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Former Wildcat and NBA player James Singleton set for MCC Sports Hall of Fame induction

Dylan Dunaway - PRCC Sports Information Director


POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Nicknamed "Chicago" by those involved with the Pearl River men's basketball program, James Singleton quickly became one of the best players to lace up sneakers at PRCC after arriving in Poplarville in 1999.

The only Wildcat to ever play in the National Basketball Association, Singleton will be honored alongside representatives from the 14 other community colleges during the 2024 Mississippi Community Colleges Sports Hall of Fame ceremony on April 23. The celebration will be held at Hinds Community College's Clyde Muse Center.


"It's really an honor to represent the Wildcats in the Hall of Fame," Singleton said. "There were so many people who helped me along the way. I'll always represent the maroon and gold.


"Everyone has a place where they learned what they could be, and Pearl River was that place for me. I learned who I was and what I was capable of. If it wasn't for being at Pearl River, there's no telling who James Singleton would be right now. I credit so much to PRCC."



A LEGENDARY WILDCAT CAREER

For most, leaving a city of nearly three million people like Chicago to come to a town with less than three thousand like Poplarville wouldn't be a welcomed change, but Singleton had a connection to Mississippi.


 "My mom is originally from Heidelberg," Singleton said. "I wasn't really the kind of person to need the bright lights of the big city. Every summer, we spent time in Mississippi with my mom and dad. I liked the fact that it was a slower pace than Chicago.

 "I went on different college visits, but I felt like the Pearl River staff was the most genuine. They had my best interests at heart, so I made it official."

Singleton enrolled at Pearl River in the fall of 1999, and he immediately began getting close to his teammates and coaches. The season finally arrived, and Singleton and the Wildcats were off to an incredible start until injury struck on a road trip. 

"I jumped up for a rebound, and my knee buckled a little," Singleton said. "I was hard-headed and wouldn't let my coaches take me out of the game. A little while later, I came down with a rebound and heard the pop — that was the end of my freshman year with an ACL injury."


The rehab process is challenging for most athletes, and that was no different for Singleton. Luckily, then-head coach Richard Mathis was persistent in ensuring Singleton returned better than ever. 


"I had a good work ethic, but coach Mathis instilled the drive in me. I was down on myself and had even stopped going to class. He woke me up and made me get the day started," Singleton said. "He took me to the gym to rehab and would sit there until I was done. He told me I could give up on myself, but he wasn't giving up on me."


Sophomore year eventually made its way around, and Singleton instantly became one of the best players on the court everywhere the Wildcats went. By the time the season had ended, Pearl River was the MACJC South Division champion, and Singleton had averaged a double-double with 13.8 points and 13.9 rebounds, including an incredible stretch of 10 straight games with a double-double. He collected 59 blocks for the year and shot 61 percent from the floor. He was named All-MACJC and All-Region at season's end.


"I didn't just have a chip on my shoulder — I had a boulder. I was in constant pain the first couple of games, but I fought through it. I couldn't let my coaches and teammates down."


Singleton credits his rehab process for the successful season.

"I felt like I was mentally stronger than everyone else because of my rehab process," he said. "I knew that nothing could stop me but me. They'd challenge me to get 15 rebounds, and I'd strive for 20. They'd say get five blocks, and I'd shoot for 10. I had a game within the game."


As if averaging a double-double for a season wasn't unique enough, Singleton set a program record in that season that still stands over two decades later, blocking an unreal 24 shots in a single game.


"I was already a leaper, but with my rehab and all the work on my legs, my vertical was insane," Singleton said. "My timing got a lot better, too. I felt like I could predict things in that game. I didn't even know how many I had until a few days later."

 

PATH TO THE LEAGUE

With his time at The River over, Singleton held offers from Texas, Texas Tech, Miami, Tulane and Murray State. He eventually decided to join the Racers and headed off to Kentucky. At the end of his time with Murray State, Singleton had taken home 2002 Ohio Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year and was a two-time All-OVC selection. His name is still peppered throughout the program's records book. 


When the NBA draft season rolled around, Singleton was invited to work out for teams after his productive collegiate career.


"When I went to work out for teams and saw the talent and skill sets of the players in the league, I knew I wasn't ready yet," he said. "I had the athleticism, but I didn't have the skillset."


When the draft ended, Singleton's name hadn't been called, but that didn't stop his professional dreams. He took his talents overseas to Italy and joined Aurora Basket Jesi of the Serie A2. Following a successful season, which saw him earn Lega2 Import of the Year, Forward of the Year and Player of the Year, Singleton joined Olimpia Milano of Italian Serie A. He turned in another incredible season to cement his chances of playing in the NBA. In August of 2005, Singleton signed a contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, becoming the first Pearl River athlete to reach the NBA.


Singleton went on to play for the Dallas Mavericks and Washington Wizards, along with a few brief stints overseas. When his NBA career was over, Singleton had featured in 243 games, averaging 3.9 points and 3.7 rebounds.

 

POST-PLAYING CAREER

He officially retired as a player after the 2016-17 season and joined the San Antonio Spurs' G-League affiliate as a coach, helping lead them to the 2018 NBA G-League Championship.


"I was introduced to some coaches and had started to make some connections," Singleton said. "The Spurs were looking for a G-League assistant. When Pop (NBA coaching legend Gregg Popovich) calls, you answer. There was no better person or coaching tree to grow under."


Singleton left his job with the Spurs following the 2020-21 season. He currently lives in Dallas. He and his wife, Amanda, have a daughter (Blake) and two sons (Sebastion and Dax). He now runs his training business, the Singleton Basketball Academy, and operates an AAU program with more than 200 players between kindergarten and 11th grade.


PAST INDUCTEES Singleton joins a star-studded list of Pearl River inductees in the Mississippi Community Colleges Sports Hall of Fame. Other Wildcats included are Willie Heidelberg (2007), Dobie Holden (2007), Tommy Walters (2008), Jerrell Wilson (2008), Frank "Twig" Branch (2009), J.E. Loiacano (2010), Bobby Weaver (2011), Mack Cochran (2012), Steve Regan (2013), Doug Daniels (2014), J. Larry Ladner (2015), Jeffery Posey (2016), Jay Artigues (2017), Larry Whigham (2018), Elaine Powell (2020), Wendell Magee (2021), LaRue Saulters (2022) and Jimmy Oliver (2023). 


For the latest on Pearl River Community College athletics, follow us on Twitter (@PRCCAthletics) and Facebook (PRCCAthletics).

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