"Of course, being a 6-foot-4, 225-pound quarterback in high school, he could do a lot of things," recalled former Calhoun City football coach Mike Ray.
Ray, now the principal at Calhoun City's middle school, was speaking about one of the best quarterbacks he coached in his 14 seasons at the helm of the Wildcats.
"There's no doubt about it," Ray said. "Somebody with his size, his speed, his strength and his ability, he was a very good player for us.
"It was sad the situation he got in and what happened."
So instead of watching with excitement as the Calhoun City boys basketball team attempted to win the MHSAA Class 2A North tournament champion-ship on Saturday night against county rival Bruce, Ray sat towards the top of the Baldwyn High School gym's bleachers with a heavy heart.
Not living far from the hospital in Calhoun City, he had heard a medical helicopter land and then take off on Friday night. Usually when a helicopter lands at that hospital at night, it's to pick up a seriously injured patient and fly that patient to another hospital for more intensive care.
Then around midnight, he received a phone call.
"Somebody called and told me that Malcolm had been in a fight and got shot," said Ray, who had just arrived home that night from watching the Calhoun City High basketball team defeat host Baldwyn in the North semifinals. "That was tough for the rest of the night. I couldn't sleep.
"Then my phone started ringing quite a bit after that."
Belim, 22, died shortly after being shot on Friday in Calhoun City. The alleged shooter, Melvin Bailey, was a former middle school student of Ray's when he was teaching in Bruce.
'Such a competitor'
Belim "was one of the best to come through at that position in a long, long time," said Ray, who said he really enjoyed having Belim on his state runner-up team in 2006.
"The thing about Malcolm was that he was such a competitor. That's what really carried us all the way to Jackson that year.
"We weren't really the best team, but with him back there at quarterback, he made a lot of things happen. The kids rallied around him. We were just a play away from winning it all. ... He was that type of player that he could really turn a game around."
So when his team struggled in the first two weeks of the 2006 regular season, Belim stepped up and "rallied the troops."
"We had gotten beat by Vardaman the week before," Ray said of his team's season-opening loss that year. "I had to dismiss one of our better players from the team and we were behind at halftime against Independence.
"Malcolm came in and rallied the troops. We came back and beat them pretty good in the second half, and ended up reeling off 13 straight wins that year after I dismissed a player.
"So, he was a big-time player, no doubt about it."
Lost in the shuffle
Belim, a 2006 All-Area selection by the Daily Journal, attended Northwest Community College in Senatobia. He played one season at quarterback there before being moved to defense.
"It was just a big adjustment for him then and he kind of got lost in the shuffle," Ray said. "I guess the last time I talked to him was four or five months ago. I ran into him in town and that was the last time I talked to him.
"He had actually joined the National Guard then."
Ray isn't entirely sure, but he believes Belim was scheduled to drill this past weekend at Camp McCain in Elliott.
"He had just come home and he just got caught up in it," Ray said of the alleged fight that led to Belim's death.
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or firstname.lastname@example.org.