By Josh Troy
Two Clarksdale High School seniors officially signed to play college basketball, and both of them will be continuing their careers in the Delta. Shooting guard Henry Espy IV (6 feet, 170 pounds) will be playing for Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, while point guard Gregory Neely III (6-1, 155) will be playing for Coahoma Community College. The signing for both athletes took place in the Clarksdale High School library on Monday morning.
“It was home,” said Espy about playing for MVSU. “It was the only place I really wanted to go.” Neely expressed similar sentiments. “I chose CCC because it was home,” he said. “I’ve been playing basketball all of my life. I’ve been playing since I was little. It was home.”
Espy and Neely helped lead the Wildcats to the Class 4A quarterfinals in 2022-23. Neely scored 14 as the Wildcats opened the playoffs with a 68-56 win at Itawamba Agricultural High School. Although the Wildcats opened the Region 3-4A Tournament with a 70-55 loss to Greenwood, Espy helped keep them in the game with 10 points of his own.
The Espy and Neely duo played for current Wildcats head coach Corney George, former head coach and current athletic director Farrington Hill, assistant coach Gregory Neely Jr., who is also the father of Neely, and assistant coach Dennis Dupree Jr.
“These guys worked hard here at Clarksdale High,” George said. “They put the work in, and they’re very deserving of the opportunity they’re getting to further their career on to the next level. I’m just proud of these guys.”
Espy and Neely also played against each other in elementary school. Espy played for Sherard Elementary School, while Neely played for Lyon Elementary School. They later became teammates playing AAU basketball for the Mississippi Delta Elite with Dupree as the head coach.
“It’s been a long road,” Dupree Jr. said. “I’ve been working with them since they were little on the techniques and fundamentals. I’m super proud of them.”
Espy and Neely are following in their family’s footsteps of being community leaders. Espy’s father, Chuck, is the current Mayor of Clarksdale, while Neely’s parents, Gregory Jr. and Cornelia, also played for CCC. Neely’s grandfather, Gregory Neely Sr., is a former Jonestown alderman and interim mayor.
“I want to go to law school,” said Espy, looking ahead after his time playing for MVSU is finished. When Espy was asked if he wanted to run for office one day, Chuck quickly said, “No, no.” Showing his support for both Espy and Neely playing college basketball, Mayor Espy repeatedly led cheers of “MVSU” and “CCC.”
Neely plans to major in health science sports medicine. “I want to go on and be an athletic trainer,” he said.
Both Espy and Neely have been able to balance academics and athletics with 3.6 GPAs and will be graduating with honors. “This morning we’ll say real quickly how proud we are of Henry and Greg,” said Clarksdale High School principal Herbert Smith. “Not only are they outstanding athletes, but they are also outstanding scholars. I am very, very proud of all they have done in our school.”
Espy and Neely have both competed on the Clarksdale High School track team. Espy did the 400-meter run, while Neely threw the discus. The signees supported each other throughout their high school careers.
“We back each other through everything,” Espy said. “Even through the wrongs, we tell each other what was right or wrong. It was just constructive criticism between both of us.”
“He’s my brother,” said Neely in agreement. “I love him. We’ve been through everything together.”
Espy and Neely were grateful for all of the support as they signed to continue their basketball careers in college.
“We thank everybody for coming out, being supportive of us, and motivating us,” Neely said.
Espy and Neely will be looking to make the same impact on the court in college as they did in high school.
“We’ve got to fall into the system, find our place in the system,” Espy said.