POPLARVILLE – Pearl River Community College men’s basketball coach Chris Oney said he wanted his first recruiting class to be based on local prospects, and so far, the results have borne that out.
PRCC announced an initial signing class of six players, three of whom come directly from the school’s six-county district, which consists of Forrest, Hancock, Jefferson Davis, Lamar, Marion and Pearl River counties.
All six come from within the state of Mississippi.
“We’re very excited about the guys we’ve got,” said Oney, who took over as the Wildcats coach in November.
“It’s always been a priority of mine to recruit local kids whenever possible. They have a good concept of what the program is about, and they have a lot of friends and family that are able to come to the games. They deserve our first look.”
Among the local kids who signed junior college scholarship offers with the Wildcats last week were Craig Barnes of Poplarville and Ryan McRaney of Sumrall.
Barnes, a 6-foot-8 forward, averaged 14.8 points and 10.5 rebounds for the Hornets this past season, while McRaney averaged 20.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.0 steals a game, earning Player of the Year honors from the Hattiesburg American and Pine Belt Sports.
“They were the first team to recruit me,” said McRaney, a 6-3 shooting guard. “I liked the coaches and the players I met. It looked good enough for me to want to go there.”
As a hometown product, Barnes got a chance to play some pickup games with some of the departing players, including PRCC sophomore All-America Darrlyn Willis.
“I liked the way he played; it’s a lot like how I play,” said Barnes. “I just liked everything about the program. It’s got the best of everything among the jucos. I especially love the coliseum.”
Also joining the Wildcat program are a pair of Holmes County products, 6-1 point guard Rodney Mallett from Holmes County Central High School and 6-1 shooting guard Je’Varius Dixon from Durant.
Dixon averaged 19.7 points and 2.3 assists for Durant this past season, while Mallett averaged 14.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists for the Jaguars.
Other signees for Pearl River include Levi Strong, a 6-7 center from Hancock who is transferring from William Carey University, and J’Vari Thigpen, a 6-5 forward from Jackson Callaway.
Oney said he is looking to sign several more players in hopes of replacing the 10 sophomores who are departing the program after posting a 16-9 record this past season and winning back-to-back MACJC South Division championships.
“We lost so many guys,” said Oney. “You never how a recruiting class is going to pan out until they get on campus, but this group reminds me of the class we signed two years ago. We’re looking forward to getting them on the court.”
The initial list of Pearl River men’s basketball signees:
Player Ht. Pos. Hometown/HS/Previous School
Craig Barnes 6-8 PF Poplarville, MS/Poplarville
Je’Varius Dixon 6-1 SG Durant, MS/Durant
Rodney Mallett 6-1 PG Lexington, MS/Holmes County Central
Ryan McRaney 6-3 SG Sumrall, MS/Sumrall
Levi Strong 6-7 C Kiln, MS/Hancock/William Carey
J’Vari Thigpen 6-5 F Jackson, MS/Callaway