Wildcats take basketball to next level

Apr. 27—Meridian High School is sending some of its best to continue their basketball careers at the next level after six students signed letters of intent with their chosen colleges.

On Thursday, four members of the boys basketball team, which recently won the first 7A state championship, announced their intentions to continue playing at the collegiate level. JR Yarbrough and Jordan Harbour both said they will head to Pearl River Community College after graduation, while Jordan Jones will go to East Mississippi Community College and D.J. Johnson will play for Meridian Community College.

Coach Ron Norman said the four seniors have had to overcome massive obstacles to reach this point. Entering high school in 2020, the players had to not only navigate the pressures of a new school and more advanced classes but also a global pandemic that impacted every aspect of their lives.

"This is a group of kids that have persevered through one of the biggest tragedies known to us, which is the COVID epidemic," he said.

Norman said the team had to practice six feet apart, ending one-on-one drills and requiring both coaches and players to adapt. Yarbrough, Harbour, Jones and Johnson, however, continued to practice and improve to end their final season at Meridian High by bringing home the gold championship ball, he said.

Cheyenne Trussell, athletic director for Meridian Public School District, said the district is always proud to see its students continue their academic and athletic careers at the next level. Seeing the years of hard work each player has put into honing their skills pay off is great to see, he said.

To the players, Trussell said he looks forward to seeing them play at the next level but wants them to remember that college is a business and the goal is to get that college degree.

The four boys basketball players were joined Friday by two members of the girls basketball team who also signed to play collegiate ball. Raygan Faulkner signed to play at Jones College in the fall, and her teammate Taleah Anderson will be headed to Mississippi College on a full ride scholarship.

Girls basketball coach Tre Collins, who took over the program in May 2023, said both players impressed him with their skill, teamwork and dedication both on and off the court. Getting to the collegiate level requires support from family and friends as well, he said, and the efforts of the community to support both Faulkner and Anderson have not gone unnoticed.

"Most kids don't get to this point without some sort of support system to get there, so we really are appreciative for the way that you've poured into these kids," he said.

Faulkner, who will once again be playing under former MHS girls basketball coach and current Jones College coach Deneshia Faulkner, who is also her mother, said she chose to go to Jones College because, "it just felt like family."

Anderson, who had competing offers from a number of schools and announced her decision at Friday's signing, said reaching this point in her athletic career is a milestone she has been chasing for a long time.

"This is something that I've looked forward to since seventh grade, and for it to be happening, I'm just excited," she said.

Being able to go on to play basketball in college is possible only because of the support of family, coaches and teammates, Anderson said. The support, encouragement, discipline and motivation they provided are what helped her reach her goal, she said.

Both Faulkner and Anderson played for Meridian High School during the 2022 basketball season when the girls basketball team won its first ever state championship, meaning all six signees are state champions.

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