The last time Gerald Williams was the head coach of a Branden Sheppard-led team, Williams was getting showered by numerous water bottles after his Huntington freshman basketball team won the city championship.
Williams might stay dry Saturday, but there may be a few tears as the long-time Huntington assistant says he’ll coach his final game in the I-20 Classic All-Star game in which he and seven of his former players from that freshman team reunite on the sideline.
Williams will coach the West squad in a game that features 37 regional high school seniors Saturday at 5 p.m. at Centenary’s Gold Dome.
“It’s exciting to me, and it just brings back memories from the past of that 17-0 freshman team at Huntington,” said Williams, who says he hasn’t been able to coach for the past year-and-a-half because of an illness. “We always preached to them to play team ball.
“This group was like brothers, they always stuck together. It was like a fraternity with those guys, and I admired that.”
Williams coached 10 years at Huntington with head coach Mack Jones and 20 years overall in the area.
Sheppard said Williams never steered him wrong.
“He’s a very good coach. Everything he said was right, we just had to do it. We had to do whatever he said.
“I’m very excited to play with my teammates for the last time and under my first coach at Huntington.”
Sheppard is one of four current Huntington players that played at Huntington as freshmen in Saturday’s game. Seniors Jakobi Malone, Alden Kelly Jr. and Rashad Jones will play Sheppard one last time.
Other players who were on 2010-11 Huntington freshman team include Sidney Bryant (Woodlawn), Curtis Robinson (Woodlawn) and DeAngelo McClinton (Fair Park).
“Branden’s mom actually told me about all of my former players playing in this game, and that’s when I started thinking about coaching in it,” said Williams, who’s never coached in this game before. “It’s going to be feel different, and I’m going to be happy and sad that they are leaving.
“Watching them play through their high school careers, the only thing I can say is wow. What could have been if they stayed together all four years. This year’s Huntington team was pretty good, but if you add thos eguys, you probably win a state title with them.”
That freshman group also went undefeated as sophomores on Huntington’s junior varsity team at 16-0.
Sheppard said while it will be nice to play with his former teammates, he enjoyed playing against them in District 1-4A play the last two years as well.
“When we were together, we talked about playing against each other,” said Sheppard, a Louisiana Tech signee. “(Huntington) always came out on top, but it was really fun.
“It’s like proving a point when they talk trash to you.”
Bringing back old teammates will also bring back old foes.
Huntington knocked off a previously undefeated Bossier freshman team that season, one that featured Devonte Hall, Malik Dunn, Darius Leary and Jericho Moss. All will be playing for the East team Saturday.
“We gave them their only loss,” Williams said. “It’s about bragging rights now. Who will get the last two cents in?”
Williams said he couldn’t leave the game without thanking those that helped him along the way, especially Jones.
“Without him, it wouldn’t have been possible to do what we did with these guys,” Williams said. “We worked a whole lot for these guys.”
The rosters are littered with other local senior talent.
BTW will send Karim El-Amin and Josh Hollingsworth; Green Oaks will feature Veonte Keith, Quan Givens and Hykeem Patterson; Byrd will have David Holmes, Gary Sutton and Melek Walden.
Riley Anderson (Huntington), Josh Smith (Fair Park), Ricky Smith (Woodlawn) and DaVauhnte’ Turner round out the West squad.
Joining the Bossier guys on the East squad include Captain Shreve’s Jesse McWright, Parkway’s Brodrick Jefferson, Arcadia’s Antwine Baker, Wossman’s LaQuentin Collins, Richwood’s Reginal Johnson, Plain Dealing’s JaCarlius Stromile, Minden’s C.J. Elkins, Logansport’s Hunter Bagley, Calvary’s Vincent Earls, North Webster’s Dontavious Smith and Lincoln High’s Eric Neal and Derrick Neal (Dallas).