POPLARVILLE, MS (PRCC) - Five more members of Pearl River’s NJCAA Tournament team are headed to the next level. Head coach Chris Oney hosted a signing ceremony Wednesday — the first day of the spring signing period — inside Marvin R. White Coliseum to celebrate the accomplishments of his graduating sophomores.
Transfer Brandon Rachal (Natchitoches, La.; Natchitoches Central) signed with Tulsa; Chris Agbo (Jos, Nigeria) signed with Indiana State; long-time commit Cedric Brim Jr. (Tupelo; Shannon) signed with North Alabama; Jonas James III (Jackson; Murrah) is headed to Jackson State; and J’vari Thigpen Jackson; Callaway) signed with William Carey. The latest signees join Kirk Parker (Vicksburg) and Langston Powell (West Monroe, La.), who signed with Southern University and Louisiana-Monroe during the early signing period.
The sophomore class has earned a special place in not only Pearl River's record books but also Oney's memory.
As a group, the sophomores went 49-9 overall in two seasons, posting a 22-6 mark in the MACJC. The squad also went 10-3 in the playoffs — which is where the Wildcats really shined, winning the 2017-18 MACJC title before claiming the program’s first Region XXIII Championship this year and advancing to the NJCAA Tournament.
“I think this group epitomizes the culture we have tried to build here since I’ve taken over” Oney said. “Our motto has been, ‘one don’t eat, we all eat.’ I don’t think we have a guy that averaged over 15 points a game and yet we’re still seeing all these kids sign with four year programs and that’s outstanding and something I’m very proud of.”
Agbo’s style of play and personality quickly endeared him to the PRCC fanbase, making him a crowd favorite. The 6-foot-8, 265-pound Agbo also proved to be a formidable partner with Parker in the post, routinely forcing teams to alter their play under the basket. The Nigerian averaged 6.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and a team-high 1.3 blocks. His biggest offensive performance came via a 20-point outburst against Hinds on Feb. 11.
“I think if you ask Chris he’d agree that he wishes he could’ve played here two years,” Oney said. “Chris came in and did everything we asked him to do and started to play some of his best basketball at the end of the season. He’s another guy that I can point at and say we don’t win that Region XXIII title without him.”
Agbo pointed out that the coaching staff at Indiana State made him feel the most comfortable.
“They’ve been on me for two years now. I could tell they were committed to me,” Agbo said. “I love their style of play. I think I can come in and contribute right away.”
CEDRIC BRIM JR.
Brim proved to be a reliable scoring option for PRCC over his two years in Poplarville. After averaging 11.5 points per game as a freshman, Brim scored at a 14.4 clip this year with a season-high 26 coming against Mississippi Delta. Brim was so reliable in fact that he eclipsed 10 points in 23 of the team’s 30 games — including a run of 13 straight MACJC contests. The 5-foot-10 Brim was particularly lethal from long range, converting 33.3 and 34.2 percent of his 3-pointers in his two seasons in the maroon and gold.
Brim was named to the All-Region XXIII Tournament and All-Region XXIII teams as well as the All-MACJC squad. He was also selected to play in the MACJC All-Star Game.
“I don’t even think CJ was starting at the beginning of this season,” Oney said. “But not once did he waver in his work ethic. He was our hardest working player over the past two years.”
Brim said his decision to sign with North Alabama was a no-brainer.
"They made me feel at home just like at Pearl River," Brim said. "I'm ready to get down there and start putting in work."
JONAS JAMES III
In a lot of ways, James made the Pearl River offense work. The 6-foot guard was among the nation’s leaders in assists as a sophomore with 6.0, improving on last year’s average by almost an assist per game. He also cut his turnovers down to 2.4 as a sophomore and averaged 9.0 points per game. His season-high on the scoring sheet came via a 19-point performance Jan. 17 against Hinds. As one of the top helpers in the league, Jonas was selected to compete alongside Brim in the MACJC All-Star Game.
“Jonas will be missed because the last two years I didn’t even have to put in a press breaker because he would just break the press for me,” Oney said. “He’s a winner, so it won’t surprise me next season if Jackson State is reaching new heights.”
Staying close to home played a factor in James’ recruitment.
"They're close to home and that helps," James said. "They're on the come up and I feel I can help them take that next step."
The LSU transfer made the most of his one year in Poplarville, leading the team in scoring at a 15.5 clip as well as rebounding, averaging 8.7 boards a game. Like Brim, the 6-foot-6, 200-pound Rachal was constantly leading PRCC’s scoring log; he scored a season-high 29 points in a 72-70 win over East Central Feb. 4 and hit double figures in all but four games.
Rachal was a constant award winner for the Wildcats, landing three MACJC Player of the Week awards and one NJCAA Division I Player of the Week. He was also named to the All-Region XXIII and All-Region XXIII Tournament teams plus the NJCAA Division I All-America Second Team.
“Believe it or not, I think Brandon helped us more off the court than on the court,” Oney said. “He was a good teammate during practice and being locked in on film. I think our guys fed off of that. On the court he was a guy that would make all the plays that we needed him to make.”
Rachal ultimately chose Tulsa over a long list of suitors.
“Tulsa was really on me and after looking at the situation, the opportunity to stand out and win at a big level stood out to me,” Rachal said
In Thigpen's two seasons he provided much needed depth to a talented Pearl River program.
Thigpen averaged 1.6 points per game while also averaging 1.8 rebounds per game this past season.
He scored a season high twelve points on Nov. 12 against William Carey JV.
“J’vari is probably one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever coached,” Oney said. “He never had a bad day. I’m honestly just as proud of him as I am of any of these guys.”
Thigpen decided to sign with William Carey in part to the familiarity he has with their program.
“William Carey is a good school and they compete for national titles,” Thigpen said. “It’s also close to home and a bunch of Pearl River guys play there so that definitely played a factor.”