Green runs deep: Jay Case comes home to lead West Lincoln basketball
Balls bounced all over the court on a recent Friday at West Lincoln. Tryouts for the 2021-2022 high school boys’ basketball team had just wrapped up and everyone was firing off a 3-pointer or two before hitting the road.
Under one goal a young player worked on shooting form and following through with someone that knows a thing or two about making a basket in Jack Case Gymnasium — new West Lincoln boys’ basketball coach Jay Case.
Case is coming back to coach in the gym that bears the name of his grandfather Jack. On the east end of the gym there are two signs that commemorate back-to-back Class A State Championships won by the school in 1981 and 1982.
Jack Case coached those title teams and the leading scorer for those championship Bears was Jay’s dad, Jason Case.
Jason followed in Jack’s footsteps and coached at West Lincoln before eventually becoming principal of the school. After retiring from WL, Jason Case is now the head of school at Brookhaven Academy.
When Jay let his dad know that West Lincoln principal John Shows had offered him the job, Jason gave him the only advice he could — pray about the decision and let his faith lead him.
Of course, he wanted Jay to follow in his footsteps, but coming back to work at the place where you raised isn’t a transition that everyone can make.
For Jay though, it’s a natural progression for his career.
“I always said I wanted to be back home because I’m a family guy and all of mine is here,” said Jay Case. “My wife Olivia is originally from Meridian and she has always been down with the idea of coming back here.”
Olivia Mabry Case and Jay met while students at Mississippi College. Both played basketball and both could shoot the rock.
She ended her four-year career with a better than 80-percent average at the free throw line for MC while he currently sits fourth all-time in Choctaw history with a .466 career 3-point field goal percentage.
They are a well-matched pair.
Case suited up for the Choctaws after playing his first two collegiate seasons at Copiah-Lincoln CC. His first coaching job was working as a graduate assistant at MC.
From there he went to Richland High to be an assistant coach before then moving to Clinton High.
Over the last two seasons Case has worked at the highest level of high school basketball in Mississippi as Clinton won the MHSAA 6A State Championship this season.
The Arrows were 20-1 in 2020-2021 and had the state’s best junior in 6-foot-7 forward Kimani Hamilton.
Case comes back to Flea Hop to take over a Bears team that finished 1-15 last season. As a player, Case was part of some outstanding teams during his time as a student-athlete at the school.
Coach Lane Young led WL to 20-win seasons when Case was a sophomore and junior.
The cherry on top was his senior season in 2010-2011 that saw West Lincoln win 28 straight games.
In the third round of the MHSAA 1A state tournament that year West Lincoln took their first and only loss of the season, a 77-71 home loss to Dexter.
That 28-1 team also featured Jay’s younger brother Jared at the point guard position. WL won 28 games when Jared was a senior and 31 the season after that and then 24 games in the 2013-2014 season.
How does Case get West Lincoln back to that level of success?
“We’ve got to talk it up and get the kids excited about getting to work,” said Case. “Kids play multiple sports these days, but they’ve got to know that if they want to be good in basketball, they’ve got to be willing to put the time in to improve.”
Before having the recent varsity tryouts, Case had already done the same thing for the junior high team. He wants to see that program become a building block for the program.
“I know our varsity can turn things around in a short amount of time, I believe in them,” said Case. “We’ve got to make building that mentality of hard work a priority for our junior high.”
Case has practiced what he’s preaching. As the son of the principal, he had free run of the gym as a youth. Friday nights, Saturday morning or Sunday afternoons — you could find Jay, Jared and their friends in the gym working on their game.
“I’ll have the gym open as much as possible this summer,” said Case. “I want them in here working on their skills and playing games.”
It’s been a whirlwind of late for Case after he accepted the job at WL. He and Olivia have sold their house in Madison and the same day that goes final, they’ll close on a new home in Brookhaven.
He’ll teach Essentials for College Math and Learning Strategies next year, courses he’s familiar with from his time at Clinton.
Case has been running back and forth between his home in Madison, his old school in Clinton and his new job and hometown.
Some would run away from the expectations that come with returning home, but Case is running towards them.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” said Case. “It’s really been a dream come true.”