Jones County Junior College will have a new women's basketball coach for the first time in 14 years.
Longtime successful head coach Sandra Sumrall, who has led the program since the 1999-2000 season, announced her retirement Tuesday afternoon at a press conference in the Media Room of the C.L. Neill Student Center.
Jones did not look far to find a replacement.
Kelton Thompson, who had served as associate head coach for the Bobcat men's basketball team this past season, will take over as head coach of the Lady Bobcats.
Sumrall enjoyed enormous success at JCJC.
"Sandra Sumrall is the epitome of what a coach should be and how to act and how to treat your players," said JCJC President Dr. Jesse Smith. "She is the epitome of what JCJC athletics is, what it should be and what we want it be. She has been absolutely incredible and we are going to miss her.
"She is a lady of class and of great work ethic."
Sumrall said coaching the Lady Bobcats has been a tremendous thrill.
"It's been an honor and I've been so blessed to be part of the women's basketball program at Jones Junior College," she said. "We have had phenomenal players and I feel like Jones has been a second home to me. I'm going to miss the team and the people here.
"This is the hardest decision I've ever had to make, but I'm optimistic about the future of the program under Coach Thompson."
JCJC Athletic Director Katie Herrington, who Sumrall replaced in 1999, praised Sumrall for her efforts.
"We are very proud of the success Coach Sumrall has had over the last 14 years and we look forward to a bright future," Herrington said. "I don't know of anyone who has a better program in the state and it's been a great ride."
Sumrall said Thompson has many of the same qualities she possesses as a coach.
"I'm so excited about Coach Thompson," she said. "We have a lot of the same beliefs and work ethic and coaching styles. But as much as we both like to win, we are teaching skills for life.
"We are trying to make our players future leaders."
Thompson is looking forward to being the next coach of the Lady Bobcats.
"I'm very, very excited about this opportunity," he said. "Less than a year ago, I was sitting in a high school gym planning my summer schedule. Now, look how much has changed.
"I would like to thank the Jones Board of Trustees, Dr. Smith, Coach Herrington and everyone at Jones for this opportunity," he said. "Jones Junior College is such a great place and it's very easy to recruit kids here based on what this college stands for."
Thompson came to JCJC last year and served as associate men's head coach for Jay Ladner.
"I want to thank Coach Ladner because he has been an icon of mine," Thompson said. "I owe the man a whole lot for what he has done for my career."
Dr. Smith was pleased that Jones did have to go far to find a quality coach.
"Coach Thompson has one speed and that's wide open," he said. "Coach Thompson has so much energy and you get excited being around him. His intensity, his knowledge of the game and his values are great. He wants to teach his players to be student-athletes first, athletes second and winners third."
Sumrall had a record of 211-127 during her time at JCJC. The Lady Bobcats have four state championships in the history of the school and three have come under Sumrall – 2000-01; 2008-09; and 2009-10.
Prior to coaching at Jones, Sumrall was the junior high and assistant high school girls' basketball coach at West Jones and became the head coach of the Lady Mustangs in 1982. She coached at West Jones from 1982-99, leading them to the Overall State 4A Tournament championship in 1997.
Including her tenure at West Jones, Sumrall has a career record of 574-263.
She graduated from Northeast Jones High School where she played varsity basketball for four years. After graduation, she attended the University of Mississippi where she received scholarships from the Lady Rebel basketball and volleyball teams.
Sumrall received her BS degree in physical education at Ole Miss and her master's degree from William Carey University.
Thompson said Bay High School Debbie Triplett and Sumrall have been tremendous influences on his career.
"Coach Triplett hired me and gave me my first coaching job," he said. "She introduced me to the girls' side of basketball and she won her third state championship this year.
"But this day is about Coach Sumrall. I've known her for a year. The amount of players' lives she has been able to touch is incredible and I want to thank you personally for what you have done for me."
Thompson graduated from St. Stanislaus High School in 1996. He played for Ladner at SSC.
He attended William Carey University on a basketball scholarship from 1996-2000. He helped the Crusaders to the 1997 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championship and an appearance in the NAIA Tournament that season.
He received a B.S. in business and finance from William Carey in 2000 and earned a master's of Business Administration degree from WCU in 2003.
Thompson was an assistant coach at St. Stanislaus from 2001-06.
He served as head coach at Bay High School from 2006-12, where he averaged 20 wins per season.
He led Bay High to the 2010 4A state championship (the first boys state championship in school history) and a Final Four appearance in 2012.
He was the Mississippi 4A Coach of the Year in 2010 and District Coach of the Year in 2009 and 2012. He was the Biloxi Sun-Herald "South Mississippi" Coach of the Year in 2010.
He served as head coach in the 2012 Mississippi North/South All-Star Game and head coach in the 2012 South Mississippi All-Star Game.
Thompson, a native of Folsom, La., was inducted into the St. Stanislaus Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
Thompson added that he would not have to do a rebuilding job at JCJC, like with previous programs.
"It's a bit of a different situation here," he said. "I've taken over programs that have been on hard times or on the bottom. But this is different. This program is on solid ground and it's exciting to take over a team heading in such a good direction."
To view Tuesday's press conference, go to http://new.livestream.com/accounts/2675974/events/1963033