PEARL, Miss. - A man that has helped both of Northeast Mississippi Community College's tradition-rich basketball programs win multiple championships is officially attaining recognition as one of most storied athletic figures in the history of the Magnolia State.
Maurice Stafford has been selected as Northeast's representative for the 2019 class of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) Sports Hall of Fame.
The annual induction ceremony is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23 at the Clyde Muse Center on the Rankin County campus of Hinds Community College.
"This is an outstanding honor for coach Stafford and very much deserved," said Northeast president Ricky Ford. "His loyalty and contributions to Northeast have been outstanding and very much appreciated. He has been a significant asset to our institution."
Stafford becomes the seventh representative from Northeast's women's basketball team to enter the MACJC Sports Hall of Fame. He joins Ford, whom he served with as an assistant coach from 2003-11, current Lady Tiger coaches Brenda Mayes and Kunshinge Sorrell-Howard plus Audrey Covington, Phyllis Stafford Dilworth and Evelyn Thompson.
He is also the sixth individual overall and just the third men's basketball athlete in Northeast's illustrious history to be enshrined by the MACJC. That group includes Olympic gold medalist Adrian "Odie" Smith and Kenneth Lindsey plus legendary head coaches Bonner Arnold, Harvey Childers and Mike Lewis.
"It's a blessing to be in that elite group," Stafford said. "Without basketball, I wouldn't be where I'm at today. Northeast is one of the best places I've ever been. I'm very appreciative of this award."
Stafford's vast career on the basketball court spanned parts of five decades and took him across the heart of the Southeast. He taught and played the game at multiple levels, including two different stints as an assistant coach at NCAA Division I universities.
The Biggersville High School graduate broke into the collegiate ranks with a sensational two-year tenure at Northeast. He played for coach Noel Akins as a freshman before Richard Mathis took over before his final campaign with the Tigers.
Stafford made his debut in a black-and-gold uniform on November 10, 1980 against Dyersburg State (Tenn.) Community College. He had 16 points and eight rebounds in a decisive 103-84 victory by Northeast.
It was the start of an excellent season that ended with the Tigers winning the MACJC North Division Tournament championship with a 61-50 decision over Northwest Mississippi Community College. Stafford contributed 13 points in Northeast's title victory against the Rangers.
Northeast also finished as the state runner-up to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and qualified for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 7 Tournament in Paducah, Ky., during Stafford's initial campaign in the City of Hospitality.
Stafford, who was one of four returning sophomores, and the Tigers gained their revenge by capturing the 1982 MACJC State Tournament crown. It was the third state championship in program history and the first since 1968.
Northeast slipped past Mississippi Gulf Coast in the semifinal round by a 56-55 margin thanks in part to a 27-point effort by Stafford. He then posted 15 points as the Tigers hoisted the trophy by besting tournament host Utica Junior College.
Stafford was tabbed to the MACJC All-State team and became the seventh Tiger to earn NJCAA All-American honors after leading both the state and the region with approximately 23 points per game.
After over 20 years away from his first collegiate home, Stafford returned to the Booneville campus in 2003 as the first-ever full-time assistant coach for the Lady Tigers. He also pulled double duties by aiding men's basketball coaches Billy Jefcoat, David Robbins and Lewis for 10 total seasons.
Stafford enjoyed most of his success with the ladies upon his homecoming at Northeast. His first women's team during the 2003-04 campaign won 20 games and was ranked as highly as 4th in the country by the NJCAA.
The Lady Tigers captured back-to-back-to-back MACJC North Division titles during Stafford's first three years with the team. Northeast pieced together a special season in 2006 that ended with a trip to Salina, Kan., for the NJCAA Division I National Tournament.
Northeast compiled a sensational 24-6 overall record and rose to No. 21 in the NJCAA rankings. The Lady Tigers won the third NJCAA Region 23 championship in school history with a thrilling 74-73 triumph over Copiah-Lincoln Community College inside Mississippi College's A.E. Wood Coliseum.
Stafford and the Lady Tigers concluded a remarkable four-year run by repeating as MACJC state champions in 2007. Northeast went 19-7 that season and bested Copiah-Lincoln in the state title matchup by a 64-51 margin.
The Lady Tigers reached the postseason during eight of his 10 years with the program. The Tigers also made three appearances in the playoffs with Stafford as their assistant, including a berth to the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament in 2010.
Stafford instructed a trio of NJCAA All-Americans at Northeast in Marqueciqa Thomas, Jessica Hooker and Krystal Robinson. He retired from coaching following the 2012-13 campaign, but remains an avid supporter of the entire athletic department at Northeast.
"The Stafford name is synonymous with Northeast basketball," said Northeast athletic director Kent Farris. "I was fortunate enough to witness him play both in high school and college. He was a dominant player and the teams that he played on enjoyed phenomenal success. He is very deserving and I'm proud to call him a good friend."
The Rienzi native wrapped up his athletic career at the University of North Alabama following his pair of seasons with the Tigers. He was the 1984 Gulf South Conference (GSC) Player of the Year and a two-time All-GSC selection.
Stafford guided the Lions to the NCAA Division II Final Four during his senior season and captured a GSC and NCAA South Regional championship as well. He shot 75-percent from the floor that year, which at the time set a new NCAA Division II record.
He opened his coaching career with stints with the women's basketball programs at the University of Memphis (Tenn.), the University of Tennessee at Martin and North Alabama.
Some of the standouts that Stafford trained include Tamika Whitmore, who went on to play for the Indiana Fever of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) after starring at Memphis, and North Alabama's inaugural first-team All-American in Serita Gaulding.
"I can go on and on and on," Stafford said. "The relationships I've made are very important. They go a long way back. This is just a great honor. Family is very important to me as well and I wouldn't be where I am without my community."
Stafford was previously inducted into the Northeast and North Alabama Sports Halls of Fame. He is married to the former Karyn Miller of Jumpertown and has one daughter, Sascha, and one grandson, D'Kylin.
Sports Information Director
Northeast Mississippi Community College