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VOL. 129 | NO. 248 | Monday, December 22, 2014

Memphis Ties Abound in Jack Jones Classic

By Don Wade

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This time a year ago, a Southeast Missouri State basketball team with a strong Memphis flavor came into FedExForum and played a competitive game with a University of Memphis squad that would later win a game in the NCAA Tournament.

Five Memphis players were on that Redhawks roster and four of them – Nino Johnson (White Station), Jarekious Bradley (East), Antonius Cleveland (Germantown) and Tyler Stone (Central) – started the game. A fifth, Darrian Gray (Southwind) also played.

When the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks play the Ole Miss Rebels Dec. 22 in the Jack Jones Classic at the Landers Center, there will be seven Memphis-area players between the two teams, including SEMO’s Antonius Cleveland (Germantown), top photo, and Nino Johnson (White Station).

(Submitted Photos)

The Tigers won, 77-65, but they never ran away from SEMO.

“We did pretty good,” Johnson said. “We hung in there.”

On Monday, Dec. 22, Johnson and his teammates will face a similar challenge in the inaugural Jack Jones Classic vs. Ole Miss at the Landers Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

The event is named after Jack Jones, who in 1960 became publisher of The Daily News. Jones, who graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1942 and the University of Virginia School of Law in 1948, retired from the practice of law in 1992. He has remained committed to philanthropic endeavors and is a fixture at Memphis Grizzlies games.

Besides Memphis-area players in Johnson, Bradley, Cleveland and Gray, the Jack Jones Classic will feature Ladarius Coleman (White Station), who is part of this year’s Redhawks; and Ole Miss players Martavious Newby (Booker T. Washington) and Marcanvis Hymon (Whitehaven).

Newby, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, had started the Rebels’ first nine games and was averaging 5.3 points and 5.6 rebounds. Hymon, a 6-6 freshman forward, had appeared in six games and was averaging 1.2 points.

Ole Miss was 6-3 before playing Coastal Carolina on Dec. 18. Among their victories are a 75-68 win over then-No. 23 Creighton and a 66-54 win over Cincinnati. Guard Stefan Moody leads the Rebels in scoring with 15.2 points per game.

Ole Miss also has had a couple of games slip away, such as its 81-74 loss to Western Kentucky.

“We’re in the ultimate make-plays sport,” Rebels coach Andy Kennedy said.

SEMO was 5-5 before playing Arkansas in Little Rock on Saturday, Dec. 20. They lost a 65-61 game at Missouri on Dec. 2.

“We gave that game away,” said Cleveland, a 6-6 sophomore guard who was averaging 9.9 points through the first 10 games. “We made a lot of mistakes at the end.”

Still, playing Missouri close was a “confidence-booster,” said Johnson, a 6-9 senior forward who was averaging 10.9 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds.

Bradley, a 6-foot-5 swingman, was averaging a team-leading 16.1 points per game. Gray and Coleman had appeared in three and two games, respectively.

When SEMO coach Dickey Nutt was head coach at Arkansas State, he recruited Memphis heavily. Nothing has changed.

“We feel Memphis is one of the best recruiting cities in the South,” Nutt said, adding that he has been very intentional about setting up games in or near Memphis. “We love the city of Memphis and Ole Miss is a good game for us.”

Cleveland said, “My mom hasn’t missed a home game since I’ve been (in Cape Girardeau, Mo.),” but the game in Southaven is still a chance for players’ families and friends to make a shorter drive to see them play. And with another SEC opponent on the floor, motivation won’t be hard to find.

“It’s going to be a very focused game for me,” Johnson said.

Tickets may be purchased online at www.jackjonesclassic.com or at Platinum Jewelers in Memphis, 545 Perkins Road Extended. Admission starts at $15.

The Jack Jones Classic supports the Big Buddy Program. The Youth Athletic Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is sending underprivileged youth from the area to the game as a part of the program. Companies interested in participating with the Big Buddy Program can contact Scott Robinson at 317-490-5948 or eliteeventsunlimited@yahoo.com.

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