She walks into practice, ready to take on the day and ready to give all of her best efforts, just as she did against Texas Southern, TCU and Michigan in last year’s Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
Jerontay Clemons, the steady hand from years past, has had to separate her legacy from the shadow of Jamierra Faulkner. Faulkner, who left Southern Miss as maybe the most decorated athlete in Lady Eagle history, was often seen as the barometer for Clemons’ success. Even though she did not start at the point guard spot because of Brooke Rhodes’ presence, Clem- ons dominated the ball- handling late last season.
The swift-footed, 5-feet, 8-inch Coldwater, Mississippi native was the epitome of clutch in the WNIT last season. Clemons scored 12 of the final 14 Lady Eagle points to help the Lady Eagles advance to the third round against TCU. Those heroics failed to carry the Lady Eagles past Michigan in the Elite Eight of the WNIT, but
it showed that Clemons has a switch that she can flip to on whenever she needs to. Her biggest task will be becoming a vocal leader.
“(Clemons) is having to learn what it means to lead vocally,” said head coach Joye Lee-McNelis. “It’s just always been give me the ball, get out of my way and I’ll go score.”
Clemons will be sharing backcourt responsibilities with Brittanny Dinkins, Katie Dozier, Keri Jewett- Giles and Tajanay Veiga this season, so she will not have to dominate the ball-handling duties as much as she did last year.
She may not even finish the season as the leading scorer. Players like Jayla King and freshman Caitlin Jenkins may hold that title instead. Clemons may not have to score the most points or dish out the ball the most every contest, but she will have to be the most calming, vocal presence on the floor.
“Jerontay has really grown up a lot,” Lee-McNelis said. “We’ve all been very tough on Jerontay because she’s more of a leader by example, rather than a vocal leader.”
Right now, she is the most talented Lady Eagle on paper. Her willpower and drive are what makes her unique.
“Last year at the end of the year, Jerontay made plays,” Lee-McNelis said. “This year, we’re going to have multiple players that can go make plays.”
Clemon’s has attempted only 22 three-point field goal attempts—making five. It won’t be necessary for her to make shots from behind the arc, but it won’t hurt to expand her range. Also, her shoot- ing percentage dipped to below 40 percent on the year, but she did make her shots when she needed to. Lastly, she finished with more turnovers than assists.
“Me and her have talked numerous times (that) her role has to change,” Lee- McNelis said. “It’s very critical that she assumes that ownership being that lone senior and making that happen.”
Clemons does not have to be perfect this upcoming season, but she will have to be the leader for the Lady Eagles to make some serious nose in Conference USA as she is surrounded by a vast amount of inexperience.