NEMCC to Mark ‘Firsts’ in Hall of Fame

BOONEVILLE, Miss. –Northeast Mississippi Community College will celebrate a pair of firsts when its fifth Sports Hall of Fame class is inducted on Saturday, October 20 during Homecoming 2012 festivities.

Northeast will celebrate its first softball player to be enshrined into the Sports Hall of Fame and the college will also see its first athletes from the 2000s inducted.

With nomination and induction criteria stating that former Northeast coaches and athletes have to be out of collegiate athletics for at least five years before induction, a pair of athletes from the early 2000s will make the hall in 2012.

Joining the already 25 former coaches, athletes and athletic contributors in the Northeast Sports Hall of Fame will be women’s basketball player Audrey Covington, men’s basketball players Guy Gardner and Freddie Copeland, softball player Brandi Vondenstein Dannelly and alumni Malcolm Kuykendall.

Covington, Gardner, Copeland, Vondenstein Dannelly and Kuykendall will join an illustrious cast of Northeast Sports Hall of Fame inductees.

In 2011, Northeast saw Ricky Ford, Jim Drewry, Johnny Buskirk, Vincent Del Negro and Sherry Slayton Holland all enshrined into the hall of fame. Drewry and Buskirk are both former football players for the Tigers while Ford, Del Negro and Slayton starred on the hardwood for the Tigers and Lady Tigers. Ford, who guided the Lady Tiger basketball program for 30 years, also serves as athletic director and dean of student services for the college.

During the 2010 induction, former Tiger football and baseball player Mike Grier, former Tiger basketball player Jack Martin, former Lady Tiger basketball players Kunshinge Sorrell Howard and Phyllis Stafford Dilworth and former football and softball coach and athletic director David Carnell all became members of the Sports Hall of Fame.

In its second year (2009), Northeast Sports Hall of Fame inducted five members to join the initial 10 inductees with former basketball players Gerald Caveness, Clyde Jones, Evelyn Thompson, and football player Larry Parker along with former Tiger basketball coach Harvey Childers all inducted during the second year.

Northeast’s inaugural inductees of ten former coaches, players and supporters of Northeast Mississippi Community College athletics included Harold T. White, W.B. ‘Bill’ Ward, Ken Lindsey, Chuck ‘Doodle’ Floyd, Gene Garrett, Adrian Smith, Kenneth ‘Cat’ Robbins, David ‘Nub’ Strickland, Earline ‘Woodsie’ Woods and Bonner Arnold.

A banquet will be held at 11 a.m. in the Claude Wright Room of the Haney Union on the Booneville campus Saturday October 20 and the latest inductees into the Northeast Sports Hall of Fame will be recognized before the Tigers take on the Itawamba Community College Indians at Tiger Stadium.

Tickets for the banquet are $15 and can be purchased by contacting the Northeast business office at 662-720-7196. Deadline to purchase tickets for the banquet is October 5.

For alumni wanting to join in the Homecoming festivities, a come-and-go reception will be held from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. in the Black and Gold Room on the first floor of the Haney Union. Light refreshments will be provided.


Audrey Covington (Women’s Basketball 1986-87, 1987-88)

Audrey Covington starred on the hardwood during one of the most successful periods for the Lady Tiger basketball team.

During her first year, Covington helped lead Ricky Ford’s Lady Tigers to the 1986-87 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) National Championship with a perfect 34-0 record.

In Covington’s first year, Northeast swept through the regular season and knocked off Northwest Mississippi Community College 80-78 in the Mississippi Association of Community/Junior Colleges (MACJC) State Championship before heading to the NJCAA Region XXIII Tournament.

In the Region XXIII Tournament, Northeast earned a return trip to the national tournament in Senatobia by dispatching Utica (Hinds) in the championship game and the Lady Tigers rode that momentum to a four-game winning streak in theDivision I women’s national tournament – including knocking off St. Gregory’s in the national championship game 68-64.

In addition to winning the NJCAA national championship, Covington was a two-year starter under Ford and was named to the MACJC All-State and the NJCAA All-Region teams during her time in Booneville.

Following her career as a Lady Tiger, Covington stayed with the Tiger theme when she signed to play with Memphis State University for a pair of seasons in 1988-89 and 1989-90.

Benjamin Guy Gardner (Men’s Basketball 1998-99, 1999-2000)

Benjamin Guy Gardner helped lead the Northeast Tiger basketball team back to the national tournament during his time in Booneville.

Gardner, a two-time Tiger Award recipient, was captain of the 2000 Tiger basketball team that captured the Mississippi Association of Community/Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division, the MACJC State Championship and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region XXIII championship en route to a NJCAA national tournament appearance under former Tiger basketball coach Mike Lewis.

During his sophomore year in Booneville, Gardner finished the year second in assists and steals and was named to the MACJC All-State first team and the NJCAA RegionXXIII team as well.

Following his sophomore campaign, Gardner was selected to play in the MACJC Mississippi JUCO All-Star game in Decatur.

When not busy on the hardwood for the Tigers, Gardner was selected as Mr. Northeast Mississippi Community College and was also honored as an inductee into the Northeast Student Hall of Fame.

Gardner was also elected as a Student Government Association (SGA) freshman class favorite during his first year at Northeast and was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Gardner parlayed his successful Tiger career into a career with the Mississippi State University Bulldog basketball team where he helped the Bulldogs win the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Tournament championship in 2002.

Gardner helped lead the Bulldog basketball team to 27 wins – the most ever at that time – and was awarded the coveted Babe McCarthy Award at Mississippi State University.

Gardner also excelled in the classroom for the Bulldogs as well and was named to the All-SEC Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll and was a member of the Dean’s and President’s list while earning his Master’s in Education in Educational Administration in Starkville.

Freddie Copeland (Men’s Basketball 1973-74, 1974-75)

Freddie Copeland was one of the Tiger basketball team’s most prolific scorers during the mid-1970s.

Copeland donned the Tiger black and gold in 1973-74 and 1974-75 and became a mainstay in the statistical categories for Northeast. Copeland led the Tigers in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage during his time as a Tiger.

Copeland was also honored with the prestigious Tiger Award during his time in Booneville and was named to the Mississippi Association of Community/Junior Colleges (MACJC) All-State basketball team.

Against Coahoma Community College on February 8, 1975, Copeland showed his scoring prowess by dropping 46 points against the Tigers in a 113-89 win over Coahoma.

After his time at Northeast, Copeland used his basketball talents to help guide the University of North Alabama Lions to one of its best seasons in school history.

In his junior season at UNA, Copeland helped the Lions post a 19-6 overall mark and a 9-4 record in the Gulf South Conference. UNA’s 19 wins was one of the best seasons in school history and the Lions’ 12 home wins set a school-record for most wins by a Lion basketball team at that time.

Not only did Copeland help transform his basketball teams offensively, Copeland was a threat on the defensive side of the ball as well. Under Lion head coach Bill Jones, Copeland and the Lions held the opposition to just 65 points a game during his junior season.

While at UNA, Copeland led the team in field goal percentage and rebounds while being named a small college honorable mention All-American and the Most Valuable Player of the Gulf South Conference.

Brandi Vondenstein Dannelly (Softball 2001-02, 2002-03)

Brandi Vondenstein Dannelly becomes the first Northeast Mississippi Community College (NEMCC) softball player to be inducted into the college’s Sports Hall of Fame.

UnderVondenstein’s guidance, Northeast’s softball team reached the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) National Tournament during her final year in Booneville.

During her two years in Booneville, Vondenstein led the Lady Tiger softball team to a combined 58-29 and remarkable 28-4 record in the North Division.

In the 2003 season, Northeast finished the year 32-17 and perfect in the North at 12-0 while winning the North Division title, the NJCAA Region XXIII championship and appeared in the NJCAA National Tournament in Dodge City, Iowa.

Vondenstein became a hard ‘out’ for the opposition and struck out just two times in 129 at bats during her sophomore season – an average of one strikeout per every 64.5 at bats for the Lady Tiger third baseman.

In addition to helping lead the Lady Tigers to the national tournament, Vondenstein was named an National Fast-Pitch Coaches’ Association (NFCA) All-Region Louisville Slugger, an NJCAA All-American, an MACJC All-State selection and was picked to be part of the NFCA’s All-South Region team following her sophomore year.

In 2003, Vondenstein also served as team captain of the Lady Tiger softball team and was named an NJCAA Academic All-American.

After her time at Northeast, Vondenstein donned the black and green for Delta State and became an All-Gulf South Conference player at third base for the Lady Statesmen.

During her two years at Delta State, Vondenstein started 112 of 115 games for the Lady Statesmen and was on the Gulf South Conference’s All-Academic Team and was honored by the Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning with the Hollbrook Award for Academic Distinction in 2005.

Vondenstein later led the Bayou Academy Lady Colts to a Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) state championship in softball in 2006 – and had an 83-18 record with the Lady Colts. Vondenstein’s state championship in 2006 helped set the stage for five-consecutive state championships by the Lady Colts.

Malcolm Kuykendall (Alumni)

Former Tiger Malcolm Kuykendall came to Northeast Mississippi Junior College in 1966-68 and spent the rest of his professional life in education.

Since transferring from Northeast in 1968, Kuykendall went on to get his Bachelor’s of Science in Education from Delta State University in 1970 and his masters of education from the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in 1977.

However it was the time that Kuykendall spend on the hardwood and as a high school and school district administrator where the former Tiger left his mark.

After a two-year stint at Nettleton High School (1970-72), Kuykendall relocated to Pine Grove and it was between Pine Grove and Belmont (1982-95) where Kuykendall brought back eight state championships and four state runner-up finishes to the northeast Mississippi region.

During his 10 years at Pine Grove (1972-82), Kuykendall won three state championships in 1977, 1981 and 1982.

At Belmont (1982-95), Kuykendall found his calling with five state championships and four state runner-up finishes.

Kuykendall captured the state championship in 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988 and in his final year 1995 and finished as the state runner-up in 1984, 1989, 1990 and 1991.

During his coaching career, Kuykendall compiled a 669-139 record while coaching women’s basketball and a 348-182 mark while coaching men’s basketball. Kuykendall was named the Mississippi Coach of the Year four times – 1981, 1985, 1988 and 1993 – and was his district’s coach of the year eight times.

Kuykendall was inducted into the Mississippi Association of Coaches’ Hall of Fame in 2000, the Delta State University Coaches Hall of Fame in 2001 and was a member of the inaugural class of inductees for the Northeast Mississippi Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009.

In addition to his coaching time, Kuykendall was also an assistant principal and principal in the Tishomingo County Special Municipal Separate School District for almost a quarter of a century where he helped the district reach new heights as it was recognized with some the highest accountability rankings according to both Mississippi and federal standards.

Kuykendall wrapped up his educational career as the Superintendent for the Tishomingo County Special Municipal Separate School District where the district had one of the best graduation and dropout rates according to Mississippi Accountability Standards.

Under Kuykendall’s leadership, the Tishomingo County Special Municipal Separate School District was recognized as a High Performing District each year.

Kuykendall was a member of the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents (MASS) Board of Directors in 2011 and 2012 and was named the 2012 Mississippi Superintendent of the year.


Categories: College Sports, JUCO Sports, Local News, Local Sports

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