OXFORD – Yolett McPhee- McCuin walked into a cheering locker room when she was introduced to Ole Miss players as their next women’s basketball head coach.
For some, the excitement of “new” would quickly fade.
McPhee-McCuin finds herself working to replace six players who have transferred out of the program, but that hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm she feels as she puts together her first roster with the Rebels.
McPhee-McCuin was hired after the Rebels went 12-19 overall, 1-15 in the SEC in Matt Insell’s final season as coach.
Among the six departures was point guard Madinah Muhammad, last year’s leading scorer at 16.8 points a game, who left with only one season of eligibility remaining, and center Promise Taylor, a member of the All-SEC freshman team.
Like Muhammad, guard Barbara Johnson also has one season remaining. Others to leave include Kate Rodgers, Shelby Gibson and former Pontotoc star Marlee Hatcher.
“I don’t think they’re leaving because of me. They didn’t have a chance to know me,” said McPhee-McCuin, who was 94-63 at Jacksonville, 50-24 in Atlantic Sun Conference play. “I’m sad the girls are leaving, because I know our staff would have impacted them in a positive way, but at the end of the day I’m excited about the opportunity.”
The opportunity is for McPhee-McCuin and her staff to bring in nine to 11 new players in the 2019 class, a figure that could include as many as four graduate transfers.
Two who have completed the paperwork are post player La’Karis Salter from Jacksonville, who McPhee-McCuin describes as a stretch 4, and Texas-Arlington guard Crystal Allen, who averaged 11.7 points for the Mavericks last season.
Ole Miss will have two transfers who will sit out the 2018-2019 season.
“We’re not going to bring in 11 freshmen. That would drive me nuts,” she said.
Roster transition is not only a function of new coaching hires, she said, adding that she doesn’t consider the number unusual.
Instead, McPhee-McCuin focuses on her vision beyond 2018-2019. She’s confident she can get the Rebels where she wants them to be and that the 2019 class will be a big part of that process.
“When we get to year three and year four we can start talking wins and losses. These first two years are about stabilizing the roster,” she said. “One thing I can do is recruit, and one thing my staff can do is recruit.”