SCOOBA – East Mississippi Community College's 2019-20 basketball season officially tips off Friday afternoon (Nov. 1) when Coach Billy Begley's reigning MACJC champion Lions play host to the Jackson-based Blessed IJN Prep Academy post grad team on the Scooba campus. Game time for EMCC's hoops season opener is slated for 1 p.m. at EMCC's Keyes T. Currie Coliseum, and there will be no charge for admission.
Coach Sharon Thompson's EMCC Lady Lions will begin their new season by joining the men's team for a Monday (Nov. 4) basketball doubleheader at Meridian Community College. A 5:30 p.m. women's game against the Lady Eagles will be followed by a 7:30 p.m. men's contest at MCC's Graham Gymnasium.
This year's youthful EMCC men's team will feature 12 first-year players and only three returnees who saw action during last year's MACJC championship season. Along with making school history by earning the men's basketball program's first state title since the early 1930s, the Lions had all eight sophomores graduate a year ago with six players continuing their collegiate careers at the four-year university level.
Expected to lead the way for EMCC's returning group will be sophomore guards Donte Powers and KJ Riley. From Starkville, Powers averaged 5.5 points as a freshman for the Lions while shooting 52 percent overall from the field, 43 percent from three-point range and 79 percent from the free throw line. Riley, out of Southaven High School, also returns for his second season as an improved swing player, as does shooting guard Isaiah Hardy from Saltillo High School.
Also contributing valuable familiarity with the EMCC program after sitting out last year's state championship season with a foot injury is talented 6-foot-6 swing player Arecko Gipson Jr., out of Memphis. Gipson figures to have an immediate impact in his debut season on the court for the Lions after ranking as a 2017-18 Tennessee Mr. Basketball prep finalist out of the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering.
East Mississippi's talented 12-player newcomer class looks to showcase 6-foot-6 forward Jakorie Smith, a 2018-19 Clarion-Ledger Dandy Dozen selection out of Raymond High School, as well as point guard Danny Washington, who was tabbed the Delta Preps Player of the Year as a senior at Greenville High School.
The Lions appear to have solid frontcourt depth with the additions of Iowa Central Community College transfer Quamontae Monfort, a 6-foot-7 forward who was a 2017-18 Class AAAAA honorable mention all-state pick at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Ga., along with 6-foot-9 South Sudan native Kon Ajang out of Genesis Prep Academy in Post Falls, Idaho. Incoming freshmen Taiwon Stallworth (D'Iberville HS) and Elijah Newsome (East Central HS) will also vie for playing time on EMCC's frontline. Noxubee County's D'Antonio Deloach figures to sit out the upcoming campaign as a medical redshirt.