Carnell follows coach’s footsteps to Delta State

When Zach Carnell takes the court for the first time at Delta State, he will be one of only few from Ingomar to accomplish the feat of playing basketball at a four year college, a goal the 6’7 senior made at a young age and worked hard for throughout his tenure with the Falcons.

Carnell took interest in the county’s most popular sport while watching his older cousin, Michael Seger, play for and win one of the school’s state championships under head coach Norris Ashley. Joining friends who were already playing, Carnell made an early impression on Ashley, who knew even in junior high, he had a special player on his hands.

“When I saw him play in the seventh grade, I knew then that he knew how to put the ball in the goal, and he had something that coaches claim they can teach somebody, but I’ve never been able to teach anyone,” Ashley explained. “He couldn’t out jump someone or out quick them, but he knew how to put the ball in the goal, and that when he was six years younger and a foot shorter.”

Working countless hours in the gym and playing AAU ball outside of school, Carnell became a four year starter for the Falcons, finishing his career with over 2,200 points and was eventually named one of the team’s captains. Carnell started drawing attention from more than just local junior colleges, and one college he never considered before became the front runner to sign the post player.

“Delta State came along, coming to some of my games, and I knew that I would have to stay in the gym and working hard to impress them,” Carnell said. “I tried my hardest and all, and it’s what I’ve always wanted. Playing basketball is my love, so I kept working until I could finally get a four year scholarship.”

Carnell had an impressive senior year, averaging 23.0 points per game, 13.5 rebounds and posted 30 double-doubles in 37 games. He was also named Co-MVP of a Falcon squad that became the ninth in school history to bring home the golden ball from Jackson.

“I’m so proud of him and the rest of the team he played with because the rest of the team had a big part in helping Zach reach his goal,” Ashley said. “I think Zach would be the first to tell you he owes a lot of this to his teammates.”

Listening to stories from his coach, who played baseball for the Statesmen from 1965-1996, Carnell made it his goal to earn a scholarship from Delta State.

“I’m very excited for him,” Ashley said. “Now I have a reason to go back and watch them play. It was a great place for me, and I think Zach will have a great experience there. I know he’ll listen, work hard, and I know he still has a lot of ability.”

Carnell plans to study education with the hopes of becoming a history teacher. Though physical therapy is another option, Carnell is also considering becoming a coach after spending four years with one of the best in the state.

“Coach Ashley a really great coach, the winningest coach, so I figured it had to be a good school and they taught him a lot, he said. “He’s is a great influence, and listening to him talk about Delta State, I thought it would be a good school, and I’m excited about it. It’s an honor because I never thought anything like that could happen for me. All of this proves that dreams can come true.”