Pearl River's new $8.9 million Marvin R. White Coliseum tip off for hoops next week

Pearl River's new $8.9 million Marvin R. White Coliseum tip off for hoops next week

POPLARVILLE, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from PRCC

The long-awaited basketball opening of Pearl River Community College's new $8.9 million Marvin R. White Coliseum arrives next week, as the Wildcat squad hosts the William Carey junior varsity Monday, while the women and men squads tackle Delgado (La.) Tuesday.

The original White Coliseum was constructed in 1974, but was totally destroyed in late August of 2005 when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the gulf coast portion of the United States.

The new structure boasts 35,400 square feet --- some 9,000 square feet larger than the old one --- and was erected on the same site as the original with a sizeable seating capacity of 2,600-$2,800. Seventh-year Lady Wildcat head coach Toby Bush expects his team to show marked improvement over last year's 18-8 mark.

"We made big improvements last season, but I'm expecting even more this year," Bush said. "We've got a solid nucleus of experience coming back and have picked up a couple of Juco transfers that will be assets."

Returning starting forward Vamikka Smith out of Murphy High in Mobile, Ala., will be a key ingredient in 2014-2015.

"Vamikka started almost every game for us last year and Tamera Williams (point guard out of Hinds AHS in Raymond) and Essence Pulliam (forward out of Forest Hill High in Jackson) saw lots of playing time," Bush added. "I'm expecting a lot of leadership out those three."

Pulliam averaged eight points and seven rebounds a year ago, while Smith averaged seven boards. Notable newcomers to the squad include guards Ka'Nosha Fairley of Pascagoula High, Shaniqua Magee of Collins High, and Asia Thibodeaux of West Harrison High, and point guard Akayla Powell out of South Pike High in Magnolia, along with East Central CC transfers An'Dreka Harper, a guard-forward of Forest High, and guard Shaniqua Quinn of Brandon High.

"Fairley and Magee will add plenty of scoring punch from the win, while Powell gives us more speed at the point spot and defensive tenacity," he continued. "Thibodeaux is a solid scorer on the offensive side, but is an excellent defender as well.The Lady Wildcats lost four of its five starters from last season to graduation and Bush expected a rough start in preseason practices. "But we're getting better by the day," he said. "It was a little rough in the early going, but we're not starting to figure out our identity and are primed and ready for the season to kick off."

The River women finished 10-4 in the rugged MACJC South Division last season before being eliminated from the state tournament by Jones County in the semi-finals. The Lady Wildcats ended their year with a loss to Southwest Mississippi in the Region 23 Tournament quarterfinals at Mississippi College in Clinton. Mary Bolton returns for her third season as assistant coach. Veteran head coach Richard Mathis enters his 23rd season at the helm of Wildcat basketball and quickly admits his latest team will have an uphill struggle as only one sophomore graces his 15-man roster. A year ago, the Wildcats wrapped its season at 18-8 overall with an 80-67 loss to eventual NJCAA Division I national champion Jones County in the Region 23 Tournament championship round.

"We've got some green talent on board and it'll take a while for that talent to gel," said Mathis. "But we've been practicing hard and have a solid work ethic. That's what it takes to adjust to the college level from high school."

The only sophomore on the squad is returning forward Bryant Magee of West Marion High, but six freshmen drew praise from Mathis. Darrlyn Willis, a 6-foot-8 center-forward out of Madison Memorial High in Madison, Wis., is a big, physical specimen who shows solid ability on the boards, runs well, and has scoring prowess. Guard Cortez Mitchell out of Callaway High in Jackson comes from a state championship background, as he was a member of a CHS squad that won three straight MHSAA championships.

"Cortez is an athletic guy that can score baskets," Mathis said. "Plus his championship pedigree is exceptional. Teddy Scott (Provine High in Jackson) is a 6-6 forward that can play multiple positions and can score inside or out."Laderrick Scott, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound center-forward out of Forest High School, was one of the most highly-regarded players out of high school."Laderrick has lots of ability and he's shown flashes in the preseason, but we're looking or him to live up to his reputation coming in here to Pearl River," said Mathis.

Former Olive Branch guard John Cornish is a polished shooter with great potential, while guard William Brown out of Forest Hill High in Jackson is another highly-rated recruit out of high school. Chris Oney returns for his fourth season as one of Mathis' assistants, while Shane Maynard is back for his second.

Sullivan Bell, a member of the Wildcat squad a year ago, is serving as student assistant coach. Tip off for Monday's Carey JV men's game is 6 p.m., while Tuesday's Delgado twin bill contests are at 5 p.m. (women) and 7 p.m. (men).