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|Wells ruled boards at Vidalia|
Kalpatrick Wells sat in the Cajundome last March watching Vidalia High's boys basketball team capture the Class 3A state championship against Carroll and the tears flowed.
"I knew exactly what they were feeling and I was so happy for them," Wells said. "It was great to see."
Thirty-one years earlier, Wells was in the Rapides Coliseum in Alexandria, leading Vidalia High's boys basketball team to the school's first-ever state championship for a boys squad as the Vikings defeated Varnado for the Class 2A state title.
"I've run that game through my mind many times," Wells said. "It was a dream come true. To say I grew up in Vidalia and brought the first boys state championship to Vidalia means a lot to me. I know that some people love me and will never forget me because of that."
The 6-foot-9 Wells was involved in dozens of memorable contests.
In his sophomore season at Vidalia, the Vikings made it to the state quarterfinals for the third straight year, defeating defending state champion Marion 52-50 to get within one step of the Top 24 Tournament.
Vidalia beat Bunkie 64-57 to gain a Top 24 berth.
Vidalia lost to Newman 66-55 in the semifinals in the first-ever trip to the Top 24 Tournament by a Vidalia team.
"That was disappointing," Wells said.
Vidalia tied for second place in its district the following year, but lost to Rayville 75-54 in a tiebreaker contest to end their season.
"We just weren't as focused as we should have been as a team," Wells said. "But it definitely gave me some motivation for my senior year, along with what happened my sophomore season."
Vidalia started out the 1978-79 in the Southwestern Louisiana Invitational in Lafayette as the Vikings defeated 4-A New Iberia 32-20 in a jamboree which consisted of two 10-minute halves.
"That helped get the preseason jitters out," Wells said."I was being recruited very heavily and there were a whole lot of coaches coming through for our practices. It was nice to get away from that. It was a relief for me."
Vidalia opened the season with a 74-59 win over Caldwell.
The Vikings started out 6-0 going into a much-anticipated home game with South Natchez, which boasted of a lineup that included Bobby Gooden, Chris Logan and Clarence Turner.
"They had a whole lot of talent," Wells said. "Bobby was a very good player, very physical. There weren't too many guys in that area that big. He and Kenny Green of North Natchez both had good size."
Wells hit a jump shot from just over 20 feet to give Vidalia a 51-50 win over the Colonels in a packed Vidalia gym.
"We were real fortunate," Wells said. "Eighty percent of the crowd was Vidalia and they kept us in the game. We always had a good following. We were fortunate enough to keep it close to allow me the opportunity at the end of the game to take that shot. It wasn't anything planned. The clock was running down to about three seconds, so instead of taking it inside, I had to get the shot off from the outside. I don't think they were expecting that."
Vidalia defeated Neville 58-56 in the Monroe News-Star Tournament, but Ronnie Brown suffered a dislocated elbow.
The Vikings lost to Bastrop 66-61 in the Neville Tournament, its fifth game in six days.
"That was a setback when we lost Ronnie for about a month," Wells said.
When Brown returned, Vidalia defeated Ouachita 58-51.
"I did not have to concentrate much on offense, I could get my points off the board," Wells said. "We had a couple of point guards in Kelvin Mays and Guy Henry who would throw me alley-oops and lay the ball off the backboard for me to slam. But I was more of a defensive player. It was more of a pride thing."
Vidalia beat Delhi 68-67 to improve to 2-0 in district in a game played at Holly Ridge because Delhi's school had burned.
The Vikings lost rematch with South Natchez in Natchez, 53-52.
Vidalia defeated Delhi 90-77 in their second meeting as Wells had 17 points and 17 rebounds.
Wells' tip-in at the buzzer gave the Vikings a 58-57 win over Rayville to capture the South Division of the district.
"I felt like we redeemed ourselves from the year before with that win," Wells said.
Vidalia lost to Lake Providence 48-47 for the district championship, but still qualified for the playoffs.
"I think that loss got us re-focused," Wells said. "It was one of those losses that came at the right time of the year. Sometimes a team needs that."
The Vikings defeated District 2A champion Zwolle 66-58 in the first round of the playoffs as Wells had 14 points and 17 rebounds.
The Vikings advanced with a 59-57 win over Rapides in Pineville as Wells had nine points and 16 rebounds.
"Every game was a battle," Wells said. "Nothing came easy."
Vidalia defeated W.O. Boston 57-52 to reach the Top 24 Tournament.
Lake Providence was beaten by Opelousas Catholic 55-52.
"I do remember Coach Simmons saying we weren't going to say in a hotel in the Alexandria area," Wells said. "He thought we would lose focus. A lot of times kids that age staying in a hotel away from home find it distracting. I think he learned some things from the first time when we did stay at a hotel. So we drove over there. It was a good plan, even though I wasn't crazy about it at the time."
Vidalia used two free throws by Henry with eight seconds remaining to ice its game against Rosenwald of New Roads, as the Vikings advanced to the finals with a 53-50 win. Wells had 13 points and 18 rebounds.
The Vikings captured the state championship with a 49-42 win over Varnado as Wells had 10 points and 20 rebounds.
Wells was named MVP in the district and All-State.
College coaches made Vidalia High a regular visit.
"I narrowed it down to five schools - Mississippi State, University of Houston, Tulane, Ole MIss and Alcorn," Wells said. "Coach (Dave) Whitney was such a good coach and Alcorn was close to home. Our assistant coach, Fred Marsalis, graduated from Alcorn and he took me to games. But at the time the SEC was the best conference in the nation and I thought I could get more attention at that level. To be honest, as a 17-year-old I liked the idea of people at home in Vidalia watching me play on Saturdays."
In his freshman season at State, Wells averaged 7.7 rebounds a game, which still ranks third among freshmen at State, behind Rickey Brown with 10.8 and Erick Dampier with 8.7.
He also blocked 51 shots.
Wells averaged 9.1 rebounds as a sophomore, 6.6 grabs as a junior and 6.8 in his senior year of 1982-83.
"I enjoyed my time at State," Wells said. "It was a small place, which was good for me being from Vidalia. I pretty much felt at home. State has some very loyal fans who bleed maroon and white. I had some coaches tell me that if there would have been a Defensive Player of the Year award back then I could have won it at least a couple of times."
Wells, who majored in fitness management, said the best player he went against was former Georgia great Dominque Wilkins.
"Kentucky had Kyle Macy, Rick Robey and Kenny Walker," Wells said. "Charles Barkley was really big and strong, but couldn't jump as well as some others. Dewayne Scales at LSU was another good player. We had a pretty good players ourselves in Jeff Malone."
Wells was drafted in the fourth round by the defending NBA champion Philadelphia 76ers.
"I was a 76ers fan at the time," Wells said. "I was really excited. They had a whole lot of talent with Moses Malone, Caldwell Jones and Dr. J. (Julius Irving)."
Wells attended the 76ers training camp, but had also talked with a pro basketball team in Israel.
"When I was at the training camp, my roommate was Craig Robinson." Wells said. "I was watching the Democratic Convention one night when they showed him and I said, 'I know that guy.' He's Michele Obama's brother."
Wells knew it would be tough to make the 76er squad.
"I felt like if I could have gone to a weaker team who needed a defensive big man I could have made the team," he said. "Being drafted by the 76ers was unfortunate."
Wells did not make the final cut, so he went overseas to play for an Israeli team.
"I lost my mom right before I left, so that was tough," he said. "I really didn't want to go because of my younger brother and sister, but my older sibling talked me into going. I had a wonderful time in Israel. They were some really nice people and the basketball was pretty good. Any Jewish-American can go play as a citizen. We had guys who were married to Israeli girls and some converted. Four of our five starters were from the States and just about every team had three-to-six Americans."
After a year in Israel, Wells went to play in a league in Switzerland.
"It wasn't quite as competitive, but it was a great place to live," he said. "They have mild-mannered citizens and it's one of the cleanest places I have been."
After a year in Switzerland, Wells moved to Portsmouth, England to play ball.
"I really enjoyed that and it was nice that everybody spoke English," he said. "It was only an hour from London. We had four Americans on that team."
Wells then returned to Israel and played two years of professional basketball back in Hapoel.
"I never imagined traveling like that as a kid," Wells said. "As a kid you always talk about playing in the NBA. Then when you get to college, you start talking to guys about such and such playing in Europe. I got to thinking I would do that if I had the opportunity. I didn't know it would be in Hapoel."
Wells said playing overseas was not something he did solely for the money.
"The pay wasn't great, it wasn't anything to get rich off of, but coming from my background it was nice," he said. "And I was doing something I enjoyed. The money I made gave me a good start in life."
Wells then played half a year in France.
"I came back to the States and finished up at Mississippi State, receiving my degree in 1989," Well said.
Wells and his wife, Daffney Diane (D.D.) Brown Wells, then moved to Dallas.
D.D. Brown Wells was a cheerleader at Vidalia who graduated in 1981.
"She wanted her own career and I started working at a health club," Wells said.
After a year-and-a-half in the fall of 1990, Wells got the itch to play basketball again.
"I played half a season in Jerusalem and then went to play in Buenos Aires, Argentina," Wells said. "Then I went back to Israel and played in An Nukhaylah, which was the most northern city in Israel, about 10 miles from the Lebanon border. I played half a year there and came back to the States when my son was born."
The next season, Wells returned to England and played his final season of basketball for the Brighton Bears.
The Bears went 31-2 in 1992-93, losing to Guildford in the National Cup Final.
The Bears squad was almost completely rebuilt over the summer of 1992, with new player-coach Alan Cunningham bringing in Colin Irish, Steve Nelson, Cleave Lewis and Wells.
The new team gelled quickly, and gave the Bears their first top-flight tournament win in the Carlsberg International Challenge. The Bears defeated arch-rival Thames Valley 75-74 in a dramatic Wembley final to become Play-off Champions.
Wells and his wife have resided in Vicksburg for the past 13-and-a-half years. He works for Ergon, Inc.
Kalpatrick and D.D. have three children. Kourtney graduated from Alcorn and works for a law office in Monroe. Kalpatrick Jr., who at Southern as a member of the ROTC and plans on making a career in the Army.
"He played sports in junior high, but didn't care much for it in high school," Wells said.
Korri is a sophomore at Vicksburg High and plays soccer.
"We're very proud of all three of them," Wells said.
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