Desoto County Sports

Williams, Newman support 4 Mississippi Hoops Classic

Photo: Jackson State basketball coach Mo Williams and Malik Newman, a former Callaway High and college standout now playing internationally in Russia. (Bob Bakken/

When old high school basketball rivalries between Olive Branch, Holly Springs, Byhalia and Ashland were renewed on the floor of Rust College’s Kinzell Lawson Gymnasium last week for the 4 Mississippi Hoops Classic, some notable names in the game of basketball were also on hand. 

For instance, there was the family of Justin Reed, a former Ole Miss standout who took the Rebels to their first Sweet Sixteen appearance in the 2001 NCAA tournament. Reed later went on to play in the NBA with Boston and MInnesota, before tragically passing away from a rare form of blood cancer in 2017.  

There was coach Naylond Hayes and members of the Rust College 1977 national small college team. 

Then there was former NBA player and current Jackson State coach Mo Williams along with Malik Newman, son of former Mississippi State player Horatio Webster and himself a standout player, first with Callaway High School, then to Mississippi State and Kansas, and now playing internationally with Avtodor Saratov in Russia’s VTB United League, after previously spending time in the NBA G League. They were all recognized and given awards during the event.  

“It’s a blessing,” Newman said about continuing his career overseas. “It’s still basketball and the game that I love and see different parts of the country and different parts of the world, do what I love to do and get paid to do it.”  

Williams played in the NBA for 13 seasons, was once named an NBA All-Star and won the 2016 title with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Jackson native has been with the Tigers since being named coach in March 2022, coming there from Alabama State.  

Williams said his team has returned on campus and started practice for the upcoming season, knowing their only way to get into the NCAA tournament is by winning the SWAC conference tournament. He’s constantly thinking about basketball and is passionate about the game and wants his players to have that same passion.

“I’ve always instilled that in my guys,” Williams said. “This is school, so this is all education and teaching. If I can just give them the tools and just keep continuing to teach them to keep their ears open and learn, that’s how you win a championship.”

Williams was asked about college sports in the world of NIL (Name, Image, LIkeness). He said he hates it because he has to deal with it daily and Jackson State doesn’t have the same level of funding that other schools have.

“It’s out of hand right now,” he said. “It needs to be governed better and I think they’ll get to that point when they feel that guys are getting too much money, they’ll stop it,” adding that an NIL positive is that the money is keeping players in school and getting degrees where before they might opt early to enter the NBA draft or play internationally without graduating from college.  

Williams also said he was impressed with the concept of the 4 Mississippi Hoops Classic and thought other parts of the state should consider it.  

“I would like to see this branch off into other areas of Mississippi,” Williams exclaimed. “Grab people around the area and bring it together. I’d be in full support of that and this event is great.”  

Newman added he was impressed with what was done in Holly Springs in just the first year.  

Newman agreed with Williams about getting communities together in similar events, both basketball and to support each other.  

“I think it was a good outcome and I’d love to see it branch off to other places,” Newman said. “I think it’s a good thing to bring awareness to the community and to the school. Prior to this I had no knowledge about this school (Rust College).”