By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
FULTON – Cornelius Gilleylen sat beside Roy Hazzle the last couple of years. Now he’ll have to sit in the seat of the coaching legend.
Gilleylen takes over the Aberdeen Bulldogs basketball team, a team coached by Hazzle for the past 26 years. Pressure?
“Somewhat,” said Gilleylen, an Amory graduate who played college ball at Itawamba CC and St. Edwards. “But when you’ve been in the game as long as I have and learned, a lot of situations aren’t new. So you mimic things that work for you.”
Aberdeen lost nine seniors, eight who played productive minutes. Only two on the current roster return playing time. The Bulldogs lost to eventual state champion Velma Jackson in the Class 3A North Tournament and must replace all five starters.
In a win against Baldwyn in the ICC Team Camp two weeks ago, Gilleylen watched a new crop of players making a case for court time in five months. One of those is junior Marcus Carothers, who had three dunks. Sammie Burroughs will be one senior in a junior-heavy group this season.
“I do have huge shoes to fill, but mine are a size 10, his about a 12. I’m just going to do all I can do in my size 10,” Gilleylen said.
Gilleylen said the Bulldogs have fared well this summer, against the likes of Baldwyn and Class 6A Columbus.
Championships won’t be won in the summer, but he can win over players with a few Ws.
“Winning is always good because it builds momentum. Its okay to be optimistic about an 0-6 record in the summer, but if you’re 7-0, that’s something to build off of,” Gilleylen said. “In the situation I’m in, I would much rather have a positive record, to show them it can still be done with a new coach and a whole new group.”