During his high school basketball career, Petal’s Tirus Smith often thought about what it would be like to team up with Winceton Edwards, a close friend. There were actually a few rumors leading into their senior seasons suggesting that it could’ve very well happened. It never did though as Smith starred for the Panthers and Edwards for Oak Grove during the 2016-2017 campaign.
Now, nearly two years later, they’ll finally get their chance. The opportunity comes after Smith’s decision in April to transfer from the University of Texas-El Paso, the school he signed with straight out of high school. The 6-foot-9 forward played significant minutes for the Miners his freshman season in 2017-2018, averaging about five points per game.
“I think I improved a lot,” Smith said of his year in El Paso. “The main thing was getting stronger and a lot faster. I lost a lot of weight. When I went out there, I was 260. I came back, and now I’m about 230.”
Several factors played a part in his big decision, including the sudden retirement of Miner head coach Tim Floyd during the season.
“It really wasn’t just homesickness,” Smith said. “It was just the fact of uncertainty for my next situation.”
It was revealed last month though that Smith would be playing significantly closer to home at his next stop—Jones County Junior College. The Bobcats are led by second-year coach Randy Bolden and include plenty of returning sophomore talent, including Edwards.
“We talked about it all through high school,” Smith said. “Whenever we came back our senior year, we talked about it and doing a package deal. Now that we’re finally getting a chance to play together, it’s really exciting, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Smith is joining a program that’s experienced its fair share of success in recent years. Just four years ago, the Bobcats captured the NJCAA DI National Championship. Less than two years ago, they won an MACJC State and Region 23 Championship on the way to an appearance in the national tournament.
“It’s Winnersville,” Smith said of Jones Basketball. “There’s a history of winning there, and we want to get the history back going. Last year wasn’t the year they wanted to have, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to have a really good year. We’re bringing a good team in with a bunch of key pieces coming in.”
On an individual level, Smith believes he has plenty to prove to himself and not necessarily anything to those on the outside.
“It’s just more so myself accomplishing the goals I’ve set for myself.”
Part of that will include being recruited again and making it back to the Division One level. It’s a hectic process, but also an exciting one, said Smith.
“It’s a blessing at the end of the day, because someone’s trying to pay for you to get an education.”