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Young joins national Hall of Fame

    Gwyn Young reflected on his basketball-coaching career at Copiah-Lincoln Community College as he and his family rode a tour bus across Orlando to Disneyworld. His grandchildren giggled with excitement.

     Young, never known for frequent emotional outbursts on the sidelines, will broadly smile Friday when he comes forward to accept the large plaque honoring him for his accomplishments in women’s basketball. He will be among four basketball greats inducted into the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, during a ceremony at Northwest Florida College in Niceville.

     “I feel honored to be in something like that,” said Young. “There are a lot of good coaches who weren’t lucky enough to win games. They didn’t have the players to make it.”

     He was a pioneer at Co-Lin in the early 1970s as women’s sports became worthy of scholarships, thanks to Title IX. Women’s athletics in general have mushroomed since those formative days.

     To say the least, Young’s accomplishments are numerous. He has won over 800 games. In 37 years, he has amassed 821 wins and 241 losses. 

     His latest edition finished 24-4, winning an MACJC State Tournament championship.

     Young talked about other women’s basketball pioneers in the Magnolia State. “I know two coaches who deserve it. Sue Ross of Mississippi Gulf Coast and Lucille Wood, who coached East Central. When I first started coaching, they were both coaching for a couple of years. They were really pushing women’s basketball back in that time.”

     Recalling the 1975-76 season, Young said, “They started giving scholarships when I came to Co-Lin.  I think we had two and a half scholarships the first year.

     His first edition went to a regional tournament at Cleveland (Tenn.) State.

      “About the only thing I remember about it is we played three games in about 26 hours.”

     The next year, Co-Lin  Gulf Coast and East Central tied for first place in Mississippi. Young said, “We flipped a coin and Co-Lin was third. Gulf Coast went to the nationals and  finished second or third. We and East Central were just as good.”

     Young has taken seven teams to the NJCAA National Tournaments in Tyler, Texas and Salina, Kan.  The Lady Wolves placed fourth in 1989. They were sixth in 2011, at Salina. He won seven state titles and finished second on seven occasions.

     “Co-Lin has been a good place for me and my family,” said Young. “We have some good people there. They haven’t run me off so I have stayed.”

     Young, 61, played basketball at Co-Lin for Coach M.K. Turk,  1969-71. After Co-Lin, Young played for  “Stute” Allen at Mississippi College. He graduated from West Lincoln in 1969.

     He made the free throw that won Coach Allen’s 200th game. He was team captain his senior year.

     Young’s first coaching job was at Brookhaven as an assistant to Bobby West. Tommy Goodson was the other assistant.

     Recalling his next position, Young said, “The job at Co-Lin started out as needing somebody to teach math and a driver’s education class at the high school,” then a part of the Co-Lin campus.  He also worked as assistant men’s coach and started the women’s basketball program.

     Prior to Young’s arrival, Katherine Huckaby, coached the Co-Lin women’s club team.

     Young married his high school sweetheart, Velesta Smith of West Lincoln. They have two children, Lane Young and  Jessica Hynum. Four adorable grandchildren are available for hugs and kisses: Justin Hynum, Mary Gwyn Hynum, Grant Hynum and Mailey Kate Young.

     His son, Lane, is a successful basketball coach at West Lincoln.  His parents, L.G. and Mavis Young, still follow his games. He has three brothers: Travis, Keith and Terry, all living in Franklin County.

     In the early 1970s, high school girls played a 3-on-3 format. There were three players offensive players and three defenders. It was vice versa on the other end of the floor. Girls weren’t supposed to be able to run the length of the floor, like the boys.

     Colleges played 5-on-5 like the men and high schools began changing their rules to better prepare the players for the collegiate style of play.

     “Obviously, women’s  basketball has changed dramatically,” said Young. “They play like the guys. They can run and are very athletic.

      “I don’t think the pure shooter has gotten any better,” Young added. “The players are bigger, stronger and faster.”

     Bogue Chitto product Cindy Hodges Williams was described as “a great shooter.” She was a member of the Co-Lin team that Young carried to a regional tournament in his first season.

     Recruiting has been ramped up at an alarming rate after the MACJC elected to open Mississippi to unrestricted recruiting two years ago. In the past, each MACJC member was given a district, including several counties, which allowed the coaches to place several high school players on a restricted list.

     “When I first started, all you had was your district,” said Young. “There have been four or five different changes along the way. I’ve been able to get some good quality players and mold them together. That’s the key.

     “With the state being open, having a full-time assistant coach (Nikki Williams) has really helped me,” Young pointed out. “We have been able to sign some pretty good players. Having someone who can make phone calls and take care of business helps a lot. She being a former player helps a lot, too.”

     Already a member of the Mississippi College and Co-Lin Sports Hall of Fames, Young isn’t content to rest on his laurels. He wants to keep on coaching.

     “I still enjoy coaching. What I like doing is  the challenge of having new people every year and trying to put together a good team.

     “When you win something you feel like you have accomplished something. You like that the best. It’s pretty rewarding.”

     His father was principal at West Lincoln. Young played for Coach Ed Zumbro at West Lincoln.

     Co-Lin president Dr. Ronnie Nettles praised Young’s character and his basketball accomplishments.

     “What can you not say about Coach Young?” asked Nettles. “He has done more for women’s basketball than anybody in the state of Mississippi, at any level. His accomplishments are just unmatched.

     “He has done it in a special way with character and honesty,” Nettled continued. “He has set a high standard for younger coaches to follow.”

     Nettles said Young is respected for his coaching and business acumen. “He does an outstanding job coaching every year. He’s been so successful. People listen to him both as a coach and as an athletic director. We are proud to have him with us.”

     Young’s victory total has surpassed the 700 and 800 win totals since Nettles became president.

      “I have seen Gwyn go through a pair of century marks in my five years as a president and it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down,” said Nettles. “He’s very knowledgeable and he wants to win.

     “He’s able to always get those one or two players to fit the puzzle.”

     Young already is looking forward to next season.

 Contact sports editor Tom Goetz by Email: tom.goetz@dailyleader.com