Qu'Varius Howard coaches Starkville basketball players.

When Qu’Varius Howard was at East Mississippi Community College, he and the other members of the men’s basketball team were frequent attendees of games at Kemper County. 

While watching the high school competition, he continually saw the raw talent of the Wildcats players. Now as the program’s leader, he has a firm grasp on the capabilities of his new squad. 

“One thing that I always noticed about the community was that they had a bunch of athletes,” Howard said. “Kids were very talented, they were athletic, so that’s one thing I know I’m getting myself into with the program, is that they have some good, athletic kids.”

Hired by Kemper County as the next head coach of its boys basketball team, announced Wednesday, Howard comes to De Kalb with six years of experience as an assistant at Starkville under Greg Carter, who in March led the Yellowjackets to back-to-back MHSAA Class 6A state titles. A Starkville alumnus himself, Howard said Carter’s influence on him was monumental, both as an assistant and a player.

“He was one of the reasons why I wanted to be a coach, because he was always there for his kids,” he said. “If we needed him, we knew we could call and talk to him, and we knew he would treat everyone fairly. He’s been nothing but a blessing for me with coaching.”

Howard, 30, said he hopes to mirror Carter’s coaching mentality in taking over the Wildcats squad that accomplished their own success last season in finishing 22-9, 11-1 in divisional competition and reaching the second round of the Class 3A playoffs in Micheal Johnson’s first and only season at the helm. He wants to emphasize the small details, from mastering how practice is run to getting his athletes fully involved in the program.

“I want to build on that, get things going in the right way, get them back to the state tournament and hopefully to the championship game,” he said. “I just plan to come in and continue teaching hard work and hold the guys accountable. Let them know that we’re in this as a team and it’s not about themselves. If they come in and buy into the team mentality, we shouldn’t have any problem building on the success that they already have.”

The hiring of Howard marks the fourth boys basketball head coach at Kemper County in the past five years, with John Alan Darnell — who guided the Wildcats to their last state championship during the 2015-16 season — as the last coach to serve at least three seasons. Howard said he intends to stay for the long haul so he can form strong bonds with his players. 

“I don’t want to be a coach that just comes in and out. I want to see change in the community. I want to be what Coach Carter was for me for those kids,” he said. “I want them to be able to trust me, know that if there’s something they need, I’ll always be there for them.”

Reaching his first head coaching position is something he said is a goal he’s wanted to reach since he started.

“That’s something that ever since I got into coaching I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to be a head coach, so now that it’s actually come true, I’m excited about it.”

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