Coach looks to make change through sports

Youth basketball having an impact in Wayne County
Youth basketball having an impact in Wayne County
Published: Apr. 16, 2023 at 10:26 PM CDT
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PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - Curtis “Champ” Russell is currently the head coach of the boy’s basketball team at Heidelberg High School.

But Russell he got his start while serving a different purpose in his hometown.

Russell is a Waynesboro native, and after spending time away after graduation, he returned home and noticed that there were no programs dedicated to keeping children active and away from the temptation of illegal activity.

So, Russell took action.

“I knew from being in the city that sports were a demand, and that kind of kept kids out of trouble,” Russell said. “I got with a couple of guys around here and I said ‘Let’s do this basketball league.’”

Russell created the WC Ballers, and even though he had very little equipment and no access to a gym, the community began to take notice.

“After I’d get off work, kids would come down to my house, and we would practice at the end of a dirt road,” Russell said. “Kids would come out and want to learn basketball and just want to be loved. And so, it grew.”

Quentin “Duke” Pough is one of the many kids mentored and coached by Russell, and he talked about what he learned as part of the Ballers.

“You’re not going to get everything easy,” Pough said. “It’s a lot of hard work. You’ve got to work for everything you want. He taught me how to do everything. Everything about basketball, he taught me.”

Russell says he created the program more than 20 years ago out of necessity, but the purpose was about more than just sports.

“One day, the air is going to go out of the basketball,” Russell said. “The air is going to go out of the football. So, you’ve got to be able to talk. You’ve got to be able to understand. College is not for everybody, but if I can teach you how to work hard, and if I can teach you how to dream and what to dream for, I think your life will be OK.

“Not saying that it’s not going to be tough times, but I think you will be OK in life.”

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