On April 27, the Holmes Community College Alumni Association inducted six former athletes into the 2017 Sports Hall of Fame in Frank Branch Coliseum in Goodman. The six inductees included: Elizabeth Mosby Ellis, Women's Basketball; Todd Kimble, Men's Basketball Coach; Charles McCluskey, Football/Baseball; Phillip Sistrunk, Men's Soccer; Derek Starling, Jr., Men's Basketball, and Austin Taylor, Baseball.
A graduate of Canton Academy, Elizabeth Mosby Ellis played basketball and tennis at Holmes from 1995-1997. At Holmes, she accumulated numerous basketball honors, including: Most Improved Player, Most Valuable Player, and All-State Second Team. For tennis, she also fared well, as she was named Best Offensive Player, Most Improved Player, Most Valuable Player, All-State First Team, Most Dedicated Player, and Juco All-Star. She was on the President's List, received academic awards for her strong grades as a student-athlete, and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society, as well.
Ellis' husband, Michael, is also a Holmes alumnus and former student-athlete. He played baseball and football from 1994-1995. They have three children: Vaiden, 12; Whitten, 9, and Mary Katherine, 6.
"My fondest memory from Holmes, of course, is meeting my now-husband Michael," Ellis said. "I also thoroughly enjoyed dorm life."
Upon graduating Holmes, Ellis transferred to the University of Louisiana in Lafayette to major in child and family studies. In 1999, she received the Sun Belt Conference Sportsmanship Award, and in 2000, she completed her degree. Ellis worked in pharmaceutical sales, and received the Special Achievement Award from Roche Pharmaceuticals in 2012. After working as a pharmaceutical sales representative for three years, she became a mother and left the workforce, and has remained a stay-at-home-mom since then. Ellis and her family currently reside in Oxford, where she is a member of Junior Auxiliary.
Bennie Todd Kimble of Hattiesburg served in a variety of roles at Holmes from July 1997-August 2012. He served as workforce development coordinator, physical education instructor, developmental mathematics instructor, men's golf coach, and - most notably - head men's basketball coach. For this role, Kimble followed in his father Bennie Kimble's footsteps, who served as Holmes' head basketball coach for 27 years.
A graduate of East Holmes Academy, Kimble played basketball at Holmes from 1987-88. His sister, Jennifer Ward, was also a Bulldog, cheering at Holmes from 1984-86. While at Holmes, Kimble not only excelled as a varsity basketball player, but was also voted Most Intellectual Freshman and inducted into Phi Theta Kappa honor society. After Holmes, Kimble transferred to Delta State University where he earned his bachelor's in mathematics. While at Delta State, he continued to play basketball, received the Mr. Hustle Award, earned the National Collegiate Mathematics Award, and was named to Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.
Kimble continued his education with additional graduate work in physical education at Mississippi State University and in education at William Carey University. Prior to returning to his roots to work at Holmes, Kimble taught math and coached a number of sports at Manchester Academy, including basketball, baseball, football, softball, and track. He earned numerous honors, including State AAA Coach of the Year, South All-Star Coach, District Coach of the Year, among many others, for both boys and girls basketball.
As basketball coach at Holmes, he was named North All-Star Coach in 1998 and 2005; Mississippi Association of Coaches Coach of the Year 2003; Holmes County Chamber of Commerce Shining Star Award recipient 2006; MACJC Coach of the Year 2003; and MACJC Basketball Committee Chairman 2003-2005. Kimble took the Bulldogs to the MACJC State Tournament seven times, led the team to become North Division Runner-up four times, and North Division Champions in 2003. He also led the Bulldogs to be MACJC State Champions three times, took them to the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament six times, and helped them place as NJCAA Region 23 Runner-up in 2003.
Currently, Kimble is serving in his second year as head boys basketball coach, cross country coach and geometry instructor at Purvis High School. Prior to his current position, he was head girls basketball coach, head football coach and mathematics instructor at Dixie Attendance Center; positions he had held since 2013 when he left teaching/coaching at North Forrest High School. He and his wife, Shannon, have three children: Bree Brackett, 27, a film editor; Tori Brackett, 21, a marine biologist, and Sidney Kimble, 18, a student.
Charles H. McCluskey of North Carrollton enrolled at Holmes Community College after graduating from J. Z. George High School in 1961. A star athlete for his two years as a Bulldog, he co-captained the football team and pitched for the baseball team.
As a football player, he was voted Most Improved Back, named an Honorable Mention for All-State Fullback, and was an offensive leader with 162 total plays. McCluskey earned a running average of .069 under Baseball Coach Jamie Howell. He and the Bulldogs won 11 games and lost only one, to Coach Bellipanni at Mississippi Delta Community College. Not surprisingly, he was voted Most Athletic in 1963.
"I can still see Ms. Emma Bostick, my English and speech instructor, sitting in the stadium bleachers - rain or shine," McCluskey said. "She made it to about 95 percent of all of our football practices. I was crazy about my baseball and football coaches: Jamie Howell, Wayne Sims, Aubrey Rosell, Glen Fortenberry, and Head Coach Billy Mustin.
"Coach Mustin was extremely tough, but was fair, and probably my favorite. He was solely responsible for my being at HJC. I was scouted by Ole Miss my senior year at J.Z. George High, but in the end my abilities did not come up to SEC standards. My ego was bruised, so I decided not to attend college. Coach Mustin, however, came to my rescue. J.Z. George was playing in the district basketball tournament at Winona High, which was Coach Mustin's alma mater. He talked me into coming to Holmes on a full football scholarship, which I have been proud of every day since."
Outside of sports, McCluskey was also active in campus life. He was vice president of his freshman class in 1962, served as a student council representative in 1963, and was voted Most Handsome.
Upon graduation from Holmes, he continued his baseball career, playing semi-pro for 23 years. He also began working in construction at J.J. Ferguson Sand & Gravel Co. in 1967 and is still with the company today.
McCluskey and his wife, Jo, have four children - Charles A. (Tony) McCluskey, Robin S. McCluskey, Cecil Womble, and Mike Womble - as well as 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. His son Robin and granddaughter Lindsay Womble are Holmes alumni, as well, and another granddaughter - Madison Womble - is currently a freshman Bulldog softball player.
William "Phillip" Sistrunk of Starkville is a 2007 graduate of Holmes Community College. A native of Flowood and graduate of Northwest Rankin High School, he played soccer under Coach Matt Convertino on the Ridgeland Campus from 2005-2006.
"I am absolutely elated that Phil is the first-ever Holmes Community College men's soccer player to be inducted into the Holmes Sports Hall of Fame," Coach Convertino said. "Phil was a fantastic soccer player on the field for us but more so he was an even better personality to have as part of our program for two years. He and his teammates impacted the team's culture in a positive way and left a legacy that will not be forgotten."
Serving as captain of the Bulldogs soccer team, Sistrunk was the highest goal-scorer and assist-leader his sophomore year. In 2006, he was named to the All-Region 23 Team, named MACJC Region 23 Co-Player of the Year, and selected for the Mississippi Junior College All-State Team. He was also named MVP for the Bulldogs each year of his tenure. As a freshman, Sistrunk volunteered as a coach for the YMCA soccer team and coached Mississippi Fire Juniors.
Outside of soccer, Sistrunk majored in business administration/accounting and was a Dean's List scholar, a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and named to the Holmes Hall of Fame. He was also an active member of Pinelake Church, where he volunteered as a Bible study leader.
Upon graduation from Holmes, he attended Mississippi State University, graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Risk Management and Financial Planning in 2009. He currently serves as a human resources director for a restaurant group in North Mississippi.
Derek Starling, Sr., of Madison is a 1986 alumnus of Holmes Junior College. A graduate of Canton High School, he played men's varsity basketball under Coach Bennie Kimble from 1984-1986.
During his time as a Bulldog, Starling, the team captain, was named to the All-Region 23 Team, MJCAA All-State, and chosen to play in the MJCAA All-Star game. Other accolades he received included the Academic Award, the Sportsmanship Award, the Ras Branch Award, and the Bulldog Award.
Outside of basketball, Starling was president of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), a Hall of Fame inductee, an honor student, and on the Homecoming Court in 1985. He was not the only Starling child who attended Holmes, either: his sister, Diane Starling Jackson, and his brother, Dwayne Starling, are Holmes alumni, as well.
Starling recalls many fond memories from his time as a Bulldog.
"I was very fond of calculus class with Mr. Bogan and drafting class with Mr. Miles," Starling said. "I also had great memories of the quotes from Coach Kimble. By playing basketball at Holmes, we were able to travel to the far reaches of this great state and meet some wonderful people, all while being great ambassadors for this great college. Finally, I remember all the evenings we spent sitting outside all over the campus."
Upon graduation from Holmes, he attended Mississippi State University and earned his bachelor's in industrial and systems engineering with a minor in mathematics. Starling's basketball career ended in the fall of 1986 while at MSU, due to a knee injury. Today, he is the owner of SOL Engineering Services, headquartered in Jackson. Prior to owning SOL Engineering, he served as corporate director of quality and enterprise resource planning at Proliance, Inc., in New Haven, Connecticut. He has also worked as vice president of Magnolia Management Group and as quality section manager of Baxter Healthcare, Inc.
Some of the honors that Starling has received include: Small Business Administration's 2015 Mississippi Business Person of the Year, and SOL Engineering being selected by Mississippi Business Journal as one of the "Top 10 Engineering Firms in the State" and one of the "10 Best Places to Work." He is proud to say that SOL Engineering has endowed a Minority Engineering Scholarship at Mississippi State. Starling also served on the Canton School Board for 17 years, eight of which he served as chairman.
Starling belongs to Alcorn State University Department of Advanced Technology's Advisory Board, the American Council of Engineering Companies, the American Society for Quality, and the Board of Directors for the Society of American Military Engineering. He and his wife, Daphenia, have one son, Derek, who is 10.
Gerry Austin Taylor, son of Gerry and Julie Taylor of Kosciusko, enrolled at Holmes Community College after graduating from Kosciusko High. In high school, Taylor played three seasons at Kosciusko for head coach Kevin Pullen where he hit .396 for his career with 10 home runs and 84 RBI. He helped lead the Whippets to three division titles and earned all-division honors in both 2004 and 2005. In 2004, was selected to compete in the State Games of Mississippi.
Taylor followed in both his grandfathers' footsteps coming to Holmes: his grandfather Alton Taylor played baseball from 1951-53, and his grandfather Dewitte Belk played football from 1953-55. As a member of the Holmes Dirtbags baseball team, Taylor shined under Coach Kenny Dupont, Bill Grace, and Josh Hoffpauir. He hit .346 with a combined 50 RBI in his two seasons at Holmes. Taylor garnered MACJC All-State honors and was selected to represent his team in the Mississippi Junior College Baseball Showcase. Taylor was a scholar-athlete, as well, earning an invitation to be part of Phi Theta Kappa honor society.
"The most memorable part of Holmes was the family atmosphere throughout campus," Taylor said. "The faculty members knew who you were, especially baseball players. They took the time to make sure we did well in class during the spring when our schedule was so demanding. I made lifelong friends at Holmes and wouldn't trade anything for the experience I had!"
In the 2006 MLB Draft, Taylor was a 49th round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals. He also went on to play ball with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Blazers in 2008. He played in 51 games and started 49 in his first season at UAB. Taylor started 23 games in the outfield and 26 as the Blazers' designated hitter, tallying nine multiple-hit games and five contests with multiple RBI. He finished the season with a .247 batting average and 20 RBI. Taylor was named to the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll, as well.
He earned his bachelor's in business administration from UAB, and has worked for the past eight years at Mitchell Metal Products in Kosciusko as the sales manager for the southeast territory. The company sells sheet metal, duct pipe and fitting, and his territory ranges all the way from Texas to Georgia.
Taylor and his wife, Mary Claire, have three children - Tate Austin, 3, Wells Atwood, 2, and Henry (Hank) Dewitte, newborn.
Prior to the 6 p.m. banquet and awards program, inductees enjoyed an informal welcoming reception at the president's home, where they received framed sports photos from their days as a Bulldog. Afterward, inductees and their families enjoyed tours of campus and musical performances by Connection! until time for the banquet. Holmes' new bulldog puppy mascot, Major, made an appearance for photo opportunities during the banquet, as well.
The new inductees have not only achieved athletic success, but prosperity in their careers, as well. Most importantly, they have proved to be top-notch ambassadors for Holmes, and the college is grateful to each inductee for that.
For more information about Holmes alumni events and the alumni association, contact Coordinator of Alumni Affairs Katherine Ellard at email@example.com or at (662) 472-9134.
IN THIS PHOTO: Pictured are the 2017 Sports Hall of Fame inductees with (center) Holmes President Dr. Jim Haffey. They are (left to right)Charles McCluskey, Football/Baseball; Todd Kimble, Men's Basketball Coach; Austin Taylor, Baseball; Derek Starling, Sr., Men's Basketball; Elizabeth Mosby Ellis, Women's Basketball, and Phillip Sistrunk, Men's Soccer.