Recruiting efforts increase in JUCO ranks

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2003

The DAILY LEADER’s sports editor was in the Brookhaven HighSchool girls basketball office Tuesday afternoon, ready to snapanother scholarship signing photo. In 33 years of covering LincolnCounty athletics, I had made numerous trips to this office which islocated on the north end of James A. Sinclair Gymnasium.

Brookhaven has produced numerous outstanding female basketballplayers in three decades. Most of them had their scholarship photostaken in that same basketball office. Some of them signed seniorcollege scholarships and most of them signed with theCopiah-Lincoln Community College Lady Wolves.

Suddenly, this became a jolting reality check. MarkSwindle, Southwest Mississippi Community College women’sbasketball coach, was grinning from ear to ear. He was on hand forthe signing of two BHS Lady Panthers, TiffanyWatkins and Shamika Gilmore.Appropriately, Swindle wore a blue golf shirt, favoring the Co-Lincolor scheme.

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Ironically, the large Co-Lin team bus sat outside SinclairGymnasium, its diesel motor grumbling. Inside the gym, Co-Lin’sCollette dance team was rehearsing for a performance later thatafternoon. Pinch me, please. Am I dreaming?

Watkins and Gilmore smiled brightly as they posed with theirparents and guardians for the official signing photo. BHS girlscoach Billy Holmes smiled with pride.

Holmes. Hmmmmm. Dr. Horace C. Holmes is thelongtime Southwest president. The Holmes brothers,Larry and Butch, coach theSouthwest baseball team.

Billy Holmes played for Dr. Holmes at Southwest in the late’60s. They have a special bond. “I’m happy to see two of my playerswho are going to play for Southwest, where I played.”

Last week, 6-foot center Ayana Tillman signed ascholarship with Co-Lin. That’s where Coach GwynYoung has been coaching for 28 years.

Welcome to the new recruiting era in the Mississippi Associationof Community/Junior Colleges. Recruiting has become increasinglyimportant and demanding, despite budget cutbacks. As one JUCO coachput it, “If I were 20 years younger, I would have taken that seniorcollege assistant coaching job. They’re on the road recruiting allthe time, anyway.”

Under the MACJC’s new guidelines, basketball coaches are allowedto freeze or protect six senior players in their district. The restare up for grabs.

In talent-heavy, thickly-populated areas like the Hinds and GulfCoast districts, recruiters are working overtime. There is talentto be harvested. Two out-of-state players are allowed on eachroster, too.

Co-Lin men’s coach Dennis Sims signedBrookhaven guard Dexter Middleton to a scholarshipWednesday afternoon. Whew! Sims had won the recruiting battle withSouthwest because the athletic Middleton was a late bloomer and noton the original protected list.

Sims, 53, admits he doesn’t like the new recruiting rules. Hesigned BHS guard Brandon Caston, a protectedplayer; last week. On the senior college level, the head coach hasthree or four assistants who take care of the recruitingchores.

Southwest also recruits Tangiapahoa Parish in neighboringLouisiana as part of its district. It used to be a recruitinghotbed for Co-Lin football, basketball and baseball coaches beforeanother rule change a few years ago.

Meridian has only one county, Lauderdale, in its district. ButMeridian can sign one protected player from every other collegedistrict in Mississippi plus two out-of-staters. It’s not fair.

Fairness aside, Swindle was happy to sign the two Lady Panthers.He also has signed Latresha Wilson of JeffersonCounty, another Co-Lin district member.

Co-Lin basketball players made a strong showing in last Friday’sMississippi All-Star Basketball Games at Philadelphia.Jason Scott and Tiania Burns werenamed Most Valuable Players on their respective all-star teams.

Sims and Co-Lin assistant coach Bill McGuirecoached the South men to a convincing victory. JeremieCollier of Co-Lin also had a good game. He already hassigned with Southern University of Baton Rouge.

Burns, a Mississippi State signee, showcased her All-Americanskills, scoring 24 points. Center Shaquita Smithaccounted for 10 points. Co-Lin playmaker AymeBeeson provided plenty of assists.