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.
EMCC LADY LIONS
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.