It was on the bumpy rides home through Itta Bena where Leflore County head coach Michael Higgins really discovered what type of player he had in Derrick Singleton.
Motivated by family and a strong desire to “make it out,” Singleton has his sights set on succeeding at the next level — both on the court and off.
“I drop him off pretty much every day after practice and every now and then we have those heart-to-heart talks,” Higgins said. “He just tells me that he wants to have a successful life and I know he wants to play basketball.
“He’s always talking about it,” the second-year head coach continued. “I’m just trying to do everything I can as a coach, as a role model, to try to lead him where he needs to be. I think with his mindset, he’ll get there.”
His hungry mindset helps, but Singleton also has the body to make his hoop dreams a reality. At 6-foot-3 with long arms hanging down to his knees, Singleton has the kind of athletic frame that makes throwing down dunks appear effortless.
“That plays a big part in my game,” Singleton said of his length. “I’m athletic and already tall. When it’s time for me to go up and get those jump balls, they know I’m coming down with it.”
As a senior, Singleton is averaging 17 points per game for the Tigers (6-10), who won on Friday night to finish third in Region 6-1A. This week, the versatile forward was honored by district coaches as the Player of the Year.
Next week, Singleton will try to boost his recruiting stock and spark a Cinderella run for Leflore in the North 1A play-in game on Tuesday night. He says he has already drawn interest from several community colleges, but the playoffs present an opportunity for Singleton to add to that list.
“He’s hungry for it,” said Higgins, who played college basketball at Mississippi Valley State. “Even when I played, he’s more hungry than I was. He has a skillset. He pushes himself and he’s always picking my brain to see how he can improve. I’m glad I have a guy on the team like that.”
“It’s my meal ticket,” added Singleton, who was born and raised in Compton, California, before moving to Itta Bena three years ago. “It’s my chance to get everybody out of here.”
Higgins says the next step in Singleton’s development is adding more bulk to his build. With a wingspan like Singleton’s, the sky is the limit.
“If he can get stronger, the game will come to him so much easier,” Higgins said. “He has height, he has wingspan, he has skills. But when that strength comes, you’re that much faster, that much stronger and you can move people around easier.”
• Contact Riley Overend at 581-7237 or email@example.com. Follow @OverendOut on Twitter.