By Robert Wilson
There hasn’t been a scoring machine at Lanier High like this since Monta Ellis won National Player of the Year and was an NBA draft pick out of high school in 2005.
Mark Drone is his name and scoring is his game. Well, he can also pass, rebound, steal, and play defense, too. The 5-foot-11 senior guard has already scored more than 40 points in two of his seven games for Lanier this season and get this, Lanier coach Bo Clark said he’s just getting warmed up.
Said Clark: “Mark is just getting the rust off.”
That’s bad news Lanier’s opponents the rest of the season. Lanier, the defending MHSAA Class 4A state champions, are 6-1 this season, and Drone is a big reason why. He is averaging 28.9 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. He’s shooting 58 percent from the field and 83 percent from the line. Jackson State has offered, and Clark expects many more Division I schools to follow soon.
So what’s Drone’s story? He was star at Northwest Jackson Middle School, then averaged 10 points per game as a freshman at Provine. Drone averaged 24.5 points in two games as a sophomore at Provine before he injured his hip and missed the rest of the season. He transferred to First Love Academy in Pennsylvania for his junior season, and they did not play due to the covid pandemic. Drone came home and transferred to Lanier his senior season this year.
Drone had 31 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals in an 89-68 victory over Wayne County in the season opener. He’s also had games of 42 against Callaway, 41 against Warren Central and 37 against Provine. He would be averaging over 30 points per game, but Starkville limited him to 2 points last week in a tournament at Mississippi Valley after Drone picked up three fouls in the first quarter and fouled out later in the game and played only one and half quarters.
“Mark is like (former NBA scoring star) Allen Iverson without the flair,” said, Clark who was named the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Boys Basketball Coach of the Year after leading Lanier to the 4A state title last season. “He’s so quiet and humble and he comes from a good household. Mark has qualified and is going to make someone a great college player. He’s so efficient and gets to the rim so effortlessly. Mark has a great midrange game, can also shoot the 3 and get the rim with ease. Mark isn’t the kind of player who is going to take 40 shots, he’s unselfish and is a great passer. He has made a seamless transition to Lanier and our team and makes his teammates better. Mark is playing an off guard for us but is also an excellent point guard.”
If Drone can keep this pace, he would be the third highest scorer in Jackson Public Schools since Ellis. Two All-American guards and Mississippi Players of the Year from Callaway, Daeshun Ruffin and Malik Newman, averaged 33.1 and 29.7 points in 2020-2021 and 2014-2015 respectively.
Drone is the brother of former Callaway All-State guard Deville Smith, who averaged 22.2 points as a senior and was ranked No. 14 among guards in the nation by ESPN in 2011. Smith went on to play one season each at Mississippi State, Nevada Las Vegas, and Tennessee-Martin.
Drone’s numbers are even better than Smith’s and his all-around ability reminds Lanier fans of Ellis, who averaged 38.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 4.5 steals a senior and led Lanier to a 35-2 record, the 4A state title and a No. 3 national ranking. Ellis’ 72 points against Greenwood as a senior is the second highest in Mississippi history.
He averaged 17.8 points in 13 seasons in the NBA and is considered one of the greatest players in Mississippi history. Ellis’ number was retired earlier this month and Drone had 42 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds in an 85-78 victory over Callaway in the game the presentation was made.
He had 30 points and was named the MVP in a 71-53 victory over Madison Central Saturday in the Mississippi Hoops Challenge Thanksgiving Showcase at Tougaloo College in Lanier’s last game.
“Like all the great players, people are coming to watch Mark play,” Clark said. “We’ve had sellout crowds. I’m expecting sellouts at our home games Tuesday against Jim Hill and Friday against Murrah.”