Junior colleges look to make a splash with hoops signings

Corinth‘s Kendall Stafford signed with Northeast this week. (Chris Todd)

Special to the Journal

The community colleges in this corner of the state certainly like to be competitive in basketball.

It’s a high standard.

The recently completed seasons saw the Northeast men and Itawamba women clear that high bar, at least the second level of post-season play, All-American players, and now some high-profile signings as junior colleges take advantage of a signing period that began on Wednesday.

“We’ve signed five as of right now, in areas we were trying to address,” Northeast Tigers head coach Cord Wright said. “But we’re still looking.”

Wright might have been on the right track for this signing period with Leroy Buchanan from Madison Central, Wesley Harris from Callaway, Kendarius Smith from Velma Jackson, Kendall Stafford from Corinth, and William Potts from Athens, Ala. Buchanan is a scorer who dropped a 30-plus game against Tupelo, Harris and Smith were part of multiple state championships, Stafford a great local signing, and Potts provides height at 6-foot-7.

The Tigers, coming off a 17-9 effort that saw them advance to the Region 23 Tournament, need to load up, especially after losing All-American Dimario Jackson. The Brusly, La., guard averaged 18.9 points per game, 3.8 assists, and was sixth in the nation in free throw percentage at 87.4 percent

“This was well deserved,” Wright said of Jackson ‘s award. “Any time a player does things the right way, and gets the recognition, it makes you feel good.”

Wright reports that Jackson is in the process of making visits, with at least four schools interested in him. Jackson is a business major with a 3.5 GPA.

ICC lands Hatcher, Pounds

The post-season journey for the Itawamba Lady Indians carried to the NJCAA National Tournament after winning the Region 23 Tournament. It also carried further as Ripley’s Jayla Chills was named an All-American.

The Lady Indians’ momentum also carried into this week, landing two of the best seniors in the area in smooth shooting guard Marlee Hatcher from Pontotoc, and strong and tall point guard Jabria Pounds from Nettleton.

“We lost four sophomore starters, so we’ve been out beating the bushes,” said Lady Indians head coach Nanci Gray, whose team complied a 23-5 record. “We’re trying to get the best caliber of player we can.”

High-caliber players will be needed to replace Chills, who averaged 19.7 ppg, with 4.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

“This was a great honor for our program,” Gray said.

“She had the ability to score, and to make things happen.”

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