After working under two of the area’s best basketball coaches for seven years, DJ Burress is ready to step out on his own.

Burress was approved on Tuesday as the new boys basketball coach at Smithville. It’s his first head coaching job.

The 34-year-old was an assistant to Craig Lauderdale at Saltillo the last four years. Prior to that, he was a Tupelo assistant for three seasons under Jeff Norwood.

“Sitting behind Norwood at Tupelo for a few years and sitting behind Lauderdale for four years, I think I’ve grasped the knowledge of what it takes to create a winning program,” Burress said.

Burress developed his defensive philosophy under Norwood, while Lauderdale taught him the value of developing young players. The trick now is for Burress to take what he learned at two large schools and make it work at a Class 1A program.

He knows where to begin.

“The main thing is the middle school position,” Burress said. “I knew going down to 1A I wanted to be in control of the entire program, so that means working with them even at the seventh- and eighth-grade levels.”

He’s taking over for Nick Coln, who departed after six seasons to take the head coaching job at Long Beach. The Seminoles were 78-100 on his watch but went 23-7 last season.

“I’m going to have something to work with, even in my first year,” Burress said. “I appreciate the work that he put in to put me in a good position.”

While at Saltillo, Burress was head coach of the JV team. When players moved up from Guntown Middle School, it was his job to mold them into players Lauderdale could use.

“He works really good with the kids,” Lauderdale said. “You always hate to lose an assistant, and you’d like to keep him if it was a sideways move. But I can’t blame a person when he’s bettering himself and going on to be a head coach.”

brad.locke@journalinc.com

Twitter: @bradlocke

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