2021 Homecoming to be Held in Person / Rachel Faulk

After COVID-19 relegated 2020 Homecoming events to a virtual format stripped of several beloved traditions, 2021 Homecoming is scheduled to be held in person once again on Oct. 29-30. 

In keeping with the current MC campus theme of “Rise Up,” inspired by Nehemiah 2:18, the theme of Homecoming this year is “Blue and Gold Rising.” Alumni returning to campus may participate in a golf tournament and attend class reunions, an awards brunch, a performance of Follies, and other events in addition to the traditional tailgate and football game on Saturday. Weather permitting, reunions will be held in the Quad this year.

Concerning the significance of Homecoming at MC, Chad Phillips, Associate Director for Alumni and Parent Engagement, said, “Homecoming is a time for alumni to return to campus and see all of the improvements that have happened since their graduation, remember old times on campus and reconnect with classmates.”

However, Homecoming is also a time of celebration filled with fun events for current MC students. The Homecoming Committee under the Campus Programming Board has planned a week of events for students to attend. 

“Homecoming is not just an event for alumni,” said Anna Davis, one of the Homecoming Committee chairs. “We have multiple events each day starting Monday all the way through Saturday for current students to come and enjoy.”

The week will include a combination of annual traditions along with some new events. Along with some smaller events, the schedule includes a service event where club and tribe members can earn points, an event where students can get to know the football team, and an intramural spikeball tournament. 

This year’s Homecoming Week also brings the return of a number of beloved traditions. The clubs’ and tribes’ annual Choctaw Cheer-Off will return this year, although due to the ongoing construction on the Caf patio it will most likely be held in a different location than in past years. Follies will be held Thursday and Friday of Homecoming Week, followed by the traditional tailgate, parade, football game, and court presentation on Saturday. 

Davis wants to encourage all students to come to the events planned for the week. “The events will be so much fun, and we will have giveaways all throughout the week!” 

However, Homecoming for students is more than just a week of exciting events. Wesley Thomas, the Board director overseeing the Homecoming Committee, said, “I think Homecoming is multifaceted in that, one, it’s great for alumni to come back and get to reinvest in the campus that poured so much into them, but also it’s great for connection’s sake. People that are still here are getting to meet the alumni that have already graduated, showing that we’re all just one big MC family.”

Homecoming plans are still subject to change based on COVID developments. “As we get closer to Homecoming, we will monitor the current state and CDC guidelines. We will make adjustments as necessary to make sure everyone can enjoy a safe Homecoming,” said Jonathan Nutt, Director of Student Engagement. “We are very excited about celebrating Homecoming on campus after not being able to last year.”

As Homecoming approaches, look out for the release of a detailed schedule of events as well as any updates due to the COVID situation.

A Look Back at the Past Year For MC Athletics / Jace Aymond

It would be a massive understatement to say that the past year has presented us all with many obstacles. From our own personal battles, family members, local businesses, and even this great campus of Mississippi College, it seems like everyone was impacted by the coronavirus one way or the other. One of the main groups impacted on campus was that of Choctaw Athletics, as no sport on campus had a traditional season like years before. But, like always, they charged through it, and many positives emerged from the chaos that last year presented. 

The only fall sports on campus that did not have to change their original season schedule were cross country and golf. Even with this, three of the seven meets the cross country teams were set to compete in were cancelled, but they had lots of success in the meets they did get a chance to compete at. Later in the year, the track and field teams were also able to compete in several events, and five athletes earned All-American honors. One of these was Tytavia Hardy, who placed 11th in the triple jump at nationals and was selected as the 2021 Most Outstanding Indoor and Outdoor Field Performer. 

During the strange semester, women’s golf launched into their first year as a sport on campus with freshmen Sarah Hodson and Jenna Belton leading the charge, competing in four tournaments throughout the year. The men’s side was also successful as they competed and placed well in nine tournaments. Football’s normal fall season was entirely cancelled, but the Choctaws picked up a few scrimmages against Arkansas Tech, Arkansas Southern, and Tarleton State. 

For the other fall sports that were cancelled such as soccer, volleyball, and basketball, the Gulf South Conference implemented a “Spring Championship Series” for these activities so the teams could salvage some part of their season. Basketball got the experience and playing time they needed in the shortened season to prepare for this winter. Both soccer teams performed well with the men making it to the conference semifinals and the women winning it all in an undefeated season. Finally, volleyball had a historic season and made it to the conference semifinals as well, making it the furthest in program history. 

The baseball and softball season went as planned, with only a few COVID-related cancellations along the way. Baseball finished the year 16-20 and although they missed the postseason, they are extremely ready and prepared for the season ahead. Softball on the other hand finished at 21-22 and made an impressive run all the way to the GSC championship game. Because of this, they were selected into the South Region of the NCAA Tournament held at Valdosta State. 

Finally, the tennis teams saw lots of action this past spring as the men went 3-13 but made the conference tournament where third-ranked Valdosta State cut their season short. The ladies ended their season sitting at 9-7 overall and also made the GSC tournament. They made it all the way to the semifinals but were defeated by a top-10 West Florida team.

The fall sports happening now and those set to get going in the near future can all agree on one thing: all of them are extremely excited to return to a sense of normalcy, and the students, faculty, and fans of Mississippi College Athletics could not be more in agreement. 

Smith-Moore Shines in Football Victory / Jace Aymond

The Mississippi College football team claimed their first conference win of the season with a 42-21 win over North Greenville University. While the Crusaders move to 3-2, the Choctaws are back to even with a 2-2 record and a 1-1 GSC record to match. 

North Greenville put the pressure on early with a 61-yard touchdown run by Tre’ Williams on the second offensive play of the game. The Choctaws’ first possession was the complete opposite as it was an over 11-minute drive capped off by a DeAnte Smith-Moore four-yard TD run. Smith-Moore was responsible for five of the six touchdowns on the day for the Choctaws.

In the second quarter, Smith-Moore added an 11-yard TD run and a 23-yard touchdown in the air to Marcus Williams. The Crusaders added an impressive score of their own with a 40-yard pass to Matthew Martin to put the score at 21-14 MC at the half. 

The second half was almost all Choctaws as Smith-Moore picked up two more rushing touchdowns and Jaylin Jones delivered the dagger with an 18-yard sprint into the endzone. Although Dre’ Williams added another touchdown to his ledger, it was not enough as the Choctaws used that second half push to claim victory and their first conference win of the season.

The Choctaws had nearly 500 total yards of offense, with 398 coming on the ground and 98 yards in the air off of only three completed passes. Smith-Moore was the leading rusher for MC as he had 110 yards on 22 attempts and five total touchdowns. The leading back, Cole Fagan, had 103 yards on the ground to his name with Marcus Williams picking up 93 rushing yards and a receiving touchdown. Defensively, Josh Miller picked off a Crusader pass and had a tackle for loss with DeShawn Washington also having a negative yard tackle while picking up a sack as well. 

The Choctaws host the nationally-ranked West Georgia Wolves in their third conference game this coming Saturday with kickoff set for 2:00 pm at Robinson-Hale Stadium.

MC Obliterate Fort Lauderdale 63-0 / Jace Aymond

After opening the 2021 season with a tough loss to Albany State in the home opener 28-0, the Choctaw football team looked for vengeance against the University of Fort Lauderdale, a school that has only competed in one football game prior to this one in their program’s history. Fortunately, the Choctaws took advantage of the inexperience of the Eagles and easily handled them, 63-0. 

The Choctaws started their dominance with a Zadok Esters interception on the first possession of the game that gave the Choctaws the ball on the Eagle’s 37 yard line. In the first quarter alone, MC put up five touchdowns from four different Choctaws. By the end of the game, seven different MC players scored the eight Choctaw touchdowns. 

Many of the Choctaws’ offensive opportunities came from defensive turnovers as Fort Lauderdale threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. Along with Esters, Josh Miller and Nick Grady picked off passes of their own. 

For the offensive, the Choctaws picked up 351 rushing yards to the Eagles’ nine with MC putting up 418 total yards to Fort Lauderdale’s 70. Tytus Heard went 2-2 on passing for 67 yards and a touchdown with Stephen Smith and Ian Thies being his receivers. Rushing-wise, Grant Collins led the way for MC for 105 yards on six carries with a score and quarterback Joshua Hernandez picked up 75 yards and a touchdown of his own. Cole Fagan and Jonathan Cobb Jr. also made their way into the end zone. 

The Choctaw end their three game home stretch to start the year with their first conference opponent in West Alabama this coming Saturday, September 25. The Tigers are also fresh off a blowout win over North American University and are undefeated this season. The game will be the first of two against West Alabama, with the upcoming game to be the only one to count in conference play. The last time MC football has played the same opponent twice in a single season was in the 1930s. Kickoff is set for 7:00 at Robinson-Hale Stadium.

Men’s Soccer Pick Up First Win At Home / Jace Aymond

In their home opener at Robert P. Longabaugh Field, the men’s soccer team blanked the West Ouachita Tigers 5-0 in an impressive win for Mississippi College. The Choctaws set the pace and never looked back early on with a goal by Filippo Bellu in the 13th minute from a corner kick. From there, the Choctaws never looked back as they added two more goals in the next 15 minutes from strikes by Noah Wagner and Zach Diallo. The second half saw two more goals by Wagner and Bellu, in the 58th and 86th minutes respectively. 

The Choctaws quadrupled the Tigers’ total shots by a margin of 16-4. None of Ouachita Baptist’s shots were on target, while all of MC’s shots on target found the back of the net. With MC’s five goals and their defense keeping the Tigers to limited chances to score, neither keepers for both teams recorded any saves. For the Choctaws, Noah Wagner recorded six of the 16 total shots, with two finding its way past the keeper. Filippo Bellu’s two total shots were both on target and tacked on two extra goals for the Choctaws. 

The now 1-2 Choctaws start conference play with a two-game road trip at Auburn-Montgomery this coming Friday, September 17 and Montevallo two days later on Sunday, the 19th. 

MC history professor leaves lasting impact on campus community / Stephen Griffin

In Charleston, S.C., history clings to everything like a wet blanket. Sullivan’s Island in Charleston County is the site of an important Revolutionary War battle, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, and a place that was considered the “Ellis Island of the South” — where enslaved Africans were quarantined before entering Charleston. It’s also where Otis Westbrook Pickett grew up.

Though he never would have seen himself teaching history growing up, it’s exactly what Pickett has been doing at Mississippi College since 2013. The associate professor of history also directs the university’s social studies education programs. An alumnus of Clemson University (B.A. ‘03), Pickett will return to his alma mater in July 2022, where he will serve as university historian.

Before attending Clemson, Pickett wanted to be like his grandfather, Otis M. Pickett, one of two town physicians in Mount Pleasant, S.C. from the end of WWII through the 1970s and a recipient of the Palmetto Award, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor. 

“He was my hero and my idol, and I wanted to be him,” says Pickett. “And I wanted to go to med school so I could be him. That lasted about a semester!”

Pickett also suffered from early-onset degenerative disc disease, multiple ruptured or herniated discs, and spinal stenosis. 

“My identity growing up was athletics. . .. And then, when I was eighteen, I couldn’t walk, and kind of had this really quick realization, like, ‘I’m going to have to find a career where I use my mind and not my body.’”

Pickett’s time at Clemson was extremely formative. 

“It was very sobering and revealing,” he says. “When you grow up in South Carolina in the 80s and 90s, there was not a lot of history around issues of race, or an interpretation of the Civil War or Reconstruction that represented the perspective of really anything outside of the Lost Cause narrative.” 

Having attended a Catholic high school, Pickett was comfortable talking about his faith before he arrived at Clemson. 

“I got very comfortable from a very young age sharing what happened in my faith journey,” he says. 

It wasn’t too long before Rev. Herman Robinson, an African American Baptist minister (and Pickett’s pastor), encouraged him to pursue pastoral ministry. 

“Herman told me — he called me ‘Wes’ — he said, ‘Wes, I think you’re going to be a pastor, and God’s going to use you in the church.’ 

After graduating from Clemson, Pickett and his wife Julie, whom he had met at the university, set off for Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Mo. 

Pickett often reflects on how his seminary experience shaped him: “I never thought I was qualified enough to be a Ph.D. professor at a university. I never felt like I was intelligent enough or good enough, and so seminary seemed like a really good step, and it was. I loved it.”

Despite the fact that he not only enjoyed seminary but excelled in it, something didn’t feel right for Pickett. Unlike many of his classmates, he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted out of a seminary degree. 

“[Professor] Sean Lucas, at that time, was like ‘Hey, you should think about history grad school.’ And I contacted my advisor from undergraduate and I asked him about that, and he said, ‘I always thought that would be a good fit for you.’ I was like, ‘Why didn’t you say that in undergrad?’”

Pickett had changed course but wouldn’t leave Covenant without an MA (Theological Studies) degree. For his last year in seminary, he focused exclusively on church history and worked as an intern in the archives of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). 

“That’s really where I fell in love with researching history,” he says.

Pickett applied to several programs before the College of Charleston accepted him and offered a full tuition waiver and a graduate assistantship at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture. Formerly the first school for African Americans in Charleston during Reconstruction, the Avery Center had been converted into a museum and archives. 

For Pickett, a native Charlestonian, a chance to work at the Avery Center was a chance to go home and to relearn the history of Charleston and South Carolina. 

“That was a really amazing educational experience. … I took classes in everything from the history of India to Germany, to the U.S. South, to the African American experience, to church history — I mean, Southern religious history, Native American history, and I was just eating it up.”

The Picketts came to Mississippi in 2008, where Pickett would begin Ph.D. studies at the University of Mississippi, working with Dr. Charles Wilson, whom several of Pickett’s former professors had studied under.

“That’s the reason I came to Mississippi, and my thinking was I was going to go right back to South Carolina and work. We ended up falling in love with the state and we ended up falling in love with its people. And I think the state is just such a very special place.”

Upon finishing his Ph.D., the newly minted Dr. Pickett was contacted by Mississippi College. MC needed someone with a very specific set of skills: someone with a Ph.D. in history who had also worked in educational settings and was a Christian. Pickett was asked to apply for the job.

“I didn’t know anything about MC at all when I was applying here. … And so, I started asking around Mississippians like, ‘What is MC like?’ And I kept hearing back: They produce a very high-quality student, a lot of students who want to go to law school, a lot of students who take their studies very seriously, and that faith is a huge part of the university’s mission. And that sounded like a place that Julie and I wanted to be.”

After three separate interviews and teaching a class, Pickett was offered the job and accepted. Pickett describes a picture-perfect “constellation” of things that made living and working in Clinton ideal, not the least of which were teaching and ministering at MC and attending Redeemer Church in Jackson, a multiethnic Presbyterian church where Pickett serves as a ruling elder.

After almost 10 years at Mississippi College, Pickett talks about what has made it a rewarding experience. 

“My favorite thing about MC is that there is a definite family feel here,” he says. “And you don’t typically see professors across disciplines working together a lot. And my favorite things I’ve been able to do here are teach interdisciplinary classes with professors from different departments. …To see how our disciplines can speak to one another, the freedom to do that here has been incredibly encouraging.”

An interdisciplinary approach to race and racial reconciliation have been central to Dr. Pickett’s academic and professional work since well before his arrival at MC. 

“My hope for Mississippi College moving forward is that Mississippi College can be a leader in that conversation,” he says. “I think we were one of the first Christian universities in the south to develop a prison education program that offer[s] credit to incarcerated learners.”

In all his endeavors at MC, from the first-of-its-kind Prison-to-College Pipeline Program to his advisement of social studies education students, Dr. Pickett has sought to leave a legacy of love.

“Just like my grandfather,” he says. “He tried to love and sometimes he failed, but kept trying to love his neighbor.”

The beloved professor has even had the opportunity to help officiate the weddings of former students.

Continuing to reflect on the university’s future, Pickett said, “It’s going to be an interesting time in the 21st century for Christian believers. And I would like to see Mississippi College help prepare Christians to kind of think through that as they enter the workforce.”

In the spring of 2022, Dr. Pickett announced that he would be leaving MC to serve as university historian at Clemson. The opportunity is a long-awaited homecoming for the fourth-generation alumnus. 

“Clemson, to us, is like — it’s home more than any other place in the world. And so, to get the opportunity to go back home is just an absolute dream I never thought would be realized ever.”

As the third university historian, Dr. Pickett is also the first university historian to be an alumnus of the institution. He will be transitioning his role into the university library system, where he will disseminate Clemson history to alumni and students and oversee the university’s historic properties, special collections, and archives. Finally, he will hold a clinical assistant professor position Clemson’s Department of Teaching and Learning.

Pickett will also work with Clemson’s provost and Dr. Rhondda Thomas, a professor of literature, on the Woodland Cemetery project. 

“The big story that has not been told about Clemson is the institution’s connection with the institution of slavery and convict leasing. … A lot of that stuff has not been really dealt with,” he says.

He describes his role as that of a trained historian who also understands Clemson alumni and South Carolinians and can help them process the institution’s history in the same way that he was taught as an undergraduate. 

“To really lovingly walk with people to help them understand is what I want to do.” 

Ultimately, Pickett’s purpose and drive at Clemson is the same as it has been at Mississippi College: “It gets at this question of, ‘What do you really want?’ and ‘What’s the real goal?’ Do you want to just destroy for the sake of destroying, or do you want people to grow? And as a teacher, my goal is to want people to grow.”

Football Shows New Looks in Spring Game / Charles Williams

The Choctaw football team capped off spring practices with their spring scrimmage Thursday night.  In front of a healthy crowd, bolstered by a bevy of visiting recruits, the offense and defense squared off in a contest that saw big plays on both sides.  

“We’ve got a lot of players who are good and have some experience, but we’re not where we need to be, and that’s what spring ball is all about, said head coach John Bland.  Going into his 8th season at the helm for the Choctaws, coach Bland was looking to see his team improve over the spring without any major injuries and was glad to see that happen.  

“We’re fortunate today I don’t think we had any serious injuries and throughout the spring we’ve been pretty lucky.”  

The Choctaws are looking to improve upon last season’s record of 4-6, and in the spring game, the offense previewed some new formations.  In recent years, the offense has relied heavily on the ground game playing under center and while we shouldn’t expect that to change any time soon, Choctaw fans may see the ball in the air a little more this coming season.  

“We will have to be able to throw the football to be able to win in this league.”  

Bland said that the Choctaws will operate out of the shotgun a little more this upcoming season, while still operating similarly to the way they have always played.

The Choctaws will report back for fall practice on August 6th before kicking off their 2022 season on the road at Albany State on September 3rd.  

MC Athletes Celebrated at Choctaw Sports Night / Caroline Hunt

The Mississippi College Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) hosted a special dinner and presentation for the Choctaw athletic community on Tuesday, April 5th in Anderson Hall. “Most Likely To” accolades and humorous “bests” were awarded to different teams on campus, including categories like “Best Shoe Game” and “Most Likely to be Found in the Caf.” 

The event was unlike previous sports banquets held at the Clinton university. The first-ever “Choctaw Sports Night” was a formal affair, dubbed black-tie optional, allowing a unique opportunity for the entire MC sports family to be together.

Seth Smith, a Jackson native and former MLB outfielder for five teams, including the Orioles and the Rockies, was the keynote speaker. Smith spoke about not getting lost in an athlete’s routine of his or her sport, remarking on the privilege it is to be an athlete. His main emphasis was focused on  translating what an athlete does on a field or court to a life of faith off the field, with Smith noting that what athletes do “isn’t just about sports.” 

Former MLB outfielder Seth Smith was the keynote speaker for the night. Smith has made appearances on professional teams like the San Diego Padres, the Oakland Athletics, and the Seattle Mariners. 

The MC Athletic Department sponsored the event, enlisting the assistance of SAAC’s Vice President Erin Hederman and Mississippi College’s University Events Coordinator Lori Bobo. The formal event encouraged MC athletes to dress up for a night of savory food, amusing team honors, an encouraging word on being an athlete, and, most importantly, fellowship with other student-athletes. 

“Our main goal for the event was to show the athletes of MC that they are acknowledged and to make them feel celebrated. It was really special to be in an environment, a whole atmosphere, where we were all able to come together for this one thing,” said Hederman, who is also a member of the Lady Choctaw soccer team. “We don’t get that many opportunities for stuff like that. Honestly, the best part of the whole experience was seeing everyone truly enjoying being together.” 

In between red-carpet photos of athletes and year-end highlights of the various MC sports represented, members of MC’s athletic community were made to feel welcomed, honored, and recognized for their weighty contribution to the department. 

Without the bodies in the room that night, there wouldn’t be football games to cheer for on Saturday, a team from MC represented in the GSC tennis tournaments, or a cross country or track and field team to travel to meets across the southeastern United States. 

The event, which was slated to happen almost two years ago but was postponed due to COVID-19, proved that however long the wait, it wasn’t in vain. 

The massive function, which had over 400 student-athletes, athletic administrators, and coaches in attendance, took a true team to pull off. With SAAC being the point of contact for university event coordination, the occasion was nothing short of a success. 

“My motto when planning anything is ‘success is in the details.’ Erin was so detail-oriented that my job was significantly easier because of her and her team,” said Bobo, who plans all large gatherings on campus. “I helped plan an entire banquet like this one before COVID[-19] and started planning another one for last year that wasn’t able to happen. With this one, it all came together so seamlessly.”

Notable figures also involved in the event’s coordination included Kenny Bizot, MC’s athletic director, co-sponsors of SAAC Dr. Keith Randazzo, an MC kinesiology professor from New Orleans, and Michael Shumaker, the head coach of strength and conditioning for Choctaw athletes, Blake Weir, the sports information director, and Brian Hanna, the AV Production Manager for Event Services.  

Brian Hanna and Blake Weir ran audio-visual production for the night. Weir’s department created team highlight reels and event graphics for the night featured on the big screens of Anderson Hall. 

Bizot emceed alongside Michael Wright, another familiar face on MC’s campus in the role of Acting Dean of Enrollment Services. The pair flipped between Bizot award-presenting and Wright telling jokes about Bizot’s Louisiana accent, or his “Cajun spice” as Wright noted.

“This was something that gave our athletes a chance to dress up and do something fun that wasn’t going to another practice or having a team meeting. It was also an opportunity for teammates and other athletes outside of everyone’s individual sports to cheer for one another,” Bobo said. “The biggest thing for me when I plan an event is if, as I’m sitting at the event, watching everyone, and taking it all it, the people in attendance are enjoying themselves and they know that the event was for them. That makes every bit of stress worth it.” 

Student-athletes dressed out for the black-tie optional occasion. One attendee remarked how special it was to have an event to “go all out for.” 

The Student-Athlete Advisory Board exists on NCAA campuses nationwide to be a voice for student-athletes. The mission statement of the sub-organization is to “serve as student-athlete liaisons that monitor and discuss happenings on campuses, within conferences, and at the national level,” according to its official website. 

The MC chapter of SAAC has put a new emphasis on growing awareness and campus relevance of the student-run organization this year with fresh leadership like Ava Dickerson as president, Hederman as vice president and event coordinator, and the rest of the SAAC officer body.​​ The SAAC sponsors are Shumaker and Randazzo, MC SAAC hopes to be a true resource and support for Choctaw athletes.

“Our future as an organization is bright. Coach Bizot has done such a good job at promoting us on campus. With his ambition and drive to make our athletics here better, the potential for more events like this one is possible,” said Hederman. “I just really want to thank everyone who was able to make this happen.”

If events like the Choctaw Sports NIght are any indicator of what a positive impact for the organization on MC’s campus looks like, it’s safe to say that SAAC “hit the ball out of the park.” 

Historic Year For Lady Choctaws Was Led by New Faces / Jace Aymond

Photo: Ally Alford (left), KB Bradley (center), and Taylor Ben (right), smile after defeating Delta State at home. Their 15-13 record was the most wins since returning to Division II in 2014. Choctaw Athletics

Almost every collegiate team, no matter the sport, is led by their seniors and upperclassmen while the new freshmen take their first year to adjust to how the college game is played and the student life that comes along with it. 

However, for the Lady Choctaw basketball team, it was the freshmen who stepped up and boosted the team.

They ended their season in the Gulf South Conference tournament quarterfinals against Lee University, a team who advanced to the national tournament. A second-half surge sealed the game for the Lady Flames as the game was tied at 30 at the half. Although an early exit, it was a historic year for the blue and gold. 

Their final record was 15-13, with an even 10-10 conference record, which was a massive improvement from only three victories in the ‘20-’21 season. Their 15 wins was the most in a season since returning to Division II in 2014, and the best record in 10 years. Additionally, it was the first time the Lady Choctaws have made the GSC tournament since the return. 

With all the accolades, the Lady Choctaws have much to look forward to and have their eyes on even bigger achievements when next season comes around.

The team consisted of nine juniors and seniors with seven sophomores and freshmen, and it was the underclassmen that provided a lot of the minutes. One of the freshmen who gave the blue and gold lots of minutes was Amelia Bell. The Illinois native played almost 25 minutes per contest, led the team in rebounds, and had the best field goal percentage at 51%. Not only leading the team, Bell was also second in the conference in blocked shots per game. The 6’1” freshman had to grow up fast, and she certainly met and surpassed all expectations coming into the year.

“The fact that we got that experience early on was really beneficial for us,” said Bell. “I feel like the seniors did such a good job of showing us the way. Even when we [freshmen] were playing, there was no jealousy and we all were just encouraging each other. I think that’ll really help us next year, especially with the new incoming class, because they’re supposed to be super good as well. With us already having these leadership qualities, I know it’ll be a big help.”

As far as the new freshman class coming in, Head Coach Greg Long has added four solid players to his roster for next season. Three of the four hail from Arkansas, a state that Long is all too familiar with, having coached at Central Arkansas University before coming to MC. They include post-minded Keller Bingham, point guard Brett Gardner, and pure shooter Ava Knoedl. The final player to join the squad is Karly Ivy from Ponder, Texas. Long complimented her pure jump shot and high basketball IQ and is excited to have all four girls to make an impact with the team next season.

Even with all that Bell did this season, another freshman provided many minutes and also led the team in many categories. That special freshman was Ally Alford. Averaging just under 24 minutes a game, Alford led the team in field goals made and her 55 three-pointers led her to lead the team in points per game at just over 13. She had a season-high 27 points against Union, the now top team in the country, and was 7-13 on three-pointers in the same game. The Batesville native already made big waves in the conference in only her first year, and undoubtedly is only going to get much better.

However, the upperclassmen had a major impact on the season as well. Senior Kayla Bradley had seven points a game and led the team in assists her final year in the blue and gold. As the only Lady Choctaw to start every game, NeNe Williams averaged almost four points and rebounds per game and provided both a post-presence and outside shot to go with it. Other key players coming off the bench were those like Alana Canady, who could catch fire quickly and never seemed to miss from the mid-range, and Kyiah Julien, who averaged just under double figures in scoring.

All in all, the Lady Choctaws can look back on this season with nothing but happy memories and a sense of pride that they accomplished what they did this past year.

“We’re super proud,” said Bell. “I feel that from the beginning, we knew the potential we had, but we also knew that we wouldn’t hit our peak until mid-season. We had some ups and downs like any other team, of course, but I really think we showed our big potential for years to come by how we did this year.”

The past season for MC women’s basketball was one filled with achieved expectations, and there is no doubt that bigger and better things are coming when November rolls around.

Choctaws Plagued By Injuries, But Solid Foundation Set / Jace Aymond

Photo: Galen Smith (15) rises up to block a shot in the final home game against Lee University. Smith, a junior, averaged just over 13 points per game in his first year with MC. Choctaw Athletics

It’s always hard to come to terms with things in life that are entirely out of one’s control, and it’s exactly the same in the sporting world. The main aspect completely out of anyone’s control that can affect a season is injuries. For the men’s basketball team at MC, it’s what plagued them for almost the entire season.

Four key players who got great minutes, and even were routine starters, were injured for a significant amount of time during the always-crucial conference part of the schedule. When GSC-leading scorer last year Brandon Boston became unavailable for the rest of the season after only a few conference games, it was the start of an uphill climb. 

Tradavis Thompson, who suffered a season-ending injury midway through the year, led the team in scoring with 14.5 points per game in only 14 games played. Seniors Lamont Berzat and Zach Jones also didn’t have a full season. Jones led the team in blocks, all while averaging 9.5 points a contest along with 5.4 rebounds in only 14 games played. Berzat led the team and conference in assists per game at just under five. The University of New Orleans transfer also averaged 8 points per game and was a leader on and off the court in his 16 games played.

Although the Choctaws went 7-19 on the season with a 5-15 Gulf South Conference record, there were some clear bright spots from those who had to step up and fill in for the injured players. 

One of those standout Choctaws was Galen Smith, a transfer from Louisiana College (now Louisiana Christian University). The junior out of Bay Saint Louis played in all but one game this season where he led the team in rebounds at 6.5 and also averaged just over 13 points a game. 

“Just trust in Coach [Bolden],” said Smith on how they were able to overcome the onslaught of injuries. “We just have to trust in what he’s asking us to do and the plays that he has for us.”

For first year head coach Randy Bolden, losing five quality players across the course of the season was the last thing he could have expected and wanted. However, he’s used this year to lay a foundation and build a new culture for the future of MC basketball filled with gritty play, stout defense, and a faster pace than years past.

“He’s trying to build a championship culture here,” Smith said of Bolden. “He knows that the past few seasons haven’t been all that great and I know that he wants to try and change that for us. I feel like we put a good foundation down this season and we can absolutely expect a GSC championship next year.” 

Another key player that stepped up in quality of play and minutes was Berzat, a Division I transfer from the Southland Conference. Along with his 8.3 points per game, he also led the entire conference in assists with 4.8 a contest in only 16 games played this season. In his absence from the floor, he acted as an extra assistant coach on the bench and was the first one off his seat to encourage his teammates when a timeout was called.

Although the record shows more losses than wins on the ledger, the Choctaws used their injury-ridden year wisely to perfectly set them up for the coming fall, when a healthy and much more improved team will present themselves in November. The blue and gold also returns four of their top six scorers for next season, along with freshmen and Smith down low to collect rebounds and provide a post presence. 

For an outsider taking a first glance at the Choctaws schedule and results from the rollercoaster season of last year, one would expect the blue and gold to be at the bottom of the standings in the Gulf South Conference for next season. However, the two factors that prove MC could have a breakout year when fall comes around and the two phrases that are music to the ears of the entire organization are “a healthy team” and “returning scorers and starters.” It’s the perfect scenario heading into the offseason, and for the Choctaws, it’s the start of what’s set out to be a magical season in November.

Choctaws football gain top tier experience / Braxton Lewis

LT Ikner is one of the most attractive names on the Mississippi College football roster. The upcoming senior defensive lineman hasn’t played a down for the Choctaws but brings Division I experience to the table. Ikner is a former walk-on for the Alabama Crimson Tide and is hoping to carry the DI energy over to Division II. 

The Daphne, Alabama, native started his collegiate career at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas. There he totaled 29 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 10 tackles for loss over the span of two seasons. Adversity was nothing that Ikner could not handle. During his freshman campaign at HCC, Ikner tore his ACL in their fifth game. Despite the injury and having a decline in numbers his second year, the University of Akron offered the JUCO product a spot on the team. 

“They couldn’t sign off my scholarship because apparently my injury could have a lasting effect on my back… Turns out, they had one scholarship left. It was out of me and a transfer out of Indiana. So they decided to get the running back instead of me,” Ikner said. 

Ikner never had an offer from the University of Alabama out of high school or junior college. However, the defensive lineman attended football camps across the south in high school. At those camps, Alabama representatives told him that they could not give him a scholarship offer, but if he needed them, they could give him a preferred walk-on spot. After the Akron scholarship offer fell through, a recruiting director asked the JUCO transfer if he wanted to come home to Alabama, and Ikner took the chance. 

Ikner became a member of the practice squad and did not have a scholarship. Due to the lack of scholarship and low grades, the former walk-on stepped away from the Alabama program. He was third on the depth chart. 

Nicholas Walker, also a former Division I athlete, played a portion of his collegiate career at the University of Illinois. The defensive back and St. Louis native had an exceptional 2021 season for the Choctaws where he racked up 29 tackles and three interceptions. Like Ikner, Walker also played at the JUCO level at Cisco College in Texas. Once at Illinois, Walker did not play much in his first year, but played frequently in his final two years in the program. During the spring 2020 season, Walker was a starter at the Nickel position, but later chose to opt out due to COVID-19. 

“We came back in the summertime and I decided that I wanted to opt out because of how the season was going and how people [were] getting sick,” Walker said. 

Both Walker and Ikner were around NFL and other professional football caliber players. Ikner sat behind players like LaBryan Ray, Phidarian Mathis, Justin Eboigbe, and Byron Young while at Alabama. In practices, he would go against Alex Leatherwood, who was chosen by the Las Vegas Raiders with the 17th overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft.

As for Walker, one of his former teammates from Illinois, Nate Hobbs, was drafted by the Las Vegas Raiders in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL draft. Walker reflected on his relationship with Hobbs and said that their position room at Illinois consisted of potential professional football players. 

“There’s way more than just him that’s about to go to the league. Tony Adams, he’s probably going to go. Kirby Joseph … he’s about to go to the league and get drafted. So it was really more of a brotherhood for the most part,” the St. Louis native said. 

Walker and Ikner entered the transfer portal. Both players had thoughts of leaving football altogether. Walker wanted to pursue a career in having a restaurant and Ikner only entertained the thought of making football his past. Ikner entered the portal wanting to find another home to showcase his talents, while the former Illinois product entered for the experience, hoping to hear from a coach. 

The Division I athletes both found their way to Clinton, Miss. Defensive Coordinator Tony Gilbert has a way of connecting with top talent and was the sole reason the two individuals wear navy and gold. 

“‘We really need a guy like you, you’re a great fit, we need some older, experienced guys and somebody that plays at your type of level.’ They were feeding me a lot of good stuff that I really liked. I didn’t have to be nobody that I wasn’t. I’m a real quiet guy and they told me that I needed to be a leader and they told me to stay true to who you are,” Ikner said on how Gilbert and his staff persuaded him. 

Walker and Gilbert had a connection before the 5’10” Missouri native came to Mississippi. Gilbert had coached Walker at a prior institution before he came to the Choctaws. 

“The only person I knew when I got here was Coach G, his wife, and [his son] Tony,” Walker explained. 

The former DI players believe that the intensity they bring in practice will trickle down to the rest of their team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. 

“When everybody starts firing up … that’s when intensity comes.When intensity comes, that’s how you start getting physical. When you start getting physical, you start playing as a team, start playing as a unit,” Ikner expressed.

Miles Miller finds an important role in reunion with former coach / Charles Williams

Caption: Miles Miller (1) drives past an Alabama-Huntsville defender en route to scoring a bucket. The Choctaws defeated the Chargers, the now #7 team in the South region, 73-70. Choctaw Athletics

Randy Bolden has high praise for sophomore guard Miles Miller. In his first year as head basketball coach, Bolden has relied upon a handful of players that he had previously coached; however, Miller has arguably had the biggest impact of any of them.  

Missing just one game this season, Miller had to step into a much larger role during the second half of the season after the Choctaws lost some of their key players including starting guards Lamont Berzat and Tradavis Thompson.  

I’ve known Miles since he was probably 13-14 years old,” said Bolden, who coached Miller at Meridian High School his freshman through junior year. “He’s been that coach on the floor, not only on the floor but off the court as well. He’s been very instrumental in trying to create the culture that we’re trying to create here at MC.”

With Berzat out, Miller had to step into the role of the starting point guard and has filled the role well. Averaging 35 minutes per game, Miller has rarely sat down in the last month as he has been one of the only players Bolden has trusted with running his up-tempo offense. Bolden’s trust has paid off for the Choctaws as Miller’s assist average has jumped all the way to four per game on the season, boosted by a 10 assist performance against CBU and a nine assist performance against Montevallo.  

“We’re gonna go as Miles goes,” said Bolden, putting a lot of trust in that young guard, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering their history. 

Since moving into his role as point guard Miller has become even more of a student of the game. Living with Berzat, the former starter, Miller said he has had a lot of conversation about playing the position, “just picking Lamont’s brain and watching a lot of film.”  

Miller has always been a student of the game, and playing for Bolden since ninth grade has certainly forged a special relationship between him and his coach. 

 “He was a very eager kid that wanted to learn and get better,” said Bolden.

And get better he did. Miller ended his high school career rated as a 3-star basketball prospect by 247Sports. Miller was all set to sign with the Naval Academy after his senior season to play basketball for the Midshipmen when his future plans were drastically changed.  

“My story is really crazy. Originally I was committed to the Naval Academy and then I had an incident where I was shot and my leg was broken.”

Because the break was so bad, a metal rod had to be inserted into Miller’s leg.  This made it impossible for him to attend the Naval Academy because of regulations saying that Midshipmen cannot have any metal in their bodies. Miller then turned to Ole Miss because of the relationship he had formed with their coaching staff during his recruitment. He would spend the next year re-learning how to walk, putting on weight, and recovering from his injury. Miller, who is currently listed at 170 pounds, said that after his surgery he had dropped down to 135 pounds.  

After spending a year at Ole Miss, Miller transferred to Lipscomb University where he got the opportunity to play under Lennie Acuff, who was named GSC Coach of the Year eight different times in his 22 years at Alabama-Huntsville. Over two years, Miller averaged 2.9 points per game and even notched 15 starts his freshman year.

Miller entered the transfer portal after having some injury trouble and being kept off the court during much of his sophomore season. According to Miller, he had noticed his former coach’s new position before even entering the portal, making it an easy decision to reunite with Bolden.  

“He’s definitely been the same Coach Bolden,” said Miller.  “I’ve had the opportunity to play for some amazing coaches for sure, but with Coach Bolden, the relationship that we have, it’s hard to compare.” 

Office of Student Success Increases Presence on Campus / Rachel Faulk

Photo: Tina Gustavis is one of the coaches who works with students in the Office of Student Success. The Office of Student Success is now located in the basement of Nelson Hall.

This year, Mississippi College’s Office of Student Success has undergone a process of revitalization designed to help them better serve students on campus and increase students’ awareness of the resources available to them. 

Formerly housed on the third floor of Nelson Hall, the Office of Student Success has recently relocated to the basement of Nelson following the relocation of Admissions to Alumni Hall. The Office of Student Success now shares the former Admissions area with Career Services and other similar departments. This move afforded these departments more space, and their proximity is beneficial as they now work together.

“We all work together as much as we can, we support each other, and we’re all here for the students,” said Student Success Coach Tina Gustavis.

Gustavis works in the Office of Student Success alongside Dr. Stephanie Carmicle, the Assistant Provost for Student Success, and two trained peer coaches. The Student Success coaches work with students who are struggling academically or may need assistance in areas such as note-taking strategies, time management, or working well with peers. The Office of Student Success also partners with a number of other departments on campus including Career Services and the Writing Center in order to connect students with resources to help them succeed academically and holistically.

To further assist students, the Office of Student Success has put on a series of skill-building workshops over the course of the semester. Topics included note-taking strategies, nutrition and learning, stress management and test anxiety, financial decision-making, and journaling for setting goals. 

 Another notable workshop dealt with grief and loss. “During COVID a lot of students have lost family members, they’ve lost friends, neighbors, and they’re just struggling with their academics due to anxiety. So we conducted a presentation on grief counseling, and our counseling services here on campus did an outstanding job with that presentation,” said Gustavis.

Another new development, Gustavis explained, is that the Office of Student Success is working with the MC athletic department to put on workshops for student-athletes to make them more aware of the resources available to them on campus. 

Beyond the skill-building workshops, all students are encouraged to visit the Office of Student Success in the Nelson basement, whether they need academic assistance or simply someone to talk to. “This is not just for certain students at MC; this is for all Mississippi College students,” said Gustavis. 

Student Success has resources and strategies which students can use both inside and outside of the classroom, and they are a great place to go for students wanting to change their major or undecided about their major. 

Even if a student is simply having a bad day and does not feel like going to class, Gustavis said, “You can stop by Student Success and we can talk and just come up with ways that you can feel better about going to class and being on time and dealing with time management and working together with your peers in the dorm. It goes as far as learning how to meet new friends here on campus.”  

Gustavis concluded, “We just want students to know that we are here and the resources are available to them, and we will be excited to see them here.”

The service dog community grows at MC / Chloe Newton

Photo: Chloe Newton Caption: (Left to right) Caroline Tate, Rebecca Pyburn, Sam Glaze, and Damon Purdy have been friends for about a year. Their service dogs, (left to right) Meadow, Beans, and Cooper, have been a major part of their MC journey.

Many of us are familiar with the film Pretty Woman. In this rom-com, Vivian Ward, the star character and prostitute, walks into a high-end clothing store, wearing not-so-high-end clothing. The store clerk immediately refuses to help Vivian. The next day, Vivian returns wearing name-brand attire and is unrecognizable to the store clerk, who lives off of commission. The clerk offers to help Vivian, but she rejects the help and walks out of the store. Moral of the story: Don’t judge others based on appearance. Moms repeatedly remind their children to be nice to everyone and to not stare at people that look different. These are basic manners. Even on a college campus, where students come from all backgrounds and experiences, the same rules apply, especially when it comes to service dog handlers.

Many individuals never know that having a service dog is an option for them; Sam Glaze, a computer science major from Gulfport, Miss., used to be one of those individuals. Glaze is currently in the process of training his service dog Beans, a black mouth cur.

“[The option of having a service dog has] always been there, but no one really knew about it. I wouldn’t have had Beans if I hadn’t met [my friends here] because I wouldn’t even have known it was an option,” said Glaze.

MC is home to two fully trained service dogs and one service dog in training. While the natural inclination is to run to the dog, say hi, and pet him, these actions can be detrimental to the life of the handler. Thus, it is important to know how to treat service dogs.

A service dog is a dog specially trained to aid an individual in situations of high anxiety and in situations where medical attention is needed. Two types of service dogs exist— medical and psychiatric. A medical service dog helps those with physical illness like epilepsy and diabetes to complete daily, mundane tasks. On the other hand, psychiatric service dogs are wired more for the unseen disabilities such as mental illnesses and learning disabilities. 

Retaining a service dog can be a tedious process; it varies from state to state. Some go through an agency, and some train their own dogs. The process consists of an initial application, interviews, home visits, meet-ups, and sometimes fundraising. In order to attend MC, service dog handlers must fill out an application and their case must be legitimized by MC faculty. Once on campus, service dog handlers must live in either East, West, or Quick because of the ventilation systems. However, other than having their dogs, service dog handlers live lives similar to other students on campus.

PC: Rebecca Pyburn, Caption: (Left to right) Beans, Meadow, and Cooper not only enjoy spending time with their owners but also love to have fun together. Together, they have been trained in over 50 tasks.

Rebecca Pyburn, a Christian studies major from Memphis, Tenn., has owned her golden retriever, Meadow, for six years. During her freshman year at MC, Pyburn suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“I couldn’t go to the cafeteria or the Commons. I had panic attacks multiple times a week, sometimes multiple times a day. It was to the point where I couldn’t really be at school without help,” said Pyburn.

At the time, Meadow had been trained for four years by Pyburn to be a therapy dog. Meadow is now functioning as a psychiatric service dog. 

Pyburn said, “There is so much joy in that I can function as a normal human being now … Only the Lord could have made everything work so perfectly to where I was training a dog already.”

Damon Purdy is a business administration major from St. Marys, Ga. He has had his medical service dog, Cooper, for five years. Cooper is trained in 42 different tasks. 

Purdy said, “Specifically for me, it’s for Asperger’s as well as several other complications. At least for [Cooper], he is able to pick up on sensing pheromones that I give off when I am anxious, nervous, or uncomfortable in a situation and be able to end up comforting me in a multitude of ways.”

The main task service dogs are trained for is deep pressure. Deep pressure is the act of the dog laying his head (or his entire body in some circumstances) in the lap of his owner. Caroline Tate explained it as working the same way a weighted blanket works for a person with anxiety.

Tate, a math education major from Dallas, Texas, is close friends with Glaze, Purdy, and Pyburn. Tate has become an expert in service dog etiquette.

Tate was “blissfully unaware of service dog lingo” before meeting Pyburn, Purdy, and Glaze. As she spent more time around her friends, Tate has learned the ins and outs of service dogs and how individuals should treat service dogs. The number one rule, when it comes to approaching service dogs and their handlers, is to ignore the dog completely. 

“The way I have explained it before is if you are a Harry Potter fan, pretend like they have the invisibility cloak over them,” said Tate. 

Another thing to note is that the story behind someone’s service dog might be a touchy subject. It can surface difficult experiences in the life of a service dog handler. 

Glaze said, “For us, [getting a service dog] wasn’t a light decision. It wasn’t a fun decision to make.”

For many people, it is not a choice. Service dogs are their only option to live life in a semi-normal fashion. Dogs are truly amazing creatures that God has created not only for man’s enjoyment but also to help man in daily living. 

The service dog community on MC’s campus is expected to grow in the years to come, and it is vital for students to learn how to treat service dogs and handlers with respect and love.

Getting ahead of the game with career prep clubs / Chloe Newton

Photo: Chloe Newton, Caption: (From left to right) Justin Fridley, Aaron Blackburn, and Lauren Hill are members of MC’s mock trial team. They all wish to pursue law, and mock trial is a stepping stone to becoming top notch lawyers.

With graduation looming ahead, many seniors are preparing to enter the work fields they have chosen to study during their time at Mississippi College. They are holding onto whatever is left of those transition years between childhood and adulthood. For the rest of the student body, the workforce is close at hand, and it is wise to think about getting a taste of what the workforce will be like while on campus. An abundance of opportunities are available through the various career prep clubs on campus.

Career prep clubs exist for all majors. Students not only have the opportunity to learn more about their future careers but also to gain hands-on experience and to participate in service opportunities. These activities are appealing to employers; therefore, they should appeal to students.

For students interested in law, MC’s mock trial club and team provide experience in preparing a case for trial. Mock trial consists of a club and team. Team members compete in the American National Mock Trial tournament. Club members are not required to compete in the tournament but help with the planning and forming of the final competition product. Students in mock trial focus all of their energy in preparing for the competition. 

At the beginning of the fall semester, mock trial teams all across the country receive an imaginary case to read and dissect. 

“From there, we get the affidavits involved, the interviews of each witness, the indictment of what we are pursuing, and the evidence. Then, throughout the fall, we plan and strategize,” said Justin Fridley, the current president of the mock trial team.

Students of the pre-law variety are encouraged to join but all students are welcome.

For students with the hope of influencing the future generations in education, Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), the international honor society for education majors, benefits its members by providing experiences in local schools. Because it is an honor society, potential members must fill out an application. If accepted, new members must attend a formal induction ceremony during the fall semester. Members are expected to come to informational meetings as well as participate in service projects. For the MC chapter, these service projects engage with the community and schools of Clinton.

Morgan Marullo, a senior elementary education major and an officer of KDP, said, “ I absolutely love being a part of MC’s KDP Chapter; it has ignited and continued my excitement and passion for teaching even more.”

Those interested in joining KDP can attend the informational meetings held at the beginning of the fall semester.

MC’s education and pre-law programs are highly revered on campus, but the most popular degree at MC is by far bio pre-med. The medical and service-based club MEDLIFE offers students the opportunity to practice skills in taking blood pressure, learning CPR, and running medical tests. The MEDLIFE general body meets once a month but three to four events occur each week. These events include skill labs, lectures, volunteer opportunities, and fun nights. In 2020, MC’s chapter won the Best Local Service Award.

MEDLIFE actively volunteers with the 4 C’s garden, Jackson Free Health Clinic, and Mission First Medical and Dental Service; it aims to serve every Saturday. While the club is medical-based, volunteer opportunities take the shape of whatever the organizations need. 

The national chapter of MEDLIFE also offers international service medical trips to Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, and Tanzania. Team members meet medical needs through mobile clinics and community needs. Community needs range from building homes to gardening.

The mobile clinic services vary. Diana Florencio, a graduate student from Boston, Mass., and member of the 2021-2022 officer body, said, “When a patient comes in, they figure out what problem they are having and if they need medication. Depending on the mobile clinic, each one has different services.”

MEDLIFE engages with the larger student body by opening up events to non-club members. The club includes undergraduate and graduate students and encourages all students to get involved. Students can email medlifemcchapter@gmail.com to get involved.

Mock trial, Kappa Delta Pi, and MEDLIFE create meaningful opportunities for students to engage. Not only do career prep clubs broaden the college experience, but they also provide a chance to make connections in the fields they serve. Students benefit greatly from getting involved with career prep clubs, and one never knows how involvement could affect their future.