By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
DESPITE the uncertainty of NCAA basketball, this winter, Ole Miss Women’s Basketball head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin made the most of the opportunity to get her team prepared during summer workouts and to adjust to the “new normal” of sports amid COVID-19.
The Rebels returned to practice this summer at the Touhey Center in Oxford, Mississippi with new pandemic protocols in place.
“To say that they’re getting a D1 experience as athletes, as far as amenities are concerned, they’re not,” she told Sports Illustrated. “But we’re not complaining. These kids haven’t complained once about anything. They’re just really grateful to have a place to come and do something that they love.”
There were no player lounges or locker rooms and open spaces were converted for multi-functional purposes.
Team meetings took place via Zoom. Players and coaches all wore masks.
“It’s been tough but they really want to play and they really want to compete,” McPhee-McCuin said. “There haven’t been a lot of complaints, really just reminders. ‘Hey pull your masks up.’ Stuff like that, but that’s something we’ve all had to adjust to.”
The Rebels are tentatively scheduled to open their season in November as McPhee-McCuin welcomes No.1 recruiting class in the SEC and No.13 class in the nation for the 2020-2021 campaign. The team will also see the return of Bahamian recruit Valerie Nesbitt to the programme for her senior season.
“We’ll play in some type of capacity. When? That I don’t know. I will say I have a lot of confidence in our leadership,” she said. “Obviously we’re an indoor sport, and that changes some things. But really, I’m glad they’re dealing with football now and we’re not the first ones out of the block.”
Off the court, McPhee-McCuin continues to use her platform to lobby for social justice in her adopted home state of Mississippi. She was one of several coaches and officials from the Mississippi’s public universities to visit the state legislature and voice their support to making changes to the state flag.
She was one of several leaders of Rebels student athletics to lead a Unity Walk on the Oxford, Mississippi campus as protest against police brutality continued across the globe.
The Grand Bahama native is the school’s first black female head women’s basketball coach. Her programme joined athletic administrators, coaches and student athletes from various sports.