In praise of Jonathan Mills . . . and more

Notes, quotes and an opinion or two. . .

Today’s offering begins in praise of Jonathan Mills, the rugged heart and soul of the Southern Miss basketball team that will play BYU Wednesday night in the quarterfinals of the NIT Tournament at Hattiesburg.

A Chicago native, Mills was listed initially at USM as a 6-foot-8 forward. He is more like 6-4, but he is thick, strong and knows how to use his body. He averages almost 10 points and eight rebounds per game, but his contributions are so much more. He is the glue of the team. He might lead the nation in retrieving loose balls, taking charges, setting screens that hurt people and making game-changing plays. He’ll face a huge challenge Wednesday night, giving up several inches to the BYU bigs. Count on this: He will not get out-efforted.

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Billy Hamilton, the Taylorsville flash, will need some more Minor League seasoning before he makes his Major League debut. The Cincinnati Reds last week assigned Hamilton to their Minor League camp after he hit .174 (4-for-23) with two triples and nine strikeouts. Hamilton is expected to begin the season at Class AAA Louisville.

Hamilton, a shortstop in the past, is playing a new position, center field, but it was hitting problems that caused his expected demotion.

Said Reds manager Dusty Baker: He’s striking out too much. He had to come here to see where his development is, and realize he has some ways to go.”

Hamilton stole a professional-record 155 bases last season at Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola. has been learning a new position after switching from shortstop in the offseason. With his prowess for stealing, the organization felt his body would take less of a beating in the outfield.

The Reds project Hamilton as their future centerfielder and leadoff hitter, but he’ll have to cut down on the strikeouts to bat first in the order. Keep in mind, Hamilton is relatively new to switch-hitting and hasn’t played as much baseball as most 22-year-old prospects because he was a three-sport star at Taylorsville High.

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Kudos to Jackson State for its choice of Callaway’s Wayne Brent as its new men’s basketball coach. Brent not only is an excellent floor coach, but has connections throughout Mississippi high school basketball and particularly in the metro area. Jackson State is a job Brent has long coveted, having grown up practically on the JSU campus. He’ll do well.

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A reminder of Wednesday’s appearances by Mississippi Olympics heros Bianca Knight and Ralph Boston at the re-opening of our refurbished Olympic Room from 3-6 p.m. Wednesday. It will be an informal meet and greet. Those who haven’t visited lately also will get a chance to see our recently upgraded Hall of Fame kiosks, which tell the stories of Mississippi sports legends.

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People keep asking: Will Marshall Henderson, a junior and the winner of the C Spire Howell Trophy, be back at Ole Miss next season? His answers were, at best, non-commital post-game. I certainly don’t know, but I also don’t know what his options will be, either. The problem with him playing off-guard in the NBA is that he will have to cover other off-guards. Again, I don’t know. Just saying . . .

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A very few openings remain in the Hall of Fame’s April 22 celebrity golf tournament at Reunion. If you are interested contact Margaret Ferriss White at 601 982-8264.

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