NOTE: This is Part. 2 in a five-part series highlighting Pearl River's Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2019.
POPLARVILLE, Miss.— Datishella "Punkin" Byrd could do it all. The Hickory, N.C. native could shoot inside or outside, she could rebound and nobody was going to out-hustle her on the hardwood. It was that kind of work ethic that made Byrd a two-time All-American selection while leading Pearl River women's basketball program in 1996-97 and 97-98.
Byrd will be honored as one of the five members of the Pearl River Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2019during Homecoming festivities Oct. 12. Kickoff against Southwest at Dobie Holden Stadium is set for 2 p.m.
"I was an athlete who never wanted the spotlight. It was all about my team," Byrd said. "It's an honor (to be inducted) and shocking to get a call from Pearl River. I just hope when I'm there I can uplift somebody else so they chase their dreams and never give up.
"It was about my teammates, Coach (Polly) Kirkland and who she was. They made it really easy to succeed."
The 5-foot-11 forward was nearly unstoppable for the Wildcats. As a freshman in 1996-97, Byrd averaged 20 points with 8.6 rebounds. Her honors included being named All-MACJC, All-Region XXIII, All-Region XXIII Tournament and Elite All-District Kodak. Byrd was also an honorable mention on the NJCAA All-America squad.
She followed up her collegiate debut with a nearly identical campaign in 1997-98 by averaging 22 points and 8.6 rebounds while converting 50.2 percent of her shots from the floor. For her performance, Byrd was once again named All-MACJC, All-Region XXIII and All-Region XXIII Tournament. She was also a Second Team NJCAA All-America selection.
Asked to reflect on her standout career at PRCC, Byrd was taken aback.
"This is all an honor. I'm very humbled," she said. "I didn't seek out the awards. I came here, played basketball and did it for the love of it."
Byrd's winning ways didn't end once she left Poplarville. The 5-foot-11 forward went on to sign with Clemson, where she was a part of an ACC Championship squad and a Sweet 16 squad, making the NCAA Tournament both seasons with the Tigers.
Today, Byrd works as an auto finance supervisor in Orlando, Florida. Most importantly, Byrd is a proud mother of 13-year-old Omaria Gordon, who appears to have gotten her mother's athletic ability.
PRCC FOOTBALL BROADCASTS
All Pearl River football games are livestreamed at PRCCAthletics.com and PRCCMedia.com. Games will also be broadcast on WRJW 1320 AM, WCJU 1450 AM in Columbia, WCJU 104.9 FM in Prentiss, and both WHSY 950 AM and WHSY 105.9 FM in Hattiesburg.
Individuals who have an Amazon Fire Stick or Roku device can also stream PRCC broadcast by downloading the "Pearl River CC" channel from the app store.