HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The message during Tuesday's introductory press conference of Clarence Weatherspoon and Chris Croft as Southern Mississippi's new assistant men's basketball coaches was clear.
The Golden Eagles are not only looking to improve as a team, but take over the Mississippi basketball landscape.
"I was looking for people that had some type of connection," Golden Eagles head coach Doc Sadler said. "Because the one area that, to be quite honest with (you), I don't think I've done as good a job as I need to have done is recruit Mississippi. And so that's going to be our number one priority. And so I wanted someone that was familiar with Mississippi. That loves Southern Miss. And with that it was a pretty easy decision."
Weatherspoon's playing days are behind him, but he feels there is still much to contribute to the game.
"I was successful outside of coaching and stuff," Weatherspoon said. "But once you commit yourself and your heart (to) always being an athlete, you always have that urge to be in the game. You're always going to have that urge to be around the game."
Sadler said there is something invaluable to having the level of experience that Weatherspoon brings.
"One thing that I learned from the year that I was with Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State is these guys that have played at the level that Clarence has played at sees the game at a whole different level," he said.
That new level talk was a constant theme. The hope is that the hiring of Weatherspoon and Croft creates a stronghold within the state's recruiting scene.
Croft, a Southern Miss alum and former student manager, remembers the heights that the Golden Eagle program reached in the early 90s.
"We had a pretty good thing going at that time in the Metro Conference and transitioning into Conference USA," he said. "We were metro conference championship both years I was here (during) undergrad and playing Louisville. And we want to get back to that."
Weatherspoon was right in the middle of USM's hoops glory days. The program made NCAA tournament appearances in 1991 and 1992.
He recalls this was all done by "Mississippi kids."
"We accomplished a lot of things with that nucleus," Weatherspoon said. "That nucleus, as you know was based off good Mississippi kids that a lot of people thought maybe couldn't play at that high level"
And to the Mississippi basketball kids and community, Sadler has a message.
"From this day on there's not going to be anyone, any program, high school, junior college, AAU, that's not going to say that Southern Miss has recruited and been seen more than any other program in the state," Sadler said.