By Shawn Wansley
Jones College Sports Information
ELLISVILLE – One of the state's most highly successful prep basketball coaches is coming to Jones College.
Newton Mealer, who has guided Center Hill High School in Olive Branch for the past 12 seasons, was introduced as the 17th men's head basketball coach at Jones College at a Thursday morning press conference. He was unanimously approved by the college's Board of Trustees during a Wednesday afternoon meeting.
"It's been a long time coming," he said. "I played basketball at the University of Southern Mississippi and I'm excited to be coming home. I've worked my whole career to get where I am today and I think my résumé speaks for itself.
"Jones is a special, special place and I've said that from the beginning. I'm coming from Center Hill High School and that's a well-known name at the high school level. But this was just an opportunity I could not pass up for two reasons: Family and being back close to Southern Miss and I think that's also a very special place.
"On behalf of my family, thank you for giving me this opportunity. This was an unbelievable search process. You have leaders at the top who really care about student-athletes at Jones. This search committee was thorough."
Mealer replaces Randy Bolden, who resigned last month after four years at Jones to become the head coach at Mississippi College.
Jones College Athletic Director Joel Cain said Mealer would be a perfect fit for the Bobcats.
"This is a special day and an exciting day," he said. "We have had unparalleled success here with many state and national championships. I'm very excited and overly optimistic about the next chapter with our new head coach."
Jones College President Dr. Jesse Smith said there was tremendous interest in the Bobcat head coaching position.
"It's an honor to have you here," Smith said to Mealer. "We had an enormous process that we went through. We had about 100 hundred applicants. We narrowed it down and we came to a guy that we think can teach and can do and can live and grow our standard of excellence. He is no stranger to this part of the world."
"I believe the next chapter in his career is going to be one of the best for Jones. We know he's a winner and we've seen him win. He's going to do a great job for us and we have great confidence in him."
Mealer played at Southern Miss under longtime head coach M.K. Turk from 1989-93. He helped the Golden Eagles to two NCAA Tournament appearances and a Metro Conference regular season title. Southern Miss ranked as high as No. 9 in the AP poll during the 1991 season.
Mealer listed several senior college coaches who have helped his career, including former Jones and current Southern Miss coach Jay Ladner, Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis, Jr., and Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner, who used to be the head coach at Memphis.
"Coach Ladner and I have had a relationship for years," Mealer said of the coach who led the Bobcats to the NJCAA Division I national championship in 2014. "It started when he was at St. Stanislaus and he was playing in a state tournament and he called me for a scouting report. We began our relationship then and we've stayed close throughout the years. His Dad (J. Larry Ladner) taught me when I was at Southern Miss.
"Coach Ladner and I think a lot alike and our programs are a lot alike. I know he does a fantastic job there and I will be using him because he was a previous coach here and he was so successful. It's a very tight relationship."
At Center Hill, Mealer guided the team to its first 5A MHSAA championship in school history in 2019 and a state runnerup slot in 2020. This past season, the Mustangs were the District 1-5A champions and made it to the 5A MHSAA Elite 8.
Mealer led Center Hill to seven District championships, five Elite 8 appearances, four state tournaments and two Final Fours. The 2019 championship team set the school record for most wins with 31.
He was named the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, USA Today, MHSAA and NFHS Mississippi Coach of the Year following the championship season and served as the North head coach for the Mississippi All-Star Game in 2020.
During his time at Center Hill, he produced over 65 DI, D2, D3 and junior college players.
Mealer said his experience at Center Hill will benefit him at Jones.
"When I got to Center Hill, that was not a quality job," he said. "I basically had to go in and revamp and rebuild that program. Today, I'm leaving there and it's probably one of the top five high school jobs in the state. The reason why is hard work. You have to come in and you have to have a system and you have to build a culture. I'm a culture builder. You have to start from the ground up.
"I feel like the program I ran is going to translate perfectly into this next step."
Prior to Center Hill, Mealer served as head coach at Germantown (Tennessee) High School for four seasons. He was named 15AAA Coach of the Year in 2008-09 and led them to 24 wins that season, a school record. At Germantown, he coached one player who made it to the NBA – Ian Clark with the Golden State Warriors.
From 2001-06, he was the head basketball coach and athletic director at Lighthouse Christian School in Tennessee, building the program from the bottom up. He led the program into the TSSAA, took the team to its first regional tournament, set a record for wins with 22 in 2004 and was named District 1 Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2003.
After graduating from Southern Miss, Mealer was in the NBA Summer League in 1993 and 1994, playing with Atlanta and Los Angeles.
He was the owner/manager of Newton Mealer's "Hoop It Up" Basketball Camp from 1994-2009. He organized and ran youth basketball camps throughout the city of Memphis.
Mealer served as head coach of the Memphis Raiders AAU program from 2008-14, leading them to a national championship in 2011 and a runnerup spot in 2012.
Mealer graduated from Briarcrest High School in Memphis and was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 2013.
He is the school's all-time leading scorer and rebounder and was a McDonald's All-American Team nominee from Tennessee. He was the Memphis and Shelby County Player of the Year, averaging double figures in points and rebounds and he served as a 3-year captain.
Mealer played on a team that represented the USA in Europe, Austria, Finland and Czechoslovakia. The team won the World Championship Gold Medal.
Mealer said having right players and winning games would go hand in hand at Jones.
"We want to have quality young men, we want to graduate those players and we want to get involved immediately in the recruiting process," he said. "We are behind, but we want to get the top players in the state. We want to get them here on the Jones' campus and we want to start marching. We want to win the South (Division), the state, the regional tournament and we want to get to Hutchinson, Kansas.
"I told Coach Ladner that one banner has been hung in there and it was by him and his friend is about to come in here and, before all is said and done, I'm going to put another banner in this gym. That's my plan."
Mealer and his wife, Jenny, have three children: Jake, Kurt and Hope.