Repeat C Spire Howell-Gillom winners are most deserving

Repeat winners: Stefan Moody and Victoria Vivians.
Repeat winners: Stefan Moody and Victoria Vivians. (Photo by Elwin Williams)
Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland

No surprises today at the C Spire Howell and Gillom awards luncheon: Victoria Vivians of Mississippi State won the trophy named for Peggie Gillom and Stefan Moody of Ole Miss won the trophy named for Bailey Howell.

Both were repeat winners and both were deserving — and then some.

Both players have brought much joy to Mississippi basketball fans. What has been remarkable to me in recent days has been the respect State fans have for Moody and the respect Ole Miss fans have for Vivians. That’s something we don’t always see in Mississippi, and it is refreshing.

No matter whom you pull for, you must admire excellence. Moody led the SEC in scoring. Vivians ranked second. And both are much more than scorers.

With the possible exception of Clarence Weatherspoon, I have never witnessed a Mississippi men’s college player more enjoyable to watch than Moody. He’s a little guy who plays huge. He makes up for his 5-foot, 10-inch height with remarkable strength, quickness, speed and leaping ability. He competes fiercely and without fear. He is a delight.

I have known Vivians since her high school days at Scott Central. In fact, she was the subject of an exhibit at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum before she graduated from high school. That’s what happens when you score more points than any female player in the history of U.S. high school basketball. She, too, is a delight, both as a player and person. And she had two more years to play at State.

As I said Monday at the luncheon, all six finalists had remarkable seasons and several more Mississippi collegiate players might have been finalists in any other year. There was lots of excellence all around

A word about the others:

• Gavin Ware, the State senior post player, is the most improved college basketball player I have seen in over a half century of watching the sport. From his early days as a freshman to the player he has become as a senior has been been a transformation amazing to watch. As his coach, Ben Howland said Monday: “Gavin has a chance to make a lot of money playing this sport.” If you had told me that when Ware was a freshman, I would have laughed.

• Quinndary Weatherspoon, who surely will be a member of the All-SEC Freshman team, has a ceiling nowhere in sight. He played four positions for the Bulldogs and played them all well. He improved tremendously and his best basketball is ahead.

• Delta State’s Chelsey Rhodes is the sixth leading scorer in Delta State women’s basketball history. If you know anything about DSU’s illustrious women’s basketball history, you need know no more than that.

• Ole Miss’ young Shandricka Sessom is similar to Weatherspoon in at least two respects. She is already really good, and her best basketball is ahead of her.

Several other fantastic players, most notably, Delta State’s Devin Schmidt just as easily could have been finalists. Schmidt, the Gulf South Conference Player of the Year, is already DSU’s all-time leading scorer and he has another year to play.

Here’s the deal on that: When trophies like this are awarded, there always will be controversy, whether it’s the Major League MVP, the NFL MVP, the Gatorade Player of the Year or any of the C Spire most outstanding player awards. The hope is always that you get the correct winner, and maybe, sometimes you do.

For these two awards, this year, I feel strongly we did.

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