Booneville, Miss. – Northeast Mississippi Community College has selected its eighth class of dignitaries to enter into its prestigious Sports Hall of Fame.
Phillip Chapman, Donnie Clayton, Robert Henry, Tamica Pierce Jones and Tim Kesler are set for enshrinement during a ceremony in the Claude Wright Room of the Haney Union at 4 p.m. on Thursday, October 1.
These five individuals will also be recognized prior to the 7 p.m. kickoff of the Tigers’ homecoming football game against league opponent Mississippi Delta Community College.
This group of men and women together account for two National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-American awards, four Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) All-State selections and multiple postseason appearances in their respective sports.
Tickets are on sale for the event and its accompanying meal at a cost of $15. For more information, contact athletic director Kent Farris at 662-720-7309 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phillip Chapman (Baseball, 2008, 2009)
Phillip Chapman was a pivotal part of the resurgence that Northeast Mississippi Community College has experienced on the diamond since the turn of the century.
Chapman guided the Tigers to 65 victories during his tenure with the Tigers, which is the most over a two-year period in school history. Northeast also set a program record for wins in a single season with 33 during his sophomore campaign.
The Clinton native helped the Tigers finish as the runner-up in the MACJC North Division for two consecutive years while under the tutelage of Farris. Northeast parlayed that success into a pair of playoff berths as well.
Chapman was selected to the MACJC All-State team after a stellar freshman campaign. He compiled a .370 batting average with seven home runs, 23 RBIs and a .984 fielding percentage.
He increased his productivity offensively one year later. Chapman led the Tigers to an appearance at the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament with team-highs of nine homers, 39 RBIs and a .640 slugging percentage.
Chapman was tabbed as a NJCAA Preseason All-American prior to his final campaign on the Booneville campus. He repeated as a MACJC All-State selection that year as well.
The 5’11”, 190 pounder signed a scholarship with the University of Memphis (Tenn.) and immediately worked his way into the starting lineup as the catcher. He paced the Tigers with 121 consecutive innings behind the plate against Conference USA competition.
He had perhaps his best outing while with Memphis on April 3, 2010 at Marshall (W.Va.) University. Chapman went 4 for 5 with a career-high five runs scored in a 21-13 victory over the Thundering Herd.
Chapman connected for his initial long ball with the Tigers one week later during a series against East Carolina (N.C.) University. He added a nine-game hitting streak that spanned two months as well.
He was also the everyday backstop for the Tigers as a senior and gunned 31 percent of runners that attempted to steal a base. Chapman batted .321 with 42 RBIs and a team-high 21 doubles.
Chapman lifted Memphis to a 30-27 overall record that season and to a bid in the Conference USA Tournament at Pearl’s Trustmark Park. The Tigers captured a win over the University of Alabama at Birmingham, but lost to Rice (Texas) University and the University of Central Florida in pool play at the home of the Southern League’s Mississippi Braves.
He was selected by Minnesota in the 35th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball (MLB) First-Year Player Draft. Chapman reported to Fort Myers, Fla., in June to play for the Gulf Coast League Twins.
Chapman participated in 33 games during his first and only professional season and amassed solid numbers. He had a .392 on-base percentage and .442 slugging percentage with 32 total hits.
He had twelve doubles and one triple in the short campaign that spans a period of two-and-a-half months. Chapman had 21 RBIs, 18 runs, four sacrifice flies and was hit by a pitch on six occasions.
The Clinton High School graduate accumulated 137 putouts and 10 assists during his time behind the dish and in left field for the Twins. Chapman caught 10 of 19 players that tried to swipe a bag as well.
Chapman also excelled in the classroom at both Northeast and Memphis. He was inducted into the Iota Zeta chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and was named to the Capital One Academic All-District IV team by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Donnie Clayton (Football, 1968, 1969)
Donnie Clayton was one of the first signees for the then-Northeast Mississippi Junior College football team following its resurrection from an over decade-long hiatus.
Clayton was among five standouts from Ripley High School that inked with the Tigers and their new headman W.B. “Bill” Ward. They ensured that the program was not done away with again by winning 11 games over a two-year period.
Northeast was victorious in its initial contest back from the layoff with a 33-20 decision over Southwest Mississippi Community College. The Tigers followed that with a 28-17 triumph versus Hinds Community College one week later.
Northeast eventually picked up wins against rivals Itawamba Community College and Northwest Mississippi Community College to conclude Clayton’s freshman season with a 4-5 overall record.
The Tigers improved drastically during the following campaign and went 7-2 with Clayton on the field. That was the second most wins in a single season at the time and still remains third on the all-time list.
Northeast ended that season on a four-game winning streak with positive outcomes versus Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Itawamba and Northwest.
Clayton was part of two of the most prolific offenses in school history. He was the top receiver on a pair of squads that equally averaged 26.7 points per game, which is tied for second in school history.
The 48 points that Clayton and his teammates scored in 1968 against Itawamba and 1969 versus East Central Community College remains the sixth highest total in one game ever for Northeast.
The 240 total points that each of Clayton’s squads compiled is knotted for sixth most in one season. It was also the second highest amount over a pair of seasons ever for the Tigers.
Clayton was chosen as a MACJC All-State selection twice during his tenure at Northeast. He topped the Tigers in receiving yards from the tight end position as a sophomore.
He was honored as Northeast’s second NJCAA All-American on the gridiron following the conclusion of his last campaign in the City of Hospitality. His quarterback Johnny Buskirk also garnered the same countrywide honor that year.
Robert Henry (Football, 1972, 1973)
Robert Henry may be known predominantly as an outstanding coach, but his pigskin career truly began to blossom as an athlete at then-Northeast Mississippi Junior College.
Henry was a talented defensive standout for the Tigers that Ward, who is a NJCAA Hall of Famer, used at multiple positions. He was named the most valuable player for his unit after seeing action at linebacker and on the line.
Northeast captured victories over East Mississippi Community College and Southwest Mississippi Community College during Henry’s inaugural campaign on the Booneville campus.
The Tigers improved the following year and captured four wins with Henry on the field. Northeast defeated Southwest for the second straight season and also bested East Central Community College, Hinds Community College and Holmes Community College.
The three wins against opponents from the MACJC South Division is tied for the second most in a single season in program history. The Tigers also accomplished the same feat during the 1974, 1980 and 1989 campaigns.
Henry was the only freshman to earn a spot on the MACJC All-State team. He received an invitation to participate in the annual MACJC All-Star Game following his sophomore year as well.
The Corinth native switched sides of the football after signing with the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and lettered at offensive guard in 1975. He graduated two years later and began a 35-year coaching career that fall at Laurel’s R.H. Watkins High School.
Henry moved into the collegiate ranks in 1980 at the University of Southern Mississippi. His defense topped the nation in scoring one season after his arrival in Hattiesburg.
His third stop was at powerhouse Southern Methodist (Texas) University. Henry was the defensive line instructor at a school that compiled a 43-14-1 overall record during his five-year stay with appearances in the Aloha Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Sun Bowl.
Henry accepted the same post at the University of Tennessee prior to the 1987 campaign. He returned to the Magnolia State after only one season with the Volunteers to serve as the defensive coordinator at Ole Miss.
He helped the Rebels compile 27 triumphs and back-to-back bowl appearances with a victory over the United States Air Force Academy (Colo.) in the 1989 Liberty Bowl and a loss to the University of Michigan at the 1991 Gator Bowl. Henry was nominated for Southeastern Conference (SEC) assistant coach of the year while at Ole Miss in 1988.
Henry took a short hiatus from coaching, but returned to the gridiron at Northwestern State (La.) University in 1994. He has completed stints at fellow NCAA Division I institutions Baylor (Texas) University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Wyoming as well.
The Corinth High School alumnus most recently found success at the NCAA Division II level. He drastically improved Henderson State (Ark.) University’s defense over his five-year tenure.
The Reddies went from conceding 403.5 yards per game to giving up only 276.9 yards with Henry on the sidelines. Henderson State ranked 10th nationally during the 2007 season by only allowing opposing offenses to compile 267.4 yards.
Henry was hired in January 2010 at the University of West Alabama. He developed the Tigers’ defense into a top-five unit overall nationally and the best at pass efficiency.
He instructed cornerback Malcolm Butler as the defensive coordinator for West Alabama. Butler secured New England’s victory over Seattle in the National Football League (NFL) Super Bowl XLIX with an interception late in the contest.
Tamica Pierce Jones (Women’s Basketball, 1999-2000, 2000-01)
Tamica Pierce Jones was the latest in a long line of successful student-athletes that took the floor for Northeast Mississippi Community College and its NJCAA Hall of Fame instructor Ricky Ford.
Jones entered into the lineup as a freshman and instantly led her squad to prominence by compiling a solid 19-7 overall record and winning the tenth MACJC North Division championship in program history.
The Decatur, Ga., native was the lone returning starter for the Lady Tigers one year later. She stepped up her production as part of a predominantly youthful team and averaged astounding numbers of 24.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.
She was recognized for her outstanding efforts by earning NJCAA All-American honors. Jones became the seventh Northeast standout to receive this prestigious countrywide accolade.
Jones was also tabbed as a MACJC All-State performer after leading the Lady Tigers to their second straight division title and 19th consecutive appearance at the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament.
She recorded another double-double in her final game at Northeast with 17 points and 14 boards in a loss to Copiah-Lincoln Community College at Mississippi College’s A.E. Wood Coliseum. Jones concluded the campaign as the top scorer in the Magnolia State.
The 5-10 forward represented Northeast at the 24th annual MACJC All-Star Game on the grounds of East Central Community College. She scored a team-high 17 points as the North lost a 91-88 heartbreaker to the South on April 6, 2001.
Jones continued to excel on the court after signing with Florida Atlantic University. She barely missed becoming the eighth Lady Owl to score 500 points in a single year after totaling 497 as a junior.
She was named to the 2002 All-Atlantic Sun Conference first-team after guiding Florida Atlantic with 16 points per outing. Jones finished third among all athletes in the league in scoring and ninth in rebounds with an average of 6.9.
Jones was also incredibly accurate from the free throw line. She placed sixth in the Atlantic Sun with a 76.7 percent ledger from the charity stripe and was specifically 168 of 219 on those free shot attempts.
She scored in double figures during 25 contests in her initial campaign on the Boca Raton, Fla., campus. Jones tallied a career-high 28 points on January 9, 2002 against the University of Central Florida.
Jones accumulated six double-doubles for the Lady Owls and had a season-best 13 rebounds on January 14, 2002 versus Mercer (Ga.) University. She was a perfect 10 of 10 on free throws twice that year in games against Belmont (Tenn.) University and Jacksonville (Fla.) University.
She helped Florida Atlantic make a run to the Atlantic Sun Tournament championship matchup versus Georgia State University. The Lady Owls defeated Campbell (N.C.) University and Mercer on back-to-back nights to qualify for the title tilt.
Jones currently sits at 11th on the list of top scorers in program history with 865 total points in just two seasons with the Lady Owls. She has the third highest scoring average for Florida Atlantic with 14.6 points each matchup.
She still holds the school records for the most free throws made in one season with 168 and most shots attempted at the charity stripe at 219 during the 2001-02 campaign.
Tim Kesler (Men’s Basketball, 1981-82, 1982-83)
Tim Kesler guided the already tradition-rich hoops squad at then-Northeast Mississippi Junior College to more prosperity with numerous outstanding performances.
The Tigers compiled a regular season overall record of 21-4 during Kesler’s inaugural season in the City of Hospitality. That included a solid mark of 11-3 against MACJC North Division competition.
Northeast captured two-game sweeps that year over conference opponents Coahoma Community College, Itawamba Community College, Meridian Community College and Mississippi Delta Community College.
Kesler helped the Tigers capture the Jefferson State (Ala.) Tip Off Tournament championship during November 1981. Northeast defeated both Alexander City State (Ala.) Junior College, which is now known as Central Alabama Community College, and Lurleen B. Wallace (Ala.) Junior College to capture the title.
He pieced together several double-digit outings following the lengthy holiday break. Kesler tallied 18 points in a victory against East Mississippi Community College on January 28, 1982 and notched 17 points two days later during a 99-66 decision versus Mississippi Delta.
The Wheeler native helped the Tigers compile an undefeated month of February. Northeast claimed the MACJC North Division Tournament title at its home venue against rival Northwest Mississippi Community College in a contest that saw Kesler contribute 10 points during a close 42-39 contest.
The Tigers extended their hot streak by capturing the MACJC State Tournament crown. Northeast bested Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in the semifinal round to setup a showdown with Utica Junior College for the championship.
Kesler and his team did not hold a lead against the Bulldogs until 10 minutes remained in the game. The Tigers were able to hold onto their advantage for an 86-78 win versus Utica.
It was the third state championship trophy in program history. Kesler was one of five players to reach double figures for Northeast in the title tilt with 18 points.
Kesler was one of four returning athletes during the following campaign and once again started at point guard. He lifted the Tigers to another 20-win season with appearances at the MACJC State Tournament and NJCAA Region 23 Tournament.
Northeast started slowly with a 5-5 mark at one point. But the Tigers had two straight victories over East Central Community College and East Mississippi prior to the Christmas break to end the semester on a positive note.
Kesler’s crew went on to host the regional competition at legendary Bonner Arnold Coliseum. He scored 11 points in the opening round to direct the Tigers to a riveting 112-109 triumph over Delgado (La.) Community College.
He concluded his standout career at Northeast in an 88-80 loss to Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Tigers finished as the runner-up in the MACJC North Division as well during Kesler’s final campaign.
Kesler earned the Best Defense Award during his freshman year under the watch of coach Richard Mathis. He was selected to participate in the 1983 MACJC All-Star Game as well.
NOTES – These Northeast Sports Hall of Fame inductees currently live in the following cities:
Phillip Chapman – Olive Branch
Donnie Clayton – Southaven
Robert Henry – Guys, Tenn.
Tamica Pierce Jones – Ellenwood, Ga.
Tim Kesler – Saltillo
Photos provided by Northeast Mississippi Community College
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Sports Information Director
Northeast Mississippi Community College