Sports

Second year at Ole Miss on the horizon for ‘Coach Yo’

With a team laden with freshmen and sophomore players, significantly different from what she inherited a year ago, University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) Women’s Basketball Head Coach Yolett “Coach Yo” McPhee-McCuin is looking at this year’s team as a fresh start when she can truly start from scratch and implement her style of play.

The Ole Miss Lady Rebels will open the 2019-2020 collegiate basketball season with three straight home games, and five of their first six at home, before traveling to Daytona Beach, Florida, for the Daytona Beach Invitational. In December, they will take on Texas Tech on the road and then return to the Pavilion at Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi, for four straight home games before opening up Southeastern Conference (SEC) play at the beginning of 2020.

The regular season starts for them on November 5 when they welcome Mississippi Valley State to Oxford.

McPhee-McCuin, the first Bahamian head coach at a major National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I institution in women’s basketball, is excited about the outlook of the 2019-2020 season. She likes the young talent that is on her team and is looking forward to them making an impact in the SEC this season.

During the conference’s media day last Thursday, she spoke of the relative youth of the team and what she expects from them this season. There is just one senior on the squad, but McPhee-McCuin said she expects her team to play hard each and every night, and improve from game to game. This season, she was able to acquire a very impressive recruiting class including Bahamian national team standout Valerie Nesbitt. The future looks bright as well as McPhee-McCuin received a commitment from the highest-rated prospect in the history of Ole Miss women’s basketball when Madison Scott, a five-star phenom out of Bishop McNamara High School in Silver Springs, Maryland, announced she would play for the Lady Rebels. Scott is rated as the nation’s No. 13 overall player in the ESPN Class of 2020 and is the country’s No. 2 prospect at her position.

“A lot of people said that last year was year one for me, but with this young team coming in, I truly feel like this is year one for me. Last year, I had a team that was pretty much already set,” said McPhee-McCuin. “We want to go out there and lay the foundation for good things to come. We have some size and some athleticism, but really and truly, we’re a scrappy team and we’re getting better each and every day. We’re ahead of last year’s schedule which is good, maybe because I had much of the summer with this group and I recruited them so I know pretty much what they’re capable of instead of figuring that out through non-conference. There are some heavy hitters out there but we are going to prepare ourselves as much as possible and we will be ready for SEC play which is I think is the most competitive in the country. They are going to see our players playing hard and enjoying themselves. They are going to see more confidence from the staff and hopefully those things will get us some wins.”

McPhee-McCuin and the Lady Rebels showed flashes of brilliance a year ago, particularly in an upset win over nationally number 16 ranked Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky and a win over the Florida Gators at home. The win against the Kentucky Wildcats was McPhee-McCuin’s first SEC win and the program’s first win at Kentucky in 12 years. It was also the program’s first overall ranked win in more than two years, the first SEC road win for the Lady Rebels in two years, and the first overall win versus Kentucky since defeating the ninth-ranked Wildcats in January of 2016.

They finished last season with a 9-22 win-loss record overall, 3-13 (SEC). They were eliminated in the opening round of the SEC Tournament. The previous season, before the arrival of McPhee-McCuin, the Lady Rebels finished with a 12-19 win-loss record, 1-15 (SEC).

“We just want to get better every game – that’s our main goal. When you coach in a league like this (SEC), you can’t expect to have success overnight,” said McPhee-McCuin. “We’re going to have to build each year, but I’m excited to go through this process, and the goal is to be better than we were the year before. If we could do that, we should end up in the win column more times than in the loss column.”

McPhee-McCuin came to Oxford, Mississippi, to lead the Lady Rebels women’s basketball program last year after five years at Jacksonville University, turning that program around. She said playing in the SEC is brutal, with physical play each and every night. Despite that, McPhee-McCuin is hopeful that her young squad could endure the level of physicality, turn some heads this season, and possibly earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament.

Jump Line – The regular season starts for the Ole Miss Lady Rebels on November 5

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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