West Oktibbeha basketball players Devin Culpepper, left, and Kendrin Yates, middle, congratulate each other after signing with Tougaloo College on Wednesday as Yates' mother Lequice Yates observes. (Photo by Michael Wardlaw, SDN)
MABEN â€“ The Tougaloo College Bulldogs needed replacements on the basketball court and the West Oktibbeha Timberwolves were glad to provide that.
Kendrin Yates and Devin Culpepper signed scholarships with the Division I NAIA school on Wednesday afternoon at West Oktibbeha.
Culpepper said the coaches at Tougaloo indicated there were some spots opening up on its team and they wanted he and Yates to be a part of the program's future.
"The coach came to us and let us know he wanted us to replace a whole bunch of key players leaving," Culpepper said. "It seemed like a perfect fit for me and Kendrin. It's going to be a good cover, a Robin and Batman type of deal, and were going to try to put the town of Maben on the the map."
Yates, the 2011 Starkville Daily News Boys Basketball Player of the Year, played for the Timberwolves for three seasons, while Culpepper played with them just one season after transferring from Eupora.
"I'm going to miss both of them and wish them well," West Oktibbeha boys coach Danny Crawford said. "(Yates) is a great talent and kid. He was a leader on and off the court. I'm glad to see him sign a full athletic scholarship in Division I , NAIA.
"With Devin, this was my first year to get him, but he worked hard with his shot blocking and had tremendous talent."
Culpepper said called playing with the Timberwolves a great experience and said Crawford did a good job of bringing more out of his game.
"Coach took it to a whole different level and intensified the game so much that at some point and time, the game enabled me to go for more blocks and rebounds," Culpepper said. "Coach just always stayed on me and it showed in my game."
Even though he's going to miss his days at West Oktibbeha, Yates is anxious to take the next step in his career.
That step takes him to Jackson and Tougaloo College.
"I just wanted to go somewhere I felt like I could fit in and play four years of basketball," Yates said.
Crawford is glad to see the two players use the avenue of basketball to further their education
"That's the glory of it for a high school senior," Crawford said. "You work hard all year and you get to play your sport and it's a great academic school at Tougaloo College so it's a blessing to further your education and do it free at the same time."
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