WESSON, Miss. – The Copiah-Lincoln Community College men's basketball program is coming off a year that saw the best Co-Lin record, 19 wins and 6 losses, since the Wolves' 2007-2008 MACJC championship run that finished 20-8. Last year's efforts landed Co-Lin a playoff spot for the first time in nine years, and with four sophomores returning, this year's team looks to build off that success. Co-Lin returns Damarius Brooks and Lazorian McNulty out of Brookhaven, Miss., Miles Daniels out of Gulfport, Miss., and Xavier Heidelberg from Meridian, Miss.
"All four of these guys played last year, they all got valuable time and good game minutes," said sixth-year head coach Kenny Bizot. "There shouldn't be any shock to these players, they should know what to expect in this league…they have done a nice job leading this team of nine freshmen. They have experience in the state and region tournament and they want to get back there. They've done a great job leading our team and have really stepped up."
Brooks, a 6'1 versatile guard, started in all 25 games last season and is the Wolves leading returning scorer. He averaged 10.5 points per game and scored in double figures 15 times, including a double-double against Delgado where he put up 17 points and 10 rebounds. As a freshman, he shot 44.6 percent from the floor and 35.3 percent from beyond the arc while hauling in 85 rebounds.
McNulty, a 6'0 quick-footed guard, played in all 25 games a year ago and averaged 5.6 points while playing 15.9 minutes per game. He also brought down 48 rebounds on the year. McNulty posted a season-best 16 points against Coahoma and hit three big three-pointers in the opening half of Co-Lin's upset of then-ranked No. 25 Holmes. McNulty shot 39 percent last season from the floor.
Daniels, an athletic 6'2 guard, saw action in 23 games as a freshman. Daniels showed that he had a hot hand last season as he shot 43.5 percent from beyond the arc in conference play. He hit five three-pointers in the first half alone against Jones County.
Heidelberg, a quick 5' 11 guard, played in 22 games last season and scored a career-best 13 points against William Carey JV. Heidelberg also poured in 10 points in 14 minutes to help spark a 101-90 win. He shot 42.3 percent from the field and dished out 22 assists a year ago.
Joining the Wolves in 2018-2019 are nine freshmen that look to make an immediate difference on the floor.
Cameron Woodall from Raymond, Miss. is a high-flying athlete that can be effective both inside and on the perimeter. At Raymond High School he averaged 17 points and seven rebounds his senior season and helped lead Raymond to back-to-back 4A State Championships and was named First Team All-District.
Malik Wright from Meridian, Miss. is an athletic guard that can attack off the dribble and also shot the three. At John Hardin High School he averaged 15.1 points and 5.2 rebounds as a senior. Wright played his senior season in Kentucky where he helped lead his team to a Region 5 Championship.
Craig Philip from Bronx, N.Y. is a skilled, big-bodied forward that can play inside and out. Philip averaged a double-double his senior year at Our Saviour Lutheran with 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. He was named league MVP and First Team All-Area.
Dajon Whitworth comes to Co-Lin via Gulfport, Miss. The freshman is a very quick point guard who likes to dish the ball to get his teammates involved. At Harrison Central High School he averaged 16.8 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.4 steals as a senior. He also landed All-South Team and Player of the Year honors for the Sun Herald.
Lance Madison, a Warren Easton High School graduate from New Orleans, La., is a lengthy athletic guard that can get to the rim. As a senior, he averaged 14 points, six rebounds, and four assists per game, earned All-District, and Honorable Mention All-State as a senior.
Kenna Bryant is a sharpshooting guard that is extremely comfortable from beyond the arc. Bryant is a Provine High School graduate from Jackson, Miss. where he averaged 19.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He earned team MVP and Best Offensive Player by his team as a senior.
Dayquan Perkins from Gulfport, Miss. is a hard-nosed forward that loves to play above the rim. Perkins, a high school teammate of Dajon Whitworth at Harrison Central, scored over 1,000 points during his high school career and was named to the Sun Herald All-South team in both 2017 and 2018.
Jekevious Williams, an athletic forward that does the dirty work inside, is a Raymond High School graduate. He averaged five points and five rebounds a game as a senior and helped lead his team to back-to-back MHSAA 4A State Championships.
Darius Kent rounds out Co-Lin's freshman class. Kent, a smart and shifty guard that has the ability to play multiple positions, graduated from Ridgeland High School in Ridgeland, Miss. He averaged 19.3 points, six rebounds, and 4.3 assists as a senior and scored over 1,000 points during his high school career. He earned Best Offensive Player two years in a row and earned Best Male Athlete as a senior. Kent also won a state championship as a tennis player at Ridgeland.
"The big thing for our freshmen is they need to understand that this is a different level. At this level, they have to compete hard on every possession, " said Bizot. "These are a hard-working group of young men, and we expect big things from them…with just four sophomores returning these guys are going to see action."
The Wolves hope to use this balance of sophomores and freshmen to their advantage and utilize a balanced offense that is not afraid to shoot the three if necessary. Last season Co-Lin was 212-of-559 for 37.9 percent from three-point land, an impressive number, but more importantly, the Wolves hit the big shots when they were needed most. Co-Lin looks to be more balanced this season but hopes to utilize the deep ball to put teams away or swing the game's momentum.
"I think this league is a good three-point league," said Bizot. "Our offense isn't really designed that way, it's just that we are guard driven…we are shooting the basketball really well so far in practice, but we are still trying to figure out what is going to be our biggest strength."
Communication will be key for the Wolves on the floor, and last year's team set a great example for Co-Lin's four returning sophomores. The Co-Lin coaching staff sees the importance of comradery and excitement and hopes to feed off that during the games.
"These guys have a really good relationship with each other so far," said Bizot. "We work toward that, we almost demand it, outside of just playing basketball. Last year's team set the tone, and we show this year's team video clips of our bench supporting each other during games, and that kind of mentality just leads to success."
The Wolves lost a host of talent to graduation last May with four players signing to continue their careers at four-year schools. Youry White will play at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, Jonathan "Biscuit" Floyd will suit for Alcorn State, Anthony Jones will play for William Carey University, and Darrian Wilson will play for Jackson State University. These juniors join Jonathan Dalton, a senior at Southeastern Missouri State.
The stage is set for another breakout year for the Wolves under Coach Kenny Bizot and Jake Reed. With talent under the rim and on the perimeter, Co-Lin poses a threat to teams in all areas. Look for the Wolves to light up the scoreboard in Mullen Gymnasium this season and use their speed and length to play lockdown defense on the other end of the floor.