April 9, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
There is no substitute for hard work.
That might sound like a cliché coaches and players trot out in an effort to explain their success.
But that mentality has served Nashedra Barry and Natalie Tate well for the past four years, so they don''t see any reason to stop now.
On Wednesday, the Columbus High School girls basketball standouts showed how much their hard work has paid off when they signed national letters of intent to play basketball at East Mississippi Community College.
The signing of Barry and Tate capped a busy day for EMCC coach Sharon Thompson, who also signed Keyosha Robinson of Class 3A state runner-up Southeast Lauderdale High School and Weir High School''s Alvionna Knox.
Thompson knows the Lady Lions will be a younger team in 2009-10, but she is confident Barry and Tate can help the program build on its 25-7 finish and its MACJC''s North Division and Region 23 championships, and its appearance in this season''s NJCAA national tournament.
"I spoke with (Columbus) coach (Yvonne) Hairston just the other day and she spoke very highly of their work ethic," Thompson said. "That is what we''re looking to bring in, not just kids who are good players, but kids who are great student-athletes and kids who have that work ethic."
Tate, a 5-foot-3 point guard, averaged a team-high 16 points, six assists, and three steals per game as a senior. Her season-high of 34 points came against Choctaw Central. She is a three-time team MVP.
Barry, a 6-foot forward, averaged 12 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocked shots per contest this season. She scored a season-high 26 points against Hattiesburg, and led the Lady Falcons in rebounding the past two seasons.
Hairston, who has coached each of the players for the past six seasons, said EMCC is a great opportunity for both young ladies. She said their ability to raise their game to the highest level of junior college basketball will be their biggest challenge.
"I know they will step up and do what they have to do to be successful," Hairston said. "They have proved it at Columbus High School, and I know they will do well there, too."
Hairston credited Barry''s and Tate''s work ethic for helping them realize their goals. She said both players worked extremely hard in practice, and she believes they will give Thompson the same kind of effort.
Tate said her hard-working attitude, her dependability, and her court vision will help her make the transition to the next level.
"I am just excited and ready to start something new," Tate said. "I have just worked hard and have done my best."
Barry, who also will play softball at EMCC, echoed her teammate''s thoughts. She said Hairston''s coaching helped her realize a dream to play sports in college.
"It is definitely going to be tough, but I am used to balancing stuff," said Barry, who also competed in slow-pitch softball and in track and field in high school.
Thompson, who has been at EMCC for eight years, first saw Barry and Tate play in the ninth grade. She said she knew then she wanted to bring the players into the program,
"You can tell ballplayers," Thompson said. "You can tell players who kind of stand out, and with both of them being good students, it is great to bring kids like that into your program. It speaks to the direction our program is going."
n EMCC men''s basketball signs two: At Scooba, Meridian High School''s Donovan Walker and Joe McCoy of Raymond High School are the first two men''s basketball signees of the current signing period for East Mississippi Community College.
The signings were announced Wednesday by EMCC men''s basketball coach Mark White.
n ICC basketball signs 11: At Fulton, Itawamba Community College''s basketball programs signed 11 players on Wednesday.
Coach Nanci Gray and her Lady Indians inked seven from the area, while coach Marty Cooper and his Indians signed four players.
The Lady Indians signed a pair from Fulton, Anna Dill and Noel Prestage, Mandy Collins, the Tupelo Lady Wave MVP, and Tupelo High''s Trenisha Trice, Houston High''s Tiffany Pierce and Katherine Payne, and Calhoun City''s MVP Ebony Williams.
The ICC men''s program signed Shannon''s Xavier Ruth, a transfer from Delta State, and Shannon High''s Denardo Watkins, Nettleton''s Jamal Farr, and Tupelo''s Devon Shannon.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.