The Northeast Mississippi Community College men’s basketball program put itself into a good position during the fall semester of its 2017-18 season.
The Tigers now have the chance to capitalize as they return for the spring term, which begins on Thursday, January 4 when West Kentucky Community and Technical College visits legendary Bonner Arnold Coliseum for a 7 p.m. tipoff.
Admission is free for Northeast’s first game back from the holiday hiatus. Every remaining contest this season for the Tigers, both home and on the road, will air live and in high definition on www.nemcctv.com.
The Northeast Broadcasting Network also includes new radio affiliate WOWL Fun 91. An audio simulcast of each matchup featuring Jody Presley and Carter Smith, the Voices of the Tigers, can be heard on frequencies 91.9 FM from Burnsville, 92.9 FM from Florence, Ala., and 102.3 FM from Killen, Ala.
“We felt like after evaluating things in the first half of the year that it was a good start,” said Northeast head coach Cord Wright. “Hopefully we can carry these positives into our upcoming games.”
The Tigers, who are receiving votes in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) rankings, have had the last three weeks off since their big 89-67 road win at Lawson State (Ala.) Community College on December 14.
Wright hopes that his student-athletes have continued to focus on improving their skills over the Christmas break with Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division play resuming in just over one week.
“We had some time off to get our legs back,” he said. “We had a chance to work on some things over the break. Everybody’s gotta execute a little better. The North (Division) has a lot of talent, but I think we’re ready for the challenge.”
Freshmen have contributed greatly to Northeast’s early successes. Denzel McDuffey and Antares Gwyn top that group as the leading scorer and rebounder, respectively, for the Tigers at the midway point of the campaign.
McDuffey, who is a graduate of Clinton High School, paces Northeast with 16 points per game while Corinth’s Gwyn leads the MACJC and is sixth nationally with an average of 11.5 rebounds.
Gwyn’s totals help Northeast (9-2) check in at fourth in the NJCAA with 51.2 rebounds per game. The Tigers are also sixth in the country in offensive boards with an average of 18.7.
Sophomores have made their impact for the Tigers as well. Bryce Smith of Powder Springs, Ga., follows McDuffey with 10.6 points each outing while Conner McKay from Baldwyn is fourth on the team with 9.5 points.
Baldwyn’s Felix Hayes rounds out the trio of double-digit scorers for Northeast at the halfway mark with 10.5 points. McDuffey also directs the Tigers with averages of 2.1 steals and 1.1 blocks.
Center Hill High School alumnus Job Vernor guides Northeast with 4.5 assists while Bryant Givens of South Bend, Ind., follows him with 4.2 dimes. The Tigers are 17th in the NJCAA with 21.7 assists on 30.8 made field goals per contest.
Northwest Mississippi Community College visits the City of Hospitality on Thursday, January 11 to start the final stretch of 11 consecutive MACJC North Division games to close the regular season for Northeast.
The MACJC North Division men’s champion earns hosting rights for the state tournament from February 26-March 1. Mississippi College is again the location for the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament from March 6-9.
Photo: Bryce Smith is one of three Northeast Mississippi Community College student-athletes to average double figures at the midway point of the season with 10.6 points per game. Smith and the Tigers return to action tomorrow (Thursday, January 4) when they host West Kentucky Community and Technical College at 7 p.m. in Bonner Arnold Coliseum. Admission is free for the final non-division game of the season.