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Former MC Basketball Standout to Encourage Current Student-Athletes at Choctaw Sports Night

David Horner, Hartfield Academy headmaster, will discuss the lifelong lessons he learned as a pivotal member of the Mississippi College men's basketball squads of the late nineties during Choctaw Sports Night.
David Horner, Hartfield Academy headmaster, will discuss the lifelong lessons he learned as a pivotal member of the Mississippi College men's basketball squads of the late nineties during Choctaw Sports Night.

During the four years he played for the Mississippi College basketball team, David Horner, a dynamic 6-foot-6 perimeter-shooting forward, helped the Choctaw hoopsters amass a remarkable 88-18 overall record, including a home winning streak of more than 40 games, two conference titles, and an NCAA “Sweet 16” appearance in 1999.

The current headmaster of Hartfield Academy will share the lessons he learned while performing for the Blue-and-Gold and legendary head basketball coach Mike Jones during the second-annual Choctaw Sports Night, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 17, in Anderson Hall in the B.C. Rogers Student Center.

Horner said he is honored to speak to MC’s student-athletes.

“I hope that I can share some experiences from my time at MC that our student-athletes can relate to and be encouraged by,” Horner said. “Lessons I learned that have become invaluable to me, like learning that greatness comes from serving those around you and how treating people with honor and respect is much more important than what I accomplish or know.

“My prayer is that something I share will point a young man or woman to trust God more with their talents, career, and ultimately, their life.”

Sponsored by MC Athletics, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and the M Club, the exclusive event honors all Mississippi College student-athletes, cheerleaders, and others for their hard work in the classroom and on the field of play. Student-athletes whose eligibility to compete in Division II has expired will be recognized throughout the evening.

“The purpose of Choctaw Sports Night is to recognize, celebrate, and show a great appreciation for our student-athletes and what they do for our department every day,” said Kenny Bizot, MC athletic director. “It’s a night where our entire athletics staff, our coaches, our faculty athletic mentors can relax, build relationships, and let our student-athletes know how much we appreciate what they do for us.”

He said the success of last year’s event – headlined by Seth Smith, a former Major League Baseball player from Mississippi – prompted the MC athletic department to make Choctaw Sports Night an annual occurrence.

“Our student-athletes did an unbelievable job putting it together last year, and I was blown away by how everybody truly enjoyed the event,” he said. “It was well done, well organized, professional, and had a great feel.”

Erin Hederman, a third-team Division II All-American on the Mississippi College women’s soccer team, helped organize the initial Choctaw Sports Night. She said the camaraderie experienced during the evening reflects what she enjoys most about participating in intercollegiate athletics.

“Being part of the Lady Choctaw Soccer Team has allowed me to develop relationships with teammates that I will have for a lifetime while also allowing me to compete and excel in a sport I am passionate about,” the senior forward and kinesiology (pre-physical therapy) major from Jackson said. “I will always be grateful for the chance to play with my teammates for Mississippi College.

“Through my position with SAAC, I was tasked with planning Choctaw Sports Night last year. This was an incredible night of celebration for all the achievements of fellow student-athletes. Through the planning process, I worked closely with our amazing athletic administration, who have been a blessing to me and my time at Mississippi College.

Hederman, named Freshman of the Year in the Gulf South Conference and Most Outstanding Player in the last two GSC tournaments, said her time on the collegiate pitch will provide benefits long after she has graduated.

“After I graduate, I plan to attend physical therapy school,” she said. “I believe that my experience playing soccer at MC will benefit both my journey to become a physical therapist and my time as a PT. Learning to manage my time well and work hard, no matter the circumstances, are only a few of the many tools I have grown and developed here that will assist me in my future.”

Although individual accomplishments will be recognized during the event, Bizot said the student-athletes wanted to focus on each of the University’s 18 varsity teams this year. The selection of speakers for Choctaw Sports Night has also pivoted to former Mississippi College student-athletes who have succeeded in other avenues.

“Moving forward, we want to bring back someone who was sitting right where our student-athletes are,” Bizot said. “We want to give our student-athletes an opportunity to hear what Mississippi College means to that individual and why he or she has become successful because of their time at MC.

“That is a great message for our student-athletes.”

Horner definitely fits the description. While playing basketball at Hattiesburg High School, he was encouraged by his youth pastor, Jeff Clark, a former MC basketball player, to consider attending Mississippi College.

“Going into my senior year, I committed to improving and giving my basketball and any results to the Lord,” Horner said. “It helped that I grew several inches that year, too.”

Horner contacted Jones, visited the Clinton campus, and fell in love with the University – and with earning a spot on the Choctaws basketball roster.

“I loved being part of a team, especially one that cared about each other, worked extremely hard, and saw great results,” he said. “We were a balanced team that played well together and enjoyed each other. I still have lifelong friends from those teams.”

And a lifetime of memories playing for Jones, a Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame inductee.

“Coach Jones is a legend and among the best coaches in the history of Mississippi,” Horner said. “During my playing days, he could be as intense as anyone, even rivaling Bobby Knight.

“Regardless of how animated and intense he may have gotten, I never doubted how much he loved us as players. That made all the challenging moments just part of him helping us be our best.”

Horner earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from MC and met his future wife, Amy, another MC graduate, before leaving Clinton. He worked in missions and ministry until entering Belhaven College to obtain his Master of Art and Teaching. During the next 12 years, he taught and coached at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, Northpoint Christian School in Southaven, and Jackson Prep.

In 2014, he accepted the role of teacher, coach, and student life director at Hartfield Academy in Flowood. In January 2015, he was selected by the Board of Trustees to be Hartfield’s second head of school.

Under his leadership during the last eight years, Hartfield Academy has experienced exponential growth: the size of the student body and campus have doubled while the school administration has committed itself to develop a Biblically integrated curriculum, highly competitive athletic programs, and consistency throughout all levels of the school. The school’s vision is to see students fulfill their God-given purpose and answer God’s calling in their life.

It’s a goal that coincides with Mississippi College’s vision: to be known as a university recognized for academic excellence and commitment to the cause of Christ. The similarity is no accident.

“MC has had a direct and extremely positive influence on me after graduating, and that influence continues to this day,” said Horner, recipient of MC’s Young Alumnus Award in 2019. “My MC coaches and professors have served as encouragers, advisors, and ultimately family.

“MC taught me how to invest in players and create a culture that allows young students to flourish and be a part of a family. Sports create an environment that fosters character-building, and those experiences have shaped my perspective, work ethic, and how I create culture and teams in my workplace.”

Horner considers Choctaw Sports Night an opportunity to remain connected to his alma mater.

“What a great way to celebrate our athletes and teams,” he said. “I’m looking forward to participating and know I’ll be encouraged by my time there.”

Bizot said the entire athletic staff is looking forward to Horner’s presentation.

“It will be a nice night for everybody to be together,” he said. “No teams are competing that night. We’ll all be having a good time honoring and enjoying a very successful athletic department here at Mississippi College.”