PRCC’s Oney named national Coach of Year
POPLARVILLE, Miss. (WDAM) — The season has long been over, but firsts keep rolling in for Pearl River’s record-setting men’s basketball team.
Just days after two Wildcats were named All-America in the same season for the first time in program history, the man who called all the shots in 2019-20 took his turn in the spotlight.
The National Junior College Athletic Association announced Friday that PRCC men’s coach Chris Oney had been named the Division I Coach of the Year.
“This is well deserved recognition for Coach Oney,” Pearl River President Adam Breerwood said. “His hard work and commitment to our men’s basketball has propelled Pearl River to become the best JuCo program in the country.
“I am proud of him, his staff and our exceptional players. Coach Oney takes great pride in not only recruiting premier players, but he also works relentlessly to provide life-changing transfer opportunities after completing their time at PRCC.”
The honor is a first in PRCC program history. Additionally, Oney is only the second MACJC and Region 23 coach to be honored by the NJCAA — and the first since the 2013-14 season.
The NJCAA Coach of the Year honor will accompany 2019-20 Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges and Region 23 awards on Oney’s mantle.
“I’m incredibly humbled to receive this recognition from the NJCAA,” Oney said in a statement. “It’s an honor to have my name etched alongside the names of so many other great coaches who have received this award before me.
“Although recognized as an individual award, I understand this took the effort of so many people, from my players and assistants to a complete buy-in and belief in me from Pearl River. I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank PRCC’s administration and my family for their unwavering support.”
The honor comes on the heels of a remarkable — yet bittersweet — 2019-20 season.
The Wildcats entered the year with high hopes after claiming the program’s first Region 23 championship and earn PRCC a first-ever NJCAA tournament slot in 2018-19.
With expectations at an all-time high, the Wildcats rose to the occasion.
A year ago, the Wildcats were the nation’s final undefeated team before eventually falling late in the MACJC schedule.
This year, Oney’s Wildcats held their unblemished mark through non-conference, regular-season, MACJC postseason and Region 23 games. PRCC finished as the NJCAA’s lone undefeated team.
To keep their perfect schedule intact, the Wildcats (28-0), Pearl River didn’t slow down during its postseason run.
PRCC dispatched Itawamba Community College, Jones College and Northeast Community College to claim the MACJC title. The Wildcats then turned away Southern University-Shreveport, Hinds Community College and JC to earn the automatic bid into the NJCAA tournament with a second consecutive Region 23 Championship.
PRCC’s final victory — the fourth of the season over archrival Jones College — guaranteed the Wildcats would be the first MACJC and Region 23 team to enter the NJCAA Tournament undefeated. The Wildcats’ 28 wins also marked a program-best.
Shortly thereafter, the Wildcats made more history when they were awarded the No. 1 overall seed in the NJCAA tournament, a first for any Mississippi program.
Then, the Wildcats had their chance to play for a national championship taken from them because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
Offense often gets most of the notoriety, but it was PRCC’s defense that never failed the champs.
PRCC spent most of the season as the nation’s top defense and finished the year boasting the NJCAA’s second-best scoring defense, holding opponents to a 60.4-point clip.
“We always talk about how the defense is the key to the ignition,” Oney said. “In order for us to get out and do the things we’re capable of doing on the offensive end, it had to start with strong defensive stretches to make sure the other team couldn’t do what they wanted to.”
After four seasons at the helm of the Wildcats, Oney has built a 91-18 overall record. His 93.1 percent winning percentage over the last two seasons is tops in the NJCAA.
Oney isn’t the only Wildcat who has taken home hardware this season.
Sophomore guard Tae Hardy and sophomore forward Isaih Moore both were named All-MACJC, All-Region 23 and All-Region 23 tournament selections.
Hardy was named to the NJCAA All-America First Team, while Moore was named to the Second Team.
Sophomore forward Rodgerick Brown also was named to the All-Region 23 and All-Region 23 tournament teams.
The Wildcats are once again sending a number of players on to the next level.
Moore has already signed with St. John’s University. Hardy is committed to the University of Southern Mississippi, Brown is headed to Tulsa University and Cameron Smith has committed California State University-Bakersfield.
It may seem like hyperbole, but Oney believes next year’s team could once again raise the bar for PRCC.
On Monday the Wildcats announced their initial six signees for the 2020 signing class, including Ankerion Gross of North Panola High School; KeDarius “Squirt” Stampley of Natchez High School; Cameron Brown of Hattiesburg High School; Jaquevias Tarvin of Brandon Hugh School and Joe Cooper of Olive Branch High School.
The five high school standouts were joined by Daytona State College transfer and one-time Kansas State University commitment Damerius Wash.
Copyright 2020 WDAM. All rights reserved.