The Lady Eagles made history last season, reaching the Elite Eight of the WNIT before falling to Michigan 69-60.
The Lady Eagle fan base set the attendance record for not only the women’s basketball team, but for Reed Green Coliseum as 5,480 fans were in attendance.
However, many of the key members from last year’s squad are no longer around. It will be up to a handful of newcomers and a few holdovers, who did not see much playing time.
At the Southern Miss Fan and Media Day, head coach Joye Lee-McNelis asked for patience, knowing her squad will need time to come together and reach its full potential. While it will take time, there is no questioning this team’s ceiling is high.
Jerontay Clemons is back and ready to assume the reigns of lead dog. Brittany Dinkins and Lashrya Cotton are both back as key members of the rotation. But for this team to reach its true potential, it will need to lean on a pair of highly-touted freshmen, Caitlin Jenkins and Keri Jewett-Giles, and South Florida transfer Jayla King.
Jenkins immediately became the most talented post player for the Lady Eagles the moment she stepped on campus. She has good size, a soft touch around the basket and great athleticism.
She showed off her diverse skillset in the exhibition game against West Alabama, teasing her immense ability. Look for her to lead this team in rebounds and blocks and may end up as the Conference USA Freshman of the Year.
Jewett-Giles was a top 100 recruit according to ESPN and has taken hold of the starting point guard position. She is quick and explosive out of the backcourt and has a knack for finding the open player. She may not lead this team in any statistical categories, but her impact will without a doubt be immense.
King is the X-factor for the Lady Eagles. King led Southern Miss in scoring with 20 points in just 26 minutes in the exhibition game. What was impressive was her efficiency, shooting 82 percent from the field.
Her offensive skillset will lead to high efficiency even if she is asked to score in volume. Despite the small sample size, do not be surprised if she challenges Clemons for leading scorer this season.
I see this team surprising a lot of people this season. They will finish in the top four in C-USA and have a legitimate chance to make the NCAA Tournament, despite their inexperience. The Lady Eagles have a ton of talent and can attack teams in a myriad of ways.
Equipped with explosive guards, talented bigs and several inside-outside players, the Lady Eagles will create mismatches game in and game out.
I see this team finishing somewhere around 21-8 and challenging for the C-USA title. Whether they breakthrough and make the Big Dance or not, they will be playing postseason ball beyond the conference tournament. This team has the chance to be truly special.