Four EMCC teams and 45 student-athletes garner NJCAA All-Academic recognition

Published 2:53 pm Wednesday, July 13, 2022

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — East Mississippi Community College’s student-athletes continue to make academic headlines with a school-record 45 recipients earning NJCAA All-Academic Student-Athlete Award honors for the 2021-22 academic year. In addition, four EMCC teams earned NJCAA All-Academic Team recognition, as the NJCAA’s 2021-22 academic awards were announced this week by the national office.

Head coach Whitney Hawkins’ EMCC softball team once again set the pace for East Mississippi’s sports teams with a department-best 3.70 composite grade point average to rank tied for eighth nationally. EMCC’s softball program has now posted team grade point averages of 3.43 or better during 10 consecutive academic years, including collecting NJCAA Softball Academic Team of the Year honors three times (2012-13, 2013-14 and 2020-21).

Head coach Brett Kimbrel’s EMCC baseball club capped its best season overall since 2015 by ranking tied for seventh nationally with a new program-best 3.53 composite GPA. Along with posting the program’s most overall wins (28), best conference record (20-8) and first NJCAA Region 23 Tournament appearance in seven seasons, the Lions’ conference-best team GPA this past season set a new single-season program standard for the second straight year.

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In her final season on the sidelines before retiring from coaching to concentrate on her administrative responsibilities, current EMCC Director of Athletics & Dean of Students/Scooba Campus Sharon Thompson’s 2021-22 women’s basketball team recorded a program-best 3.33 composite grade point average with four NJCAA All-Academic recipients.

Head coach Buddy Stephens’ Lions football team followed with a 3.00 team GPA to reach the coveted mark for the third time in the last five years, including earning NJCAA Football Academic Team of the Year honors during the 2017-18 and 2019-20 school years. On the gridiron, EMCC went undefeated (9-0) during the regular season and climbed to the top of the NJCAA Division I football poll before finishing the 2021 season ranked sixth nationally.

Not affiliated with the NJCAA but instead members of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA), head coach Morgan Goodrich’s men’s and women’s rodeo teams combined to record a collective 3.54 GPA during the 2021-22 school year. In the rodeo arena, the EMCC women finished sixth at this year’s College National Finals Rodeo to record a second straight national top 10 finish.

Individually in 2021-22, East Mississippi had 30 or more student-athletes earn NJCAA All-Academic honors for the fourth consecutive year, including a previous department-high 39 academic honorees in 2019-20. Of the school-record 45 recipients who were nationally recognized for their academic excellence during this past academic year, EMCC set another school standard with 17 student-athletes who were tabbed NJCAA All-Academic First Team for touting perfect 4.00 grade point averages this past year. EMCC also featured 16 second-team, all-academic recipients for having GPAs between 3.80-3.99 as well as adding 12 academic third-teamers for posting GPAs between 3.60-3.79.

Head coach Billy Begley’s conference tournament champion men’s basketball team posted a 2.72 grade point average, while head coach Ashton Maddaloni’s first-year men’s golf team followed close behind with a 2.66 GPA. As a group, including rodeo, East Mississippi’s sports teams combined to record a collective 3.25 GPA during the 2021-22 academic year.

With a new school-record 17 student-athletes achieving perfect 4.00 GPAs this past year, EMCC has now featured a dozen or more NJCAA All-Academic First Team recipients during each of the last four academic years. The previous school standard for most student-athletes in a school year with 4.00 GPAs was 15 set a year ago.

EMCC’s softball and baseball teams also led the way with seven and five respective team members earning NJCAA All-Academic First Team honors for registering 4.00 GPAs in 2021-22. The sophomore softball tandem of Kaitlynn Stroud and Taylor Watkins completed their two-year EMCC careers with cumulative 4.00 grade point averages. Freshman softball players Anna Lauren Bain, Carley Martin, Meleah Pogue, Raegan Pritchett, and Celeste Study also posted 4.00 GPAs in 2021-22. EMCC’s softball program has now had at least nine players receive NJCAA academic awards for having GPAs of 3.60 or better during each of the last seven years.

For the second straight year, EMCC’s baseball program set a new school standard with 17 players collecting national academic accolades, including first-team recipients Blayze Berry, Jackson Cook, Coby Holmes, Parker Wood, and Ryan Wood for having 4.00 GPAs.

Rounding out EMCC’s list of 2021-22 first-team academic honorees were the football quartet comprised of Cameron Hines, Ja’Quaris Jamison, KJ Lawrence and Zias Perryman as well as women’s basketball freshman Sukkima Suell.

EMCC’s 16 NJCAA All-Academic Second Team recipients (3.80-3.99 GPA) included: seven in baseball (Jonah Caskey, Braxton Miller, Wesley Sides, David Dickerson, Zack Griffith, Zac Butler, and Cade Davis); five in football (Joshua Aka, Lee Kpogba, Tyler Hodges, Zach Patterson, and Tonorris Brookins II); two in softball (Maggie Meadows and Haley Freeman); and one each in women’s basketball (Siarra Jackson) and men’s golf (Matthew Phillips).

East Mississippi’s 12 NJCAA All-Academic Third Team honorees (3.60-3.79 GPA) included: five in baseball (Drew Brown, Halen Sanford, Kylan Stepter, Ethan Medlin, and Trey Trosclair); two apiece in softball (Aislynn Cochran and Lauren Pickett), football (Jeremy Mack Jr. and Peyton Rodgers) and women’s basketball (Kennedi Jimison and Zaniyah Brown); and one in men’s basketball (Jakorie Smith).