By Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal
BALDWYN – Baldwyn coach Jason McKay intently looked at Reggie Patterson from across the desk in the Baldwyn High School gym’s coach’s office.
“Go ahead and tell it Reggie. You had to leave,” McKay said.
Patterson followed his teammates into the home gym, walking with the aid of crutches before the season opener against New Albany.
Recognizable as the stars of basketball teams are, all eyes were on Patterson, eyes that won’t get to see him run the floor during his senior year as a Bearcat.
Sidelined with ACL surgery, Patterson was already facing a ton of questions about a possible return, then had to watch his team run out without him.
“After they ran out, I sat in the locker room and cried a little bit,” Patterson said. “Then I came out and heard the starters called out without my name, that hurt deep down. I had to get out for a little while.”
He watched the third and fourth quarters, but last year he was on the court leading Baldwyn with 23.2 points per game and pacing the team in rebounds.
Weeks before an anticipated return to the hardwood, though, it was on the football field the 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior heard a pop.
Patterson suffered the injury in the second game of the season against Booneville. He said he jumped, right leg planted in the ground, and he turned around to see if anyone was coming. That was when he felt his body twist awkwardly.
The official diagnosis was a torn ACL, on which he had surgery 11 days later, Sept. 5.
Initially Patterson thought it was fine while walking off the field, but the swelling was extreme the next morning. An MRI was done on Saturday.
Doctors said they would call and let him know, and on the way back from the hospital that call came.
“His momma was on the phone in the back seat,” said McKay, who drove them to the MRI. “At first we thought everything was fine until her expression changed.”
Patterson, known widely as a basketball star with a knack for football as well, was a strong candidate for the Clarion Ledger’s Dandy Dozen, according that newspaper’s prep writer, Rod Walker.
He would have been the first from Baldwyn and only the second from Prentiss County.
Instead he went down on the football field – with McKay behind the fence at the same yard line where Patterson was injured.
“My leg planted and I heard that pop. I was trying to think about what coach was going to think,” Patterson said.
A small bit of hope was held out that Patterson would be back at the end of the basketball season.
Even though he’s out for the season, Patterson is the one doing the uplifting at practice. Admittedly down at first, he said he chose not to be once he saw how supportive his teammates were.
Patterson said he didn’t want them to get down, so he didn’t want to be either.
He’s still on the court every day, serving as an impromptu coach. He’s even given some liberties in those duties.
“I just wish I was out there doing a lot of things I can to help the team,” he said. “I’m just having fun trying to be the coach. I mess up sometimes, but it’s working out good.”
The Bearcats have remained in championship contention despite the loss of their star, finishing the regular season at 22-4.
The Bearcats play Okolona today at 5:30 p.m. in a Division 1-2A semifinal in Baldwyn.
Four players average double figures in points, led by an eighth grader in Duke Upshaw at 18.1 per game. Junior point guard Dee Gates is a trigger man who makes the offense go and averages 15.5, while junior Tevin Lindsey scores 14.7 an outing.
McKay says that’s because it’s a team full of stars, a team that routinely sees a different player step up on any given night.
“We’re fortunate to have a lot of good players. I think that Reggie’s example of leadership skills is something that has bled down to this team,” McKay said. “Even though Reggie wasn’t a senior, he was without a doubt one of the most key basketball players to come through here in many a day because of his attitude as much as his play.”
Patterson plans on being back full speed in three months and still has his options for college basketball. He’ll most likely spend at least his first year in junior college. He’s lost some 20 pounds after surgery but is working to add it back.
“His maturity level is beyond most kids in high school,” McKay said. “Reggie is still a very, very instrumental part of this basketball team. We would not be where we are without Reggie’s influence on this team.”
Still slowed by a minor limp, Patterson can watch entire games now. Last week against East Union, the Urchins traded a basket so Patterson could score his only points of the season on the other end after joining the starting lineup on senior night.
Teammates have needed him around for six years.
McKay smiles as he tells a story about the team leaving for Tallahassee, Fla., for a week-long camp six years ago. There was little sixth-grade Reggie, waiting on the bus and making the trip.
Patterson forced a reluctant McKay to make him a varsity manager by showing up for practice before the team did, no matter where it was or how he had to get there.
Back on that bench he once occupied as a manager, Patterson’s advice to the team this year is simple and comes straight from his personality.
“I tell them to keep God first,” he said, “and if they’re going to do something, do it full speed.”
Reggie Patterson is one of four area athletes nominated for NeMissPreps.com MVP for February. Here are the others:
New Albany’s Jazmine Spears
Ripley’s Becca Ruckes
Booneville’s Kenny Paul Geno
Baldwyn’s Reggie Patterson