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It's difficult to come off the bench in basketball and make an All-Tournament team.
Former West Oktibbeha player Deon Bedford has proven it can be done at East Mississippi Community College.
Bedford has become a valuable sixth man for coach Mark White's Lions and was a valuable piece in their success.
During last week's NJCAA Region 23 Tournament, Bedford came off the bench for EMCC to average 10.3 points per game and five rebounds per outing to make the All-Tournament team.
White said Bedford has been getting better as a player and the reason is effort.
"The thing he's doing now is playing so hard," White said. "We all play hard and it's one of our big things with all of our kids, but Deon is diving on the floor for loose basketballs and he's going after every rebound. He's playing with so much energy.
"When you have a guy like that who has God-given ability, is so athletic and is playing hard like he is, it's leading him to a lot of production on the floor."
Bedford has helped White and the Lions to the program's third-straight appearance in the NJCAA National Championship tournament next week in Hutchinson, Kan.
Getting to this point for Bedford just didn't happen overnight and his teammates.
"We put in so much hard work, sweat and tears," Bedford said. "I feel we deserved it."
After redshirting his first year at EMCC, Bedford has spent three years in Scooba.
Bedford has visions of playing at the Division I level and that's what motivates him on the court.
"(It's) just working hard, playing my role and knowing what I have to do going into a game," Bedford said.
Bedford averages 8.3 points per game for the Lions this season, which is good for third on the team, and he pulls down 5.5 rebounds per outing. He's started five games and played in 26 games. He has made 77 of 165 field goal for 47 percent.
As Bedford's numbers have risen over the past two years, EMCC assistant coach Billy Begley said the reason has been his commitment to improve.
"It's what he does at practice and individual work," Begley said. "It's starting to show.
"The biggest thing was telling Bedford 'you've put the work in and now you've got to trust yourself when you go out there, your skill, go out and play with confidence.' These past couple of weeks he's been one of the biggest reasons we've had success. He has and will continue to be big part of this team and we go into next week."
The Lions leave for Kansas today and play in the first round of the national tournament on Tuesday against South Plains College (Texas). Tipoff is set for 10 a.m.
Reaching another national event has created a sense of pride for White and he told the team that on Wednesday night.
"I couldn't be more proud of a group of guys than I am this bunch to have had a target on their back all year and do what they've done, go to the region tournament where everyone is trying to knock you off and play at a different level," White said. "For our guys to take the challenge and come out on top. I'm so proud of them."
Bedford said White has done a good job of leading the team and providing an enjoyable experience.
"Anytime you win, it's always fun," Bedford said. "With all of the work we put in, it motivates us to go out win."View more articles in: