Photo: Jones College and Horn Lake natives Ky (4) and Dimp (2) Pernell, along with Bobcats and former Center Hill coach Newton Mealer after Thursday’s game at Northwest. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
The list of basketball players from DeSoto County high schools who have gone on to play at the next level is impressive, especially at the junior colleges around the state. “Hoop dreams” continue while extending their academic careers and playing in the competitive Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference (MACCC).
Some of that talent was on display Thursday night at Howard Coliseum in Senatobia when Northwest welcomed Jones College for a basketball doubleheader.
On the floor for the home team Rangers of sixth-year coach Shane Oakley were former Olive Branch standout Darren Davis, ex-Center Hill Mustang Deshun Dunn, and Hayden Drumwright of Hernando, who prepped at Lewisburg and Magnolia Heights. Olive Branch standout Terry Joyner was not in action with an injury.
Add to that, former Southaven players Anaria Lee and Merciana Sandifer were contributors on the women’s Northwest roster of coach LaTaryl Williams.
Meanwhile, looking at the rosters for Jones College were former Center Hill standout Hope Mealer on the women’s side, and the conference-leading Bobcats men brought Horn Lake’s Pernell twins, Dimp and Ky. The Pernells are one year removed from playing in the state 6A high school tournament in Jackson.
They are coached by Newton Mealer, in his third year at Jones. Mealer brought a state championship to Center Hill and hopes to bring national honors back to Ellisville, or what he calls “Winnersville.” The record this year is bearing that out.
The Bobcats improved their record to 18-3 overall and 5-0 in the MACCC after a 102-67 thumping of the Rangers. That came after the Rangers’ women beat Hope Mealer and her Jones teammates 63-48.
Heading into this season, Newton Mealer had some rebuilding to do after losing eight sophomores. Mealer said he knew where to go for talent, and that was back to DeSoto County, targeting the Pernell twins in particular to accomplish that.
“I like the style of basketball played on this side of the state,” Mealer said. “When I was looking to replace last year’s team, I had to go and replace them with a lot of freshmen and just really liked the Pernells’ game.”
Getting them to come as a package is what Dimp and Ky wanted to do, go together and play together, just like they did in getting the Horn Lake Eagles to a 30-2 record and an appearance in the MHSAA 6A state tournament, falling to eventual state champion Northwest Rankin in the state semifinals.
Mealer earned their trust in recruiting them after seeing them play at a Christmas tournament in Hattiesburg. It also helped that earning the trust of the Pernells’ mother happened, as well.
“They saw the expectation level and they saw on our walls the next level players that have left and gone on to four year schools,” Mealer said. “We began that connection with them and with their mother who just said, ‘You’re the guy. We trust you with our kids, we trust you to get this job done, and we want them to come to Ellisville.’”
The Pernells have been getting used to winning, sharing a record of 48-5 in their last two seasons: their senior year of high school and thus far in their freshman year of college.
Both Dimp and Ky said they are enjoying their time at Jones and playing for Mealer.
“He lets you play your game, if you’re hot he’ll let you ‘rock out’ (shoot) a little bit,” Dimp Pernell said. “They just really want to win the conference. We just want to keep winning.”
“It’s real fun to play for coach Mealer,” added Ky Pernell. “He’s one of the top coaches and that’s why we told him we wanted to come.”
Ky added he and Dimp want to continue playing together after Jones, so any four-year school will likely be getting a package deal.
“We came up together in high school and we want to continue in college,” Ky said, with Dimp adding, “That’s the plan we’ve been keeping and the plan is to keep going after Jones.”
Newton Mealer saw his daughter Hope play for Center Hill from outside his locker room when he was coaching the Mustangs and after seeing her sign and play one season for Mineral Area College in Missouri, Dad and daughter were able to join together for one more season. Hope is coming off the bench for first-year coach Deneshia Faulkner.
Mealer calls Hope’s story truly remarkable.
“She (Hope) made her mark at Mineral Area and now she’s back at Jones,” Mealer said. “I didn’t think that we were going to have the opportunity as a father and daughter to be back in the same place. She’s doing what she wants to do. She wants to finish her basketball career the right way.”
Mealer added Hope has received an offer to play for a four-year school but also wants to become a radiologist, which will be among the factors into her decision.
Glancing at the box scores from Thursday night, Dimp Pernell led all scorers with 22 points and Ky Pernell added 18. Northwest got point production from Dunn with four points and Davis with three. Drumwright entered the game late but did not score.
Hope Mealer contributed five points off the bench in the women’s game for Jones, while Northwest saw Lee finish with five points and Sandifer added a basket for two.