
Gates is expecting leadership from his seniors starting with Tubbs. He wants the returning varsity players to step up their games to another level. And new players like freshman Fazon Fields have to mature and catch up to the speed of the varsity game.
“Hard work, togetherness, it’s just those two things,” Gates said. “And not to even mention being a great basketball player. That helps, don’t get me wrong. But when you work your behind off daily and on the togetherness part of it, the wins are a byproduct of working hard and coming together.
“We did that at Munford Middle, I went to Brighton High we had some success and down the road when Southwind opened up,” he concluded. “We’re going to just go out every night and fight and play as hard as we can.”