EMCC looking to return to championship form


Looking to return to the championship form they experienced three years ago as conference champions for the first time since the 1930s, the East Mississippi Commu­nity College men’s bas­ketball team entered the 2021-22 season with a veteran quartet of re­turning starters joining forces with a talented group of experienced newcomers.

Seventh-year head coach Billy Begley and assistant coach DJ Evans bring back four of their top five scorers, re­bounders and playmak­ers from last year’s 11-6 EMCC squad. With a trio of third-year starters coming back, the experi­enced Lions look to be headlined by two-time All-Region 23 forward Jakorie Smith, who has averaged 14.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while having shot 49 percent from the field and 75 percent from the line through his first two EMCC seasons.

Veteran guards Trae­mond Pittman and Danny Washington, who have totaled 54 career starts between them en­tering the 2021-22 sea­son, combined to average 13.3 points and 6.3 assists per game this past year.

“Having multiple tal­ented players back helps us in so many ways both during game competi­tion as well as through­out daily practice sessions,” Begley said. “With the veteran play­ers leading the way, practices kind of run themselves because they know exactly what to do and how to do it.”

Nick Walker will join Smith on EMCC’s formidable frontline after averaging 12.1 points and a team-high 8.0 rebounds per game a season ago in addition to connecting on 66 percent of his shots and 73 percent of his free throws. The Hattiesburg product was one of 48 return­ing players invited to partici­pate in the prestigious JUCO Advocate hoops showcase this past summer.

The Lions’ fourth returning starter is versatile guard Blake Butler, from Louisville, Ky., who averaged 12.1 points, 4.4 re­bounds and 2.5 assists per con­test as an impact freshman.

East Mississippi also brings back third-year veteran for­ward Elijah Newsome, who redshirted the 2019-20 cam­paign, and reliable point guard Kevin Henry, who spent the 2019-20 season at Mississippi Delta CC.

Along with returning plenty of firepower from last year’s team, the Lions also welcome a half dozen newcomers to this year’s veteran-laden EMCC squad.


Two years removed from claiming the school’s first women’s basketball conference championship in 36 years, vet­eran EMCC head coach Sharon Thompson’s 2021-22 Lady Lions team returns five of its top six scorers from last year’s 12-5 squad.

Comprised of three guards and two forwards, EMCC’s top-five returning scorers all aver­aged between 5.4 and 7.9 points per game a year ago. Leading the way for the Lady Lions are sharp-shooting guards Shakira Wilson and Je­nessa Souza, who averaged better than 15 points per game between them a year ago in addition to both shooting 35 percent from beyond the three-point arc and making a combined total of 58 treys. Wilson, out of Southeast Laud­erdale High School, averaged 7.9 points an outing last sea­son, while Souza, a California native and Blinn (TX) College transfer, followed close behind at 7.5 points a game.

Along the frontline and look­ing to post improved numbers with the loss of Hollings, East Mississippi returns forwards Siarra Jackson and Kyunna Thomas. Jackson, a two-time all-state selection at Ripley High School, averaged 7.1 points and 3.4 rebounds an outing for EMCC as a fresh­man. Thomas, a 2018-19 Jack­son Clarion-Ledger Dandy Dozen preseason pick at Lawrence County High School, averaged 5.8 points and 5.1 boards last season for the Lady Lions after transferring from Jones College.

Additional backcourt help looks to be provided by return­ing versatile guard Markiema Lancaster, who averaged 5.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per contest as an EMCC freshman after transferring from Mercer University in Georgia. Also back after re­ceiving a medical redshirt sea­son a year ago is point guard Ciara Jackson, a product of Shannon High School.

Seven incoming freshmen straight out of high school will join EMCC’s six returning play­ers for the 2021-22 season.

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