The Southern Miss women’s basketball team is just days away from the first tip-off of the 2018-2019 season. With a lot of experience returning from last year’s team and the addition of a talented freshmen class, Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis and her staff are thrilled to begin a season full of potential and promise.
Joye Lee-McNelis is entering her fifteenth season as head coach of her alma mater, and she has a very familiar staff around her to help guide the Lady Eagles. Director of Basketball Operations Drew Granger, Assistant Head Coach Kiley Hill and Assistant Coach Lauren Pittman are all returning members from last year’s staff.
In addition, Patosha Jeffery joined the staff this summer as an assistant coach for the team. Jeffery played for Lee-McNelis at the University of Memphis and was a member of the inaugural C-USA Championship team in 1996. Now a coach, teacher, author and player-evaluator, Jeffery became the first women’s basketball player go have her jersey retired at her alma mater, Hamilton High School in Memphis, Tennessee.
Along with the experienced staff return a group of experienced players. The Lady Eagles return 10 of their 14 players from last year’s roster, including four of five starters. Redshirt senior guard Megan Brown led the team in minutes per game last year while averaging 12 points and five rebounds per contest. Junior guard Shonte Hailes also brings much experience to the backcourt after being the team’s leading distributor a year ago with over five assists per game through 26 appearances. Redshirt junior center Amber Landing will once again be a strong presence in the paint for the Lady Eagles after blocking a team-high 45 shots during her sophomore season.
Lee-McNelis is also excited to have contributions from three promising freshmen — two guards and one forward — in 2018. Destiny Smith of McComb, Mississippi, Shania Edgecombe of Jacksonville, Florida and Daishai Almond of Athens, Georgia will all compete for playing time and the opportunity to contribute early in their college careers.
The Lady Eagles traveled to Costa Rica in August to compete in exhibition contests against national and professional teams. Southern Miss showed a lot of potential in those exhibition games, winning games against the Costa Rican and Guatemalan national teams during the seven-day trip. Megan Brown led the team offensively, averaging 16 points per game.
Having won 50 percent or more of their games in five of the last six seasons, the Lady Eagles are poised for yet another successful campaign. Coming off a 15-15 record from last season, Lee-McNelis feels her team can capitalize on the amount of athleticism and experience on the roster to once again be a highly competitive basketball team. The plan for 2018 and 2019 is to push the tempo and play high-intensity basketball.
“We grind, we really do. We work very hard,” Lee-McNelis said on Conference USA Media Day. “All programs do, but we do go above and beyond because of the way we play. We’re going to play fast, we’re going to press 94-feet, and we have to get players acclimated to that.”
The Lady Eagles will begin the regular season on Nov. 6 with a home game versus William Carey. They will play a slate of non-conference matchups through November and December to fine-tune their system before starting C-USA play on Jan. 3 with a home game against the Rice Owls. One of the more notable games on the schedule for Southern Miss is when the team hosts the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs at Reed Green Coliseum on Friday, Dec. 14, with the opportunity to test themselves against a team that has made back-to-back Final Four appearances.