Former Carrollton star named Lady Devils’ basketball coach

Karisma Boykin

Duke has its “Coach K” and now, so does Jackson.

Approved last week by the Butts County Board of Education, Karisma Boykin became the latest to enter Jackson’s revolving door of girls basketball coaches. She replaces Tony Watkins, who spent one year at the helm after replacing interim Teryn Christian, who replaced Courtney Campbell-Johnson.

Boykin went 116-10 in a four-year career as a star at Carrollton High in west Georgia and helped the Lady Trojans to the 2008-09 Class AAA championship. She says she knows exactly what kind of culture shock she’s getting herself into — a team that two years ago went winless and made modest improvements last season to go 7-17 but still missed the state tournament.

Todd Simpson, the principal about to become assistant superintendent in the school system, was candid with her during her job interview about the state of Jackson basketball.

“Dr. Simpson didn’t sugar-coat anything,” said Boykin, who spent the last three years as an assistant to longtime Carrollton head coach Shon Thomaston. “He didn’t leave anything out. I did some research. I know what I’m getting into and I’m ready for it.”

Watkins decided to retire after a storied 36-year career in Georgia high school basketball in which his teams won 679 games.

“He’s got his time and his years in and he’s got a house in Toccoa,” said Will Rustin, the athletics director who soon will become Jackson’s principal.

Rustin acknowledged that Jackson hasn’t been able to keep a girls basketball coach for long, but said he believes Boykin is “a great fit for our program. She brings a winning tradition and she’s young and hungry. … We believe we have a coach who wants to build a program and is here to stay.”

With her unrealized WNBA dreams behind her, Boykin believes she will relate better to the players because she isn’t that much older than they are. She turns 27 in August and believes the first element of succeeding will be her ability to forge relationships built on trust.

“The reason Carrollton has been so successful is because the community and the parents are behind them,” Boykin said. “With Coach Thomaston, you knew next year he was going to be there. The first thing he did was build that relationship. Once I trusted my coach, I wanted to go all out for him.”

Boykin figures to have two strong sophomore building blocks in Kenyata Smith and Gabbi Cartegena, freshmen who were the closest things to impact players the Lady Devils had this past season. If she can build up the players around Smith and Cartegena, passing on to her future players the things she felt helped her succeed at Carrollton, it might give her the best chance to succeed sooner rather than later. And speaking of sooner rather than later, Boykin doesn’t plan on waiting until girls reach high school to reach out to them. She wants to start connecting with middle schoolers and junior-varsity age players now, so that when they come of age, they’ll not only know what to expect, but it will be second nature for them.

She wants to pass on her work ethic, which made her the Class AAA player of the year in 2009 and got her on rosters at Jacksonville State University in Alabama, Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville and, finally, Shorter University in Rome.

“I wasn’t OK with being complacent or not working hard,” adding that she loved staring down challenges that would arise, or as she calls it, “whenever we had to get it out the mud. That’s what we call it out in the country.”

That’s probably what it’ll be called at Jackson. The problem isn’t what it will be called. Watkins arrived with a reputation for turning around programs and lasted but a year. Somebody has to stick in the mud long enough to get the Lady Devils out the mud. Will Boykin be the one to do that? Or will Jackson’s door keep on revolving?