Statesman LaQuavius Cotton is still flying high after his victory in the 2015 State Farm College Dunk Championship. Photo by Rory Doyle.

Cotton’s dunks rule the land

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Small school — big hops. That’s what some college basketball fans were saying after Statesman senior LaQuavius Cotton brought down the house at the 2015 State Farm College Dunk Championship April 2.

In front of a rocking crowd at Hinkle Fieldhouse — home court for Butler University in Indianapolis, Ind. — and broadcasted for millions to see on ESPN, the 6-foot-6 Cotton showed the world that some of the nation’s best athletes perform right here in “small-town” Cleveland, Miss.

Cotton, born and raised in Cleveland, is a 2010 East Side High School graduate and senior transfer from Mississippi College. The talented player with humble roots overcame the nerves of the big stage and shined bright in front of a national audience.

“Walking into that gym was crazy,” said Cotton, “I didn’t know it was that big, and being in that atmosphere with some of the guys I saw playing on TV a couple weeks ago — it was shocking. To be in the dunk contest period was a blessing.”

Through a combination of scores from three highly competitive rounds, Cotton’s performance reigned supreme, and he was handed the 2015 championship belt.

“Going into it, I was just happy to be there,” he said. “I told myself I’d be happy just to make it out of the first round. Once I got to the second round, I thought man, I’ve got a chance at winning this, so I’m going to try and take it.

“Winning it all was truly something special. Words can’t explain how it felt to take the championship, but it was amazing.”

Delta State men’s basketball coach Jim Boone was thrilled to see his player dominate the competition.

“We are all so excited for LaQuavius, and to win it all, wow,” said Boone.  “I am so proud of how he represented our basketball program, his family and all of our Delta State family. He is a tremendous young man who has worked very hard to develop his game.”

His invite to the big show, which included competitors from all three NCAA divisions, came after caught wind of a YouTube video Cotton posted of his dunking ability.

“My video really picked up some buzz when Hoop Mix Tape shouted me out on Twitter and Instagram. They got in contact with some people in charge of the dunk contest, and that’s what got me the invite.”

Cotton said one of the highlights of the experience was having his parents in the crowd. His father, Leroy, is the athletic director, assistant principal and basketball coach for East Side.

“My dad was my high school coach and he’s worked with me on fundamentals and dunking,” said Cotton. “He prepped me for the contest. I actually called him during the contest after a couple dunks to see what I should do next.”

The victory has brought the champion a swarm of unexpected attention, from calls from a few agents and contacts from multiple oversees teams.

“This opportunity means a lot to me, and I hope it opens some doors for my future in basketball. It’s definitely helped with exposure for me. Probably the coolest thing that’s happened since I won was another shout out from Hoop Mix Tape and a bio page they created for me.”

Despite the instant fame, Cotton is remaining true to his roots.

“I just want to say thanks to Delta State,” he said. “To the whole university really — faculty, staff, coaches, the compliance office – everyone really helped me out with this and throughout the year.”

So what’s next for the high flyer?

“It’s hard that my senior year is done. It came to an end really fast, but I’ve really enjoyed playing at Delta State with all my teammates,” said Cotton. “Now it’s time to work on my overall game, find an agent and get ready to play professionally.

“I think the dunking is a little behind me for now — until next time, hopefully.”

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Delta State University past and present reunited for a thrilling 2014 Homecoming.

Delta State hosts successful 2014 Homecoming

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The Delta State University Alumni Association recently wrapped up another successful homecoming. The schedule included a multitude of activities for alumni, friends, faculty, staff and students, and many alumni returned to their alma mater for the festivities.

Friday night, the Alumni Association teamed up with the Athletics Department to host the annual Alumni Awards Gala at the Bologna Performing Arts Center. The association honored several alumni and friends who have dedicated their time to Delta State. Richard Myers, past president of the National Alumni Association, presided over the program.

This year’s award recipients were: Patrick Davis, the Hugh Ellis Walker Alumni Service Award; Will Bradham, the Kent Wyatt Young Alumnus Service Award; Left Field Crew, the Gladys Castle Friend of Delta State Service Award; and Mary Ellen Leftwich, the Legacy Award.

This year’s Hall of Fame inductees are Gary Gainspoletti, Dr. Dwaun Warmack and Tony Garcia. Garcia was also named the 2014 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year. The Alumni Association featured a new award this year for a dedicated faculty/staff member of Delta State. Dr. Henry Outlaw received the inaugural honor, and the annual award will be in his name.

The Athletic Department also inducted the Delta State University Sports Hall of Fame at the gala. This year’s class includes: Chris Booker, football; Stacey Johnson, women’s basketball; Joy Long, softball; Alan McAfee, golf; Twentis Magee, men’s basketball; Justin Whitaker, swimming; Eli Whiteside, baseball; Langston Rogers, contributor; and Stan Sandroni, contributor, posthumously.

Delta State Athletics also honored former football player Rick Rodriguez with induction into the DSU Alumni Coaches Hall of Fame. Bryce Griffis, football/baseball, was presented with the Distinguished Statesmen Award.

Over 500 supporters attended the gala, which also featured the Class of 1964, this year’s featured class. They were inducted into the prestigious Golden Circle. Also recognized was the undefeated 1954 football team celebrating its 60th reunion.

Saturday’s festivities included the annual Veteran’s Atrium Program in Jobe Hall, tailgating and entertainment on Statesmen Park. The DSU Continuing Education All-Star Cheerleaders provided entertainment at the park, and the Delta Music Institute bands played at the H.L. Nowell Student Union.

Dr. Kent and Janice Wyatt also celebrated 50 years of service to Delta State. A luncheon was held in their honor Saturday afternoon in the State Room. To donate to the Wyatt Retention Fund, visit

Taylor Holland was crowned the 2014 Homecoming Queen by Student Government Association president Mikel Sykes. National Alumni Association president Rob Armour presented flowers to the Holland on behalf of the association. The Grenada native is a senior biology/pre-physical therapy major and is also a member of the Delta State softball team.

Delta State was victorious in an exciting 27-3 win over Mississippi College to claim the Gulf South Conference Championship. It was the first meeting of the Mississippi school since the 1995 season.

For more information, contact the Alumni Association at 662-846-4660.  To stay up to date on the Alumni Association’s activities, follow these social media sites: Facebook (Statesmen Graduates), Twitter (@DSU_Alumni), Tumblr (, LinkedIn (DSU alumni), Instagram (dsualumni) and You Tube (dsualumni1).

Hundreds of Delta State faithful celebrated the official Margaret Wade statue dedication Friday outside Walter Sillers Coliseum.

Statesmen faithful dedicate Wade statue

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Generations of Delta State supporters gathered Friday to salute one of the institution’s most respected contributors, former Lady Statesmen basketball coach Margaret Wade.

Revered as the “Mother of Modern Women’s Collegiate Basketball,” hundreds of Delta State faithful, including many of Wade’s former players, braved the cold for Wade’s official statue dedication in front of Walter Sillers Coliseum — the very building where she pioneered the Statesmen to three consecutive AIAW National Championships from 1974-75 through 1976-77.

A number of key figures who helped make the statue a reality provided reflections to the crowd, including: Ronnie Mayers, director of athletics; Dr. Kent Wyatt, president emeritus; Dr. Aubrey Lucas, former Delta State president; Langston Rogers, former sports information director; Van Chancellor, former Ole Miss and WNBA head coach; Lucy Janoush, Wade Statue Committee; Wanda Hairston Boone, former Lady Statesman; and Bill Beckwith, statue artist.

Wade was also awarded recognition in Delta State’s newest program, the “Legends of Delta State University.” With the honor, Wade joins the inaugural class as one of Delta State’s most distinguished leaders of lifetime achievement, service, excellence and success in serving the university.

“This is the first step in insuring that Delta State and the Cleveland community pay rightful tribute to a true legend — and one of ours,” said Delta State President William N. LaForge. “She was the mother of basketball.”

Plans to memorialize Wade with a statue began in 2006, and fundraising for the recognition kicked off in 2008. In just a short period of time, 210 contributors made the effort possible through a statue fund. Donations have come nationwide, with 22 states represented.

Spearheading the development were community members Caroline Gaines, Lucy Janoush and Ed Kossman Jr., along with Keith Fulcher, director of Alumni-Foundation. Wade’s former students and players at Cleveland High School and Delta State were very supportive in the fundraising efforts.

“Coach Wade was everything a lady could be throughout her life and always had a smile,” said Kossman, in a previous Delta State press release. “She was just loved by everyone that knew her. The statue may be a tremendous tourist attraction to basketball fans all across the nation and is a big asset to the Delta State campus. It portrays her life so well and represents what she stood for.”

Her spirit and legacy continue to live on through the Wade Trophy, which was established in 1978. Presented each year by the NCAA, the award is given to the nation’s most outstanding women’s collegiate player.

Following the unveiling of the statue, the large crowd moved inside for a reception inside Kent Wyatt Hall to reflect and share stories about one of Delta State’s most cherished contributors.

The legacy of Coach Margaret Wade remains forever strong thanks to the support of the lives she touched. To read more about her life, career and legacy, visit



Margaret Wade: A Fitting Tribute

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Delta State coaching legend Margaret Wade, the first female inductee into your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame will be honored once again Friday with the dedication of a statue in honor of her indelible legacy.

The dedication ceremony on the Delta State campus will begin at 2 p.m. on the West Plaza of Kent Wyatt Hall. Delta State President Bill LaForge will host the event that features former presidents Dr. Kent Wyatt and Dr. Aubrey Lucas, and former Ole Miss and WNBA head coach Van Chancellor, another Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer.

Wade, inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1974, served as head coach of the Lady Statesmen from 1973-79, leading Delta State to three consecutive AIAW National Championships from 1974-75 through 1976-77. During that time, Wade amassed a remarkable 157-23 record and helped pave the way for future female head coaches like Pat Summitt to excel in the sport they love.

“Her first four years back in coaching have been called one of the most amazing accomplishments in sports history,” said Langston Rogers, former Delta State and Ole Miss sports information director and still another MSHOF inductee.

During those four years, Delta State went from having no team at all to Wade leading the Lady Statesmen to a 109-6 record and the three national titles.

Rogers, who was the Delta State publicist for all three of those national championships, consented to answer a few questions about Wade, who died Feb. 26, 1995, at the age of 82.

What is the first word you think of when you think of Margaret Wade? And, why?

Courage.It would have been easy for Margaret to have turned aside President Lucas’ coaching request, but the challenge before her wasn’t nearly as great as she had faced in the past. After all she had won a bout with cancer and survived a near fatal auto accident during the years away from the court.

While success at Delta State brought much joy, it was accompanied by pain for the lady we all came to love and respect. The cancer and automobile accident had taken its toll. Severe attacks of arthritis, especially to her knees, made us wonder how she kept going. At times the travel was almost unbearable. One night in the Louisiana Superdome, the next in Madison Square Garden.

Having lived across Dean Street from Coach for seven years, I had often watched from my window the many times when it would take almost five minutes for her to get out of her car and into her home. The urge was always there to scurry over and help, but it didn’t seem appropriate, because deep down I knew this giant of a woman would find the strength to carry on. For most of us the return to coaching wouldn’t have been worth it, but for Margaret Wade it was just another chapter in her already successful life.

What does Wade mean to you personally?

Having lived across Dean Street from her, I appreciated the way she cared for our children, Laura and Bill. They called her “Aunt Margaret” and they were simply thrilled when they were with her. She loved all the kids in our neighborhood and they loved her back. Following her retirement, we became much closer. I always enjoyed the times she would ask me to come over to watch with her when women’s basketball games were on TV. She especially loved watching Tennessee and often told me that Pat Head Summitt would one day hold the collegiate record for coaching wins. She was right.

To the state of Mississippi?

She was an iconic figure in Mississippi long before her national championship success as a coach at Delta State. The fact that she was the first woman inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame is a testament to just how highly respected she was throughout the state.

To the sport of women’s basketball?

Being called the ‘Mother of Modern Women’s Collegiate Basketball’ pretty much sums it up when discussing her importance to the growth of the sport. When Title IX came along, many people trying to increase interest in the sport looked no further than Margaret Wade. She was the perfect example needed to help overcome some of the challenges if women’s basketball was to be seriously accepted. Her story of being denied the opportunity to compete in the 1930s was well known. Title IX would help give young women an avenue to participate in sports that had been blocked to Margaret Wade those many years ago.

Talk about her character.

There was never a question when it came to Coach Wade’s character. She represented so many outstanding qualities of good character. Things like courage, compassion, loyalty, trust, dedication, kindness, patience, respect, teamwork, and wisdom come to mind when I think of Coach Wade.

What was it like working with her?

It was great working with her, but she could be very demanding. It was all about fairness when it came to media coverage. She wanted the local, state and national media to give the Lady Statesmen just as much attention as the Statesmen. It was evident how important that was to her, because she believed the media could help grow the sport. She cultivated friendships and gained support from Mississippi journalists like Lee Baker, Orley Hood, Mitch Ariff, Michael Rubenstein and Sue Dabbs.

Talk about the dynasty she created at Delta State for women’s basketball.

Margaret Wade and the Lady Statesmen came along at just the right time. Women’s basketball on the collegiate level was in its infant stages. The NCAA hadn’t taken over at that point and the AIAW was the national organization providing all schools — no matter size, division or resources – a national championship in basketball. Immaculata had already won three straight championships leading up to that 1974-75 season, but there was little media attention on a national scale. Live television was not a serious option at that point and few schools packed the house with paying customers. Delta State fans responded to the popularity of the team by filling Walter Sillers Coliseum every time the Lady Statesmen played. It reached a point at home games where the men’s team would play first. Much of that support for the Lady Statesmen came from Cleveland fans who wanted to support Coach Wade. She had coached many of those fans when they attended Cleveland High School. Winning also helped.

Having never coached five-on-five before accepting President Aubrey Lucas’ request to come out of retirement, Coach Wade would be the first to tell you that she depended on her graduate assistant coaches — Brenda Parker, Mickey Miller, Phil Adair and Jimmy Butler – to help achieve the level of success the Lady Statesmen enjoyed. That combination, along with the recruiting of Melvin Hemphill, provided the foundation which led to those three AIAW national titles. Mr. Hemphill saw to it that Delta State got its share of Mississippi’s high school All-State players. Cornelia, Debbie, Lucy, Ramona and Wanda soon became household names to those who followed women’s basketball. The ESPN of today would have loved covering those five.

Another key factor to the dynasty came when Stan Sandroni set up a radio network to broadcast the games live, both at home and on the road. We can’t overlook the role that Stan played in that success and also the role Coach Horace McCool’s leadership provided when he scheduled games in places like New York’s Madison Square Garden, the Louisiana Superdome, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Miami. The Delta State administration provided financial support as did Alyce and Rich Richardson. It was truly a team effort by so many people.

Legendary Lady Statesmen coach Margaret Wade.

Margaret Wade: The Coach, The Teacher, The Legend

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 After a 41-year drought due to the disbandment, Delta State welcomed the sport back for the 1973-74 season and handed it over to a familiar face. With the reinstatement, Title IX and Wade would help give young women an avenue to participate in sports that had been obstructed for Margaret many years before.
Six national championship banners are hoisted in Walter Sillers Coliseum. The first trio was earned in three consecutive seasons (1975-77) in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women under the direction of Wade. In her first four seasons, Wade assembled an astounding 109-6 record for a .947 winnings percentage.
The combination of Wade and the success of her teams, Delta State fans responded to the popularity of the program by filling the Coliseum every time the Lady Statesmen played, mostly with fans Wade coached at Cleveland High School. With women’s basketball just being reinstated at DSU and the sport as a whole in its infant stages, live television was not an option. A key factor to the dynasty established was Stan Sandroni’s creation of a radio network to broadcast the games live, both on the road and at home.
Van Chancellor, former University of Mississippi head women’s basketball coach, first came in contact with Wade in his first year at Ole Miss. “I was simply in awe of her. She had already won three national championships and her teams represented the gold standard in our sport.” Chancellor reflected on the atmosphere of the packed house at Walter Sillers when his team took the floor against the Lady Statesmen in January 1979. “You saw the championship banners hanging from the rafters and that’s what you were shooting for with your teams.”
A compilation of qualities defines Wade, but those that were directly impacted by her came to a consensus that she was always calm and very even keel. Chancellor added, “I loved the way she carried herself with such grace and poise. She was so well respected and people just wanted to be in her presence. She was a tremendous lady, and it was important that her players reflect the qualities of being young ladies while also excelling on the court.” 
Long-time neighbor and coworker Langston Rogers expressed fond memories of watching collegiate women’s basketball with Coach Wade, a frequent occurrence. Rogers recalls one moment when he and Wade were watching Pat Summitt’s Lady Vols play. Wade predicted that Summitt would hold the collegiate record for coaching wins. She was right. Summitt went on to become the winningest coach in basketball history and was influenced by Wade. “Anyone that knew Margaret was touched by her life. She had a passion for teaching and a desire to win that was hard to quench.” The two women’s basketball greats share similarities in the successes of their respective programs but also in recognition. The Naismith Outstanding Contributor to Women’s Basketball Award is given each year to a deserving candidate. Wade was the first ever recipient in 1999, with Summitt receiving the accolade over a decade later in 2013.
Rogers went on to say what the Mother of Modern Women’s Collegiate Basketball meant to the sport and the state of Mississippi. “When Title IX came along, many people who tried to increase interest in the sport looked no further than Margaret Wade. She was the perfect example needed to help overcome some of the challenges if women’s basketball was to be seriously accepted.” Courage, compassion, loyalty, trust, dedication, kindness, patience, respect, teamwork and wisdom were just a few of many qualities describing Wade’s character.
The rich tradition that was left behind by Wade after she retired following the 1978-79 season was meant to be continued by the next coach in line. Four years passed before another legendary coach took the reigns in Lloyd Clark.
Inheriting the program after its first ever losing season, Clark took over and won three NCAA National Championships in his tenure. “Looking at the banners that hang in Sillers, you can see the legacy that she started. She hung those banners when women’s basketball was just getting started and she created a lot of interest in it. I think everything that we do there today is directly through her,” Clark expressed. “I wish she was still around to see the legacy live on.”
Few people make an impact like Wade did in her coaching career. The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association established the Margaret Wade Trophy in 1978 that is given annually to the NCAA’s Player of the Year. This honor is revered as the most prestigious award in women’s college basketball and regarded as the “Heisman of Women’s Basketball.” Recent recipients include Brittney Griner, Candace Parker, and Diana Taurasi, who have all had successful WNBA careers.
In the words of Lloyd Clark, the best way to describe the impact she had on the game is the Wade Trophy. “That tells you exactly what she meant to the sport. When you have the best player in the country receive an award that is named after her, that says it all.” Chancellor shared a similar opinion. “It is only fitting that the women’s college player of the year award is named for Coach Wade. She always represented what is right about college athletics, and she had a major influence in promoting the growth of women’s basketball.” Everyone knew about Margaret Wade and the Lady Statesmen, whether it be from coaching the sport or following it as a fan. “Their success helped pave the way for so many young women to participate in athletics at the highest level,” Chancellor added.
In basketball and life, limits are meant to be exceeded, goals are meant to be reached, and lives are meant to be impacted. But a legend, a legacy remains constant.
The dedication of the Margaret Wade Statue will be held at Delta State on Friday, Nov. 14 at 2:00 p.m. The ceremony will take place on the West Plaza of Kent Wyatt Hall.