Panola College and Head Coach Grant McMillan are set to begin their 2018-2019 Men's Basketball season Thursday Nov 1 at home at 7PM.. McMillan is entering his fourth season as the Head Coach at Panola College. In the previous 3 seasons, the Ponies have had one of the most successful stints in school history; winning 70 games, a Region 14 Title, a trip to the National Tournament, and have graduated and sent eighteen players to Division One Schools.
Last year's Team won twenty games for the third consecutive year, while signing a record six players to Division One Schools. The Ponies also qualified for the Region 14 Regional Tournament for the third consecutive year. "Recruiting is always the lifeline of any program in our league. It is the one task in our program that we do year round. I feel that every year we have been able to compete more and more with the top junior college programs in the country in recruiting. This class has a nice balance of older players and freshman players. I feel that they will help continue a strong tradition, and represent the Panola College brand well. We are very excited about this class," stated Head Coach Grant McMillan
In the Off-Season, the Ponies lost both Assistant Coaches to other programs. Eshaunte Jones who served one year as an Assistant Coach for the Ponies took a job as the Top Assistant at Bossier Parrish Community College who is also in Region 14. Adam Blaylock who has been the Top Assistant for Panola College's Men's Basketball Team the past three seasons took a job with Purdue-Ft. Wayne, who is a Division One University in the Summit League. "Eshaunte was a huge help for our program last season. I am thrilled for him to get the opportunity with Chris Lovell who has done a remarkable job making Bossier Parrish into an immediate contender in Region 14. We are beyond happy and proud of Eshaunte and it will be fun seeing him a couple times a year." "Adam has been with me every step of the way since I took the job here in April of 2015. I cannot begin to explain all of the areas that he has impacted our program here at Panola. I felt like there weren't many people more deserving of the opportunity Adam got with Coach Jon Coffman, who is one of the best and most respected Head Coaches in the Mid-west. While everyone was sad to see him go, he is walking into a great situation at Ft. Wayne, and is more than prepared to handle the jump to the Division One level. It speaks volumes for our basketball program that Adam was able to join a great Division One staff. It is the icing on the cake for all that we have been able to accomplish in three seasons at Panola," stated Head Coach Grant McMillan.
Michael Nesbitt was hired for the Ponies replacing Adam Blaylock in July. Nesbitt comes from Southern Utah which is a Division One program that competes in the Big Sky. Prior to Southern Utah Nesbitt was a Graduate Assistant at the University of New Mexico. He received his Masters from New Mexico and his Bachelors Degree from Missouri S&T lettering three years. "We hit a home run with the hiring of Mike. He is a young coach that is going to be a star in this business. He checked off all of the boxes that we were looking for, and has done a great job so far this fall. Mike is connected at the Division one level, playing and working for a large network of established good people. The energy and experience that he brings to the office every day is phenomenal, and he will only continue to grow with more experience," said Head Coach Grant McMillan.
Wade Smith also joined the Ponies staff for the 2018-2019 season. "Wade has been apart of some very successful and respected coaching staffs at the Division One Level, where he helped in every area of a program. He brings experience as a head coach from IMG one of the top prep schools in the country, and has national recruiting ties at the prep level. Wade is a tremendous addition to our program, and we are thrilled to add a coach with his resume and experience." In addition to successful prep stints as an Assistant Coach at Vermont Academy and Head Varsity Coach at IMG Academy, Smith brings significant college coaching experience to Panola, having served as the Director of Basketball Operations at Miami University from 2015 - 2017 and in support staff roles at Georgetown from 2013 - 2015.
The Newcomers for this year's team are:
Franklyn Penn Jr. (British Virgin Islands) 6"3 Guard- Penn is a transfer from New Mexico Junior college. Penn averaged 12.4 PPG for the T-Birds, while also shooting 34 % from the Three Point Line, and averaging 5.2 Rebounds a game.
Tariq Simmons (Columbia, South Carolina) 6"2 Guard- Tariq is a transfer from The Citadel. Simmons had an impressive Freshman Season for the Bulldogs averaging 7.1 PPG, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists a contest logging minutes in 32 games as a true freshman. Simmons had season highs of 22 points against Virginia Tech, and 17 points against Florida State.
Keiondre Jefferson (Conway, Arkansas) 6"7 Forward- Jefferson played his freshman season at Three Rivers Junior College in Missouri. Jefferson played in 25 games, while starting nine games as a true freshman. Jefferson averaged 10.8 PPG, and 5.3 rebounds per game. He was invited to the Juco All-American Showcase in Atlanta this Summer before his sophomore season.
Joshua Williams (Houston, Texas) 6"2 Guard- Williams comes to Panola from the University of South Dakota where he was a one year letterman for Head Coach Craig Smith. Williams played in 12 games for the Coyotes as a true freshman averaging 1.4 PPG. As a high school player, Williams played at Tompkins High School, and was an All City Selection as a Senior, helping Tompkins have one of their most successful seasons in school history.
LeNell Henry (Chicago, Illinois) 6"7 Forward- Henry comes to Carthage from Northern Arizona University in the Big Sky Conference. As a freshman Henry averaged 3.5 PPG and 2.8 rebounds as a freshman. He recorded eight points against the University of Arizona, and a had a season high 11 points against Jacksonville University. Henry played his high school career at the legendary Morgan Park High School in Chicago coached by Terry Johnson.
Kamari Brown (Tallahassee, Florida) 6"4 Guard- Before his Post Grad year, Brown lettered four years at Lawton Chiles High School in Florida. His senior year he had an impressive campaign leading the team in scoring with 22 PPG, also averaging seven rebounds and 4 assists.
Kevin Mbe Naza (Gabon, Africa: Riverside, California) 6"6 Wing- Originally from Gabon in Africa, Kevin has spent the last two seasons playing for Riverside Christian School in Riverside, California. His senior season he averaged 12 PPG, 9 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He was a First Team All Conference Selection, and was also the Co-League MVP.
Joel Vaiangina (Auckland, New Zealand) 6"9 Forward- Joel comes to Panola all the way from New Zealand. He played one year of prep basketball at Impact Academy in Florida, before he arrived in Carthage. Joel played high school at St. Kentigern College (New Zealand) where he averaged 30 PPG, 12 rebounds and 5 assists. He also lettered in Rugby here.
Carlos Nuttry (Columbia, South Carolina)- 6"3 Guard Nuttry comes to Panola from Westbridge Academy in South Carolina. At Westbridge he averaged 14 PP, 6 assists and 4 rebounds. Academically he was named Valedictorian of his Senior Class.
Jaylen Grant (Laneville, Texas) 6"2 Guard- Another East Texas product, Jaylen played his high school basketball right down the road at Laneville High. He was a four year letterman that averaged 18 PPG, 4 assists and 5 rebounds his senior season. He was named the Offensive MVP of the District twice, and was also named a 1st team All-State player his senior season.