Rucker, Bell brothers chemistry helps Red Panthers win championship

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    By Josh Troy

    Clarksdale Advocate

    Family has been synonymous with the Coahoma County High School basketball program, from the coaching staff to athletes of all ages.

    The tradition continued as two sets of brothers played key roles for the Red Panthers (30-2, 10-0 in 2022-23) as they won their fifth Class 2A Mississippi High School Activities Association State Championship in seven seasons. Seniors Demarjay and Deandre Rucker are twins, and both play the wing position. They are originally from Jonestown but reside in Clarksdale and are the sons of Dewayne Rucker and Morticia Harris.

    Senior shooting guard Cam’ron Bell and junior point guard Harlem Bell are the other brothers on the team. The Bells reside in Jonestown and are the sons of Eugene Bell and Cameshia Henderson. “It’s a surreal feeling to have my brother on the same team as me and win the championship,” Deandre Rucker said. “We help each other get better and work hard against each other.

    “It’s like a dream. It didn’t seem real.” It was Deandre Rucker’s first season on the basketball team, but this was Demarjay’s third state championship. “I say this is a more special one because of my brother,” Demarjay Rucker said. “This is our last year.”

    The Bell brothers may be one year apart, but Harlem was on the varsity team in eighth grade and part of the last three championships with Cam’ron. “It feels good. I started playing for the high school my eighth grade year,” Harlem Bell said. “He was still on the team, but we didn’t contribute to the team. We were mostly on the bench cheering on our team, but it feels good to contribute to the championship for his last year.”

    Cam’ron Bell will be supporting Harlem throughout the 2023-24 season.

    “It felt good winning with my brother, but it was my last year,” Cam’ron said. “He’s got one more year, so, hopefully, I’ll be in the stands cheering him on to win another ring. I got three championships.”

    The Rucker and Bell brothers connected on all nine of Coahoma County’s 3-pointers in the Class 2A State Championship en route to a 67-34 victory against North Side at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. Cam’ron Bell, the MVP of the championship game, finished with 23 points and four of the team’s nine 3-pointers. Harlem Bell won the Scholar Athlete award before the game, finished with 8 points, and connected on one of the team’s nine 3-pointers. 

    Demarjay and Deandre Rucker connected on two 3-pointers apiece in the championship. Demarjay finished the game with 8 points, while Deandre scored 6. Demarjay Rucker averaged 4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 6.1 steals per game this past season, and he was the state leader in steals.

    Deandre averaged 2 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, but he always supported his brother when he was not on the court.

    “I’ll tell him to step in when he’s shooting it, to not think so hard on the shots and he’s playing,” Deandre said. Demarjay appreciated his brother’s support. “He told me to keep working hard, don’t give up,” Demarjay said. “My time is coming.”

    The Ruckers may be twins, but Demarjay is 5 feet, 10 inches, while Deandre is 5-9. The two first played basketball in Jonestown at around age 4. Deandre recalled making a bet with Demarjay when the two played one-on-one basketball. Deandre could not recall the specifics of the bet but said, “I ended up winning and he ended up getting mad.” Demarjay said he usually wins when the two play one-on-one. “I get him sometimes, but not all the time. Most of the time,” Demarjay said. 

    Cam’ron Bell finished the 2022-23 season, averaging 10.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.8 steals per game. Harlem finished with 7.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3.4 steals per game.

    The Bells not only excel in different areas, but Cam’ron, at 6-0, is two inches taller than Harlem at 5-10. They have played basketball together since Harlem was in second grade and Cam’ron was in third grade. “I saw what he was doing, and I felt I could be just like him,” Harlem Bell said. “I could be like my older brother.” That long-time chemistry paid off.

    “We really don’t give a lot of advice, but we have a lot of chemistry,” Cam’ron said. “That’s why we’re so good on the court together. We’ve been around each other since we were young. We’ve played on the same team since we were young, so that just builds our chemistry up.” Harlem agreed.

    “Me, personally, if I’m not good on the court, I know I have family on the court that can step up,” he said. When asked who wins when they play one-on-one against each other, Cam’ron and Harlem came back with different answers. “Mostly, of course, me,” Harlem said. “He’s lying,” Cam’ron jokingly replied. “I win not most of the time, but all of the time.”

    No matter who wins when the two are on opposing sides of the basketball court, they get the job done when they are together.

    Harlem recalled when he and Cam’ron played for the DeSoto County Bucks in an AAU basketball league. The Bells brought the team back from 25 points behind to win the championship. “The most exciting one was winning the state championship together,” Cam’ron said. “We both played good in the game.”

    The Ruckers and Bells all have their sights set on playing college basketball. All four brothers said it is a possibility they will be reunited on the same college team in a year. If basketball does not work out, Deandre said his backup plan is to become an engineer. Harlem Bell still has unfinished business as a Red Panther. He, along with wing Jerasmus and point guard Curtis McGowan will be the only seniors on the team in 2023-24.

    The Red Panthers are moving up to Class 3A in the MHSAA, but Harlem Bell believes they should be able to win another championship. “Booneville, we’re coming for you all,” he said. “We’re coming for the state title. “I don’t think so. They don’t really have competition in 3A, other than Booneville.”

    The Bells and Ruckers expressed their gratitude toward head coach Derrick Moore and assistants Daryl Moore, Derrick Moore Jr., Thomas Williams, Latarius O’Neal, Eddie Taylor, and the community. Just as the Ruckers and Bells have family on the team, Derrick Moore has four family members who are basketball coaches at Coahoma County. Derrick Moore is the brother of Daryl Moore, father of Derrick Moore Jr., cousin of Williams, and cousin of assistant girls coach and junior high girls coach Jonnetta Robinson Williams.

    Cutline: The Bell and Rucker brothers played key roles in Coahoma County High School’s state championship. Pictured, from left, are Cam’ron Bell, Harlem Bell, Deandre Rucker, and Demarjay Rucker.

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