COLUMBUS — Yvonne Hairston looks pretty comfortable hosting a signing ceremony.
The Columbus High School girls basketball coach should because she has had plenty of practice the last few years.
After sending two of its three seniors to play college basketball following the 2015-16 season, Columbus sent four more off to the next level Monday in signing ceremony in the school’s gym. Guards Kaylyn Wilson and Zaria Jenkins will continue their careers at Itawamba Community College, while Briona Green will stay local at East Mississippi C.C. and Kennedi Stephens will play at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Columbus could have made it five for basketball, but Katlyn Weir will play volleyball at the Mississippi University for Women.
Wilson and Jenkins didn’t plan on sticking together in college.
“We talked about if it would happen. I’m glad we get this opportunity to play together,” Wilson said.
Hairston hopes they continue the same dynamic they showed in high school, with Wilson setting the table for Jenkins.
“Kaylyn is a point guard. She’s a leader,” Hairston said. “She’s run the show for us. She can pull up and shoot the basketball, but she’s usually going to penetrate and dish. Zaria led the team in scoring. She’s a combination player. She can play in the post or she can play on the wing. Most of the time she’s a shooter, but she can slash to the rim, too. She can score in many different ways.”
Jenkins carried quite the scoring load for the Falcons as a senior, averaging nearly 16 points per game as the only Falcon to average double digits. She said she is dedicated to expanding her game at ICC.
Jenkins and Wilson were attracted to ICC’s winning tradition. In coach Nanci Gray’s 11 years, the program has won the state championship three times and the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division title six times, and three National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 23 championships.
Green hopes to step into a position where she will be called upon to be a prominent scorer.
“Bri, she’s just a shooter,” Hairston said. “I know a lot about East Mississippi. They want a spot-up shooter and they’re getting one.”
Green has no hesitation in taking on that role.
“I have to step up my game to another level,” she said. “I thought it was going to be a great opportunity for me to be a better player.”
Hairston thinks Fisk College is gaining a true post player in Stephens. Stephens said she realized a dream in getting an opportunity to attend Fisk and to play basketball at the school.
“She’s very powerful in the post, can score with her back to the basket, is very aggressive and very physical,” Hairston said.
Said Stephens, “Education wise, it’s a very strong school. I always wanted to go to a historically black school.”
Hairston said Stephens wants to go into health care administration and will study business to start that process.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson