WAYNESBORO, Miss. (WTOK) - Wayne County’s Athletic Director and Girls’ Basketball Coach, Gina Skelton, has already amassed a Hall-of-Fame-worthy career; her current record stands at 870-314, she’s been named ‘Coach of the Year’ by various organizations on 19 occasions and she has amassed four state titles at three different schools (Forest, Quitman, Wayne County).
Wayne County administrators recognize the impact Skelton has had on the sport in the state.
“Her legacy with the Mississippi Association of Coaches – she’ll go down as probably one of the top women coaches, top basketball coaches in the state, probably in the Southeast,” Bubba Hathorn, the school’s principal said of Skelton’s career.
In Skelton’s 38 years of coaching, she’s taken teams to the playoffs on 28 occasions – including the only woman in the state to take a varsity boys’ team to the state tournament, which Skelton did at Forest in 1995.
Current assistant coach, Shameka Thomas, played for Skelton while she attended Wayne County and was a part of the 2005-06 state championship team. Per Thomas, the qualities that have allowed Skelton to have such success on the court have also been passed down to her players.
“She’s a hard worker. She’s very disciplined and she’s a winner, not only on the court, she’s also a winner in life,” Thomas said. “She instills those characteristics in her players as well.”
Current players say they’ve improved not only on the court under Skelton’s guise, but have become better people by playing for her.
“She has influenced me the most character-wise,” senior Aaliyah Hill said. “You know, not only has she coached me to be a good player, but a good person. You know, and that’s something that really, really matters in today’s society – is your character. You know, to do what’s right all the time even when no one’s watching.”
Skelton has coached at five different schools – taking teams from each school to the state tournament. Yet, for Skelton, the most important part of coaching her student-athletes was not their successes on the court, but their successes in life.
“All my teams are special to me,” she said. “The thing that is the most special is, when I see them walk across that [graduation] stage.”
Under her guidance, all of Skelton’s players have graduated and around 95% have gone on to receive a postsecondary education with the remaining players entering the workforce – numbers that have not gone unnoticed by school staff.
“It’s amazing that all the girls that played for her, so many of them have gone on – the ones that have went on to college have gotten degrees and have become productive citizens and it’s just a testament to her,” said Hathorn.
In 2016, Skelton was inducted into the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame – an organization she had presided over for 12 years previously – only the second woman to do so. Skelton has also been a finalist for the National Coach of the Year. Yet she will only continue to add accolades as she has no plans to hang up her whistle anytime soon.
“As long as I have that passion and I get up every morning, you know, loving to come to work and wanting to work with these kids and in good health, I’ll keep doing it,” she said.