A former Jones County Junior College tennis player is returning to lead the Bobcat tennis program.
Collins native Brooks Buffington, who played at JCJC in 2002-04, will replace Mark Easley as head tennis coach. Easley is now the fulltime Dean of Student Affairs at Jones.
Buffington was approved by the JCJC Board of Trustees during its monthly meeting in June. He said it’s a lifelong dream to be the Bobcat tennis coach.
“If I could take a job anywhere in the state, this would be it,” he said. “I love the junior college system in Mississippi and what it offers. This is exciting and I am really looking forward to it.”
Buffington graduated from Collins High School in 2002 before coming to JCJC. He received the Bobcat Award for men’s tennis after his 2004 sophomore season.
He then played tennis at Mississippi College and received his Bachelor of Science degree from MC in 2006.
Buffington is no stranger to hard work.
He walked on and earned a scholarship not only at JCJC, but also at Mississippi College.
“I walked on at Jones and made the team and I walked on at MC and made the team,” he said. “I’ve been teaching in the Jackson area since 2007 and now I’m the head coach at Jones. It seems like it has all come full circle.”
Easley remembers when Buffington walked on for a spot on the Bobcat tennis team.
“Brooks played here back in 2003 and 2004 and I remember when he came over and tried out,” he said. “He came over in the summer and I fed balls and did drills with him and I could tell right then that he was somebody who loved tennis and was a very hard worker.”
Buffington has served as head professional at the Reservoir YMCA in Brandon from 2014 until now and also in 2007-08. He was also head professional at Castlewoods Country Club in Jackson from 2008-14. He has played on the USTA circuit since 2008.
Buffington has served as head coach at Hartfield Academy since 2013 and assistant coach at Northwest Rankin since 2012. He led Hartfield Academy to a second place overall finish in the 2015 MAIS boys state tournament and Northwest Rankin perennially has one of the top public tennis programs in the state.
Easley said when JCJC president Dr. Jesse Smith asked him who would be a good choice to be head coach, Buffington’s name was at the top of the list.
“Dr. Smith asked me if I had anybody in mind that would do a good job,” Easley said.
“Brooks was one of the first people I thought of and he loves Jones. He loved his time here and this job is one of the only jobs in the state that he has really wanted. He always had a dream of coming back to coach at Jones.
“He has a great tennis mind, is a very good coach, will do a great job and, I think, he can take the program to another level.”
Buffington said he wants the program to continue to enjoy the success it has achieved under Easley’s guidance.
“Basically, I want to keep doing what he’s been doing because it has worked,” Buffington said. “You go into his office and you see all of the championship and Coach of the Year trophies and it’s impressive.
“Ultimately, I want the kids to be successful in moving forward and to take care of business on the academic side of things.”
Buffington is familiar with some of the returning Bobcats, having coached Luke Armstrong at Hartfield Academy and watched Chase Pennington at Madison-Ridgeland Academy.
He said the fall would be an important time for him and the team as they prepare for the 2017 spring season.
“Obviously, I am going to enjoy getting started and getting to know the players this fall,” he said. “When I played at Jones, you could not play matches in the fall. Now, you practice and you get to play some matches. I don’t know exactly what we can do, but it’s definitely an advantage for me coming in this fall.”
Being a Collins native, Buffington also wants to see tennis grow in JCJC’s eight-county district.
“On the Division I and II levels in the NCAA, everything is moving towards all foreign players,” he said. “In Mississippi junior college tennis, we are allowed two foreign players for the men and women’s teams, but the majority of the players on the teams in the state are from Mississippi.
“That’s what I really love about junior college tennis in Mississippi. I want to help develop players locally and across the state.”