NORTHEAST TO INDUCT FOUR STANDOUTS IN NINTH SPORTS HALL OF FAME CLASS
BOONEVILLE, Miss. – Northeast Mississippi Community College has selected the ninth class of dignitaries to enter into its prestigious Sports Hall of Fame.
Anthony Anderson, John Cunningham, Ronnie Key and Maurice Stafford are set for enshrinement during a ceremony in the Claude Wright Room of the Haney Union at 4 p.m. on Thursday, September 29.
These four individuals will also be recognized prior to the 7 p.m. kickoff of the Tigers’ homecoming football game against league opponent Coahoma Community College.
This group of men together account for two National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-American awards, three Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) All-State selections and multiple postseason appearances in their respective sports.
Tickets are on sale for the event and its accompanying meal at a cost of $15. For more information, contact athletic director Kent Farris at 662-720-7309 or by email at email@example.com.
(Men’s Basketball, 1981-82, 1982-83)
Anthony Anderson is still one of the top roundball athletes to ever suit up for the tradition-rich men’s basketball program at Northeast Mississippi Community College.
Anderson had several double-digit performances during his freshman campaign, including 20 points in a huge 107-69 win over Meridian Community College and 16 points in a triumph at rival Itawamba Community College.
The East Union High School graduate guided the Tigers to a 21-4 regular season mark during the 1981-82 campaign. That included two wins at the Tip Off Tournament hosted by Jefferson State (Ala.) Community College.
Anderson scored a team-high 14 points to lift Northeast to the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division Tournament crown in a 42-39 triumph over Northwest Mississippi Community College inside legendary Bonner Arnold Coliseum.
He followed that with 13 points three nights later in a tight 56-55 MACJC State Tournament semifinal victory over Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College on the campus of Utica Junior College, which is now part of the Hinds Community College system.
Anderson and the Tigers delivered once again the following evening against the host Bulldogs. He tallied 16 points to help Northeast secure its third state championship in program history with an 86-78 decision at Utica.
He was one of four sophomores that came back for the 1982-83 campaign. That team started on a slightly rocky note with a 5-5 record near the Christmas break, but the Tigers pulled together and compiled another 20-win season.
Northeast wrapped up Anderson’s final year in the City of Hospitality with a 21-12 mark and as the MACJC North Division runner-up. The Tigers eventually hosted the inaugural National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 23 Tournament.
Anderson was simply phenomenal in the regional opener against Delgado (La.) Community College. He amassed a game-best 45 points and was an incredible 20 of 22 from the free throw line for a Northeast squad that posted 112 total points.
But Mississippi Gulf Coast eliminated the Tigers in their following contest in a tight 88-80 contest. Anderson concluded his career with 26 points, which was more than any other player in the matchup.
Anderson finished as the leading scorer in NJCAA Region 23 and was recognized as the Babe McCarthy Junior College Player of the Year, which was awarded to the top athlete at the two-year level in the Magnolia State.
He also became the eighth NJCAA All-American in program history after ranking among the 10 best rebounders in the region. Anderson was voted by his peers and head coach Richard Mathis as Northeast’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) as well.
The Blue Springs native completed his Associate’s degree in business administration from Northeast and later wrapped up his education at Middle Tennessee State University beginning in the fall of 1983.
He has devoted his professional life to the field of criminal justice. Anderson worked with the Union County Sherriff’s Office for over a decade and was the Chief of Police in Verona for three years.
Anderson and his wife Connie have three children, Anna, Ebony and William, and are members of Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church. He is presently employed by the Northeast Campus Police Department.
John O. Cunningham
John O. Cunningham joins an elite group of supporters that have been elected to the Northeast Sports Hall of Fame. He joins Malcolm Kuykendall and Earline “Woodsie” Woods with this distinction.
Cunningham was an established businessman that was known as a tireless advocate for the Lady Tigers and Tigers. He remains as one of Northeast’s biggest backers even in retirement.
The Baldwyn native owned Cunningham’s Food Mart in his hometown for several years and was highly successful in that venture. His prosperity has seemingly gone hand-in-hand with the affluence of Northeast’s nine intercollegiate athletic programs.
He became a member of the Northeast Board of Trustees in 1995 and still serves in that capacity. Cunningham currently holds the position of secretary for the 15-member board.
Cunningham also fulfills duties as part of the Northeast Development Foundation Board of Directors. He is one of four representatives from Prentiss County on this 20-person committee.
He and others on the board helped assemble an athletic giving program through the Northeast Development Foundation that has generated over $1 million for the institution over the past 16 years.
Cunningham is a familiar sight at Northeast sporting events. He can usually be found at courtside inside Bonner Arnold Coliseum or in a folding chair during the spring at either baseball or softball doubleheaders chatting about his beloved Tigers.
(Football, 1979, 1980, Baseball 1980, 1981, Baseball Coach 1986-1991)
Ronnie Key immediately became a popular student-athlete upon his enrollment in 1979. He was selected as Mr. Northeast Mississippi Junior College during his sophomore year while playing both baseball and football.
Key was a standout defensive end for the Tigers in one of the best two-year periods in program history. Northeast compiled 15 victories during his tenure on the gridiron.
The Tigers captured six wins during Key’s freshman season, which was tied for the most by any Northeast team in the previous 10 campaigns, and finished as runner-up in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division.
Among the victories that year were three consecutive matchups with Coahoma Community College, Hinds Community College and Holmes Community College. Northeast eventually lost at Jones County Junior College in its second-ever state playoff contest.
Key and the Tigers bounced back with perhaps the best season in school history. Northeast captured nine victories in 1980, which is still the second most in a single year ever, and its inaugural MACJC North Division championship.
The Corinth native helped the Tigers compile a perfect 6-0 mark in league play. They clinched the MACJC North Division title with a 26-0 blanking of Northwest Mississippi Community College.
Northeast rose to as high as No. 2 in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) poll and was the top ranked team in the entire country at one point according to JC Gridwire. Those remain as the highest rankings ever for the Tigers.
Key’s final outing on the gridiron was during a 19-3 setback to Jones County in the first postseason game hosted by Northeast inside the friendly confines of Tiger Stadium.
He made an even deeper impact on the baseball program at Northeast. Key was a MACJC All-State selection and was voted as the Tigers’ Most Valuable Player (MVP) during each of his two campaigns.
NJCAA Hall of Famer W.B. “Bill” Ward recognized Key with the Tiger Award for football following his freshman year while head coach William Southward gave him the same honor twice for his leadership and efforts on the diamond.
Key returned to the Booneville campus in 1984 and was named the ninth head baseball coach at Northeast since the program was reinstated in 1961. His squads were known to be consistently competitive on a yearly basis.
The Corinth High School alumnus set a new program record with 24 victories in 1989 on the way to third place in the MACJC North Division. That mark stood for 11 years when the Tigers posted 26 triumphs in 2000.
He led the Tigers to five consecutive winning seasons and finished his tenure with 113 victories, which places him as the third winningest headman in program history. His Northeast teams missed the postseason by one game for three straight years from 1989-91.
Key was selected to coach the Athletes in Action international tour while with the Tigers in both 1985 and 1989. It was a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International that was formed to share life-changing faith with sports fans across the world.
His team trained in Reno, Nev., before visiting sites in northern California and Central America. Key’s crew also visited local hospitals and churches as a means of serving others during their summer tours.
He left his alma mater to take the same position at Montreat-Anderson (N.C.) College in 1991. Key quickly retreated to the Magnolia State in 1991 after accepting an opening at Lamar School in Meridian.
Key remained at Lamar for the next two decades and served in various roles such as head baseball and golf coach, assistant football instructor, athletic director and guidance counselor.
He is presently in his fifth season as the golf coach at Meridian Community College. Key was the 2014 MACJC and Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) Coach of the Year after guiding the Eagles to a state title on the links.
Key’s teams have captured 15 tournament crowns over the last four campaigns. Each of those squads were selected as Farmer’s Insurance All-Academic Teams as well.
He and his wife Leigh Ann have two children, Casey and Easton. Key is a board member for district five of Mississippi’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and attends worship at Meridian’s Northcrest Baptist Church.
(Men’s Basketball 1980-81, 1981-82,
Assistant Men’s and Women’s Basketball Coach 2003-13)
Maurice Stafford started what turned into a blossoming career in the sport of basketball after signing with then-Northeast Mississippi Junior College as one of the highest touted prep athletes in the Magnolia State.
Stafford immediately showed amazing potential during his inaugural matchup in a black-and-gold uniform on November 10, 1980 at home against Dyersburg State (Tenn.) Community College. He nearly accounted for a double-double with 16 points and eight rebounds during a decisive 103-84 victory by the Tigers.
The Biggersville High School graduate was frequently the leading scorer for Northeast during his freshman campaign in jersey No. 44 while under the watch of head coach Noel Akins.
His first such instance as top scorer for the Tigers was in a tight 92-89 triumph over Northwest Alabama Community College, which is now Northwest-Shoals Community College. Stafford was one of five Tigers to reach double figures that night with 26 points.
Stafford helped Northeast win its initial five contests that year with 25 points at Dyersburg State and 30 points during his first rivalry matchup with Itawamba Community College on December 2, 1980.
He and his teammates went on to win the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division Tournament crown with a 61-50 triumph versus Northwest Mississippi Community College. Stafford had 13 points in the Tigers’ title victory over the Rangers.
Northeast eventually lost in the state championship contest to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and qualified for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 7 Tournament that was held on the campus of Paducah (Ky.) Community College, which is currently known as West Kentucky Community and Technical College.
Stafford, who was one of four returning sophomores, and the Tigers gained their revenge one season later by capturing the 1982 MACJC State Tournament title under the direction of first-year headman Richard Mathis.
Northeast edged past Mississippi Gulf Coast in the semifinals by a 56-55 margin thanks in part to 27 points from Stafford. The Tigers then bested host Utica Junior College 86-78 with Stafford notching 15 points before hoisting the championship trophy.
Stafford was selected to the MACJC All-State team and became the seventh NJCAA All-American in program history after leading both the state and region with approximately 23 points per game.
The Rienzi native was also the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 1981 Tip Off Tournament in Birmingham, Ala., where Northeast won the crown over Lurleen B. Wallace (Ala.) Community College.
He signed with the University of North Alabama after his tenure with the Tigers and found even more success on the hardwood. He led the Lions in scoring and field goal percentage both as a junior and senior.
Stafford was a two-time All-Gulf South Conference (GSC) selection and was the 1984 GSC Player of the Year. That same season he led North Alabama to a 27-7 overall mark, a GSC and NCAA South Regional championship plus a berth to the NCAA Division II Final Four.
He shot 75 percent from the floor during his senior campaign, which at the time was a NCAA Division II record. That incredible feat was broken three years later, but still remains fourth all-time at that level.
Stafford’s career stat line for the Lions included 922 points, 382 rebounds, 95 assists, 70 steals and 32 blocks. He later returned to Florence, Ala., as an assistant coach for North Alabama’s women’s program.
His playing career might have concluded with the Lions, but his passion for roundball continued through his time as a coach. His first position came at the University of Tennessee at Martin from 1989-95.
Stafford was heavily involved in recruiting, monitoring the academic status of players, game preparation and the development of post players while at UT Martin, North Alabama and the University of Memphis (Tenn.).
Some of the standout athletes he instructed were Tamika Whitmore, who went on to play for the Indiana Fever of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) after starring at Memphis, and North Alabama’s inaugural first-team All-American in Serita Gaulding.
Stafford returned to Booneville to conclude his coaching tenure at Northeast. He was the first ever assistant for the women’s basketball program and assisted the men as well over a decade starting in 2003.
He assisted the Lady Tigers in capturing a pair of state championships plus the 2006 NJCAA Region 23 title. Stafford tutored NJCAA All-Americans Jessica Hooker and Krystal Robinson during that special season that saw Northeast reach the NJCAA Division I National Tournament for the third time ever.
Stafford, who is also a member of North Alabama’s Hall of Fame, is married to the former Karyn Miller of Jumpertown. They have a daughter, Sascha, and one grandson, D’Kylin.
Sports Hall of Fame
We are actively seeking nominations for Northeast’s sixth class (2013) of Sports Hall of Fame inductees.
Criteria for those eligible include former NEMCC coaches and athletes that have been out of college athletics for at least five years. A maximum of five honorees may be inducted annually.
“We have so many former athletes that have excelled here and gone on to four-year schools. Some may have even made it to the NBA, to the NFL. Many great coaches have spent time here. The Northeast Sports Hall Of Fame is our way of honoring them and saying thanks for the contribution they made to the legacy of our athletic program.
Nominations for induction into the Northeast Sports Hall of Fame will be accepted through May 1.
For more information, or questions regarding how to make a nomination, contact Northeast Athletic Director Kent Farris at (662)720-7309, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles “Doodle” Floyd
Kenneth “Cat” Robbins
David “Nub” Strickland
W.B. “Bill” Ward
Harold T. White
David M. Carnell, Jr.
Phyllis Stafford Dilworth
Kunshinge Sorrell Howard
Vincent Del Negro
Sherry Slayton Holland
Benjamin Guy Gardner
Brandi Vondenstein Dannelly
Ellis “Myrl” Crowe
Larry “Jerry” Reno
Harry T. Cosby
Nathan “Ned” Davis
Tamica Pierce Jones
John O. Cunningham