By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
EXPECTATIONS loom large for Yolett McPhee-McCuin and her Ole Miss Rebels women’s basketball team for the upcoming 2022-23 campaign.
The Rebels have improved each year under McPhee-McCuin’s tenure and, after a season that produced the programme’s first NCAA Tournament berth in 15 years, that continued development, that continuous improvement was a major talking point of media day.
“We are just continuing to rebuild not as much as like at first, we were trying to rebuild completely. Now we are just trying to reconstruct,” McPhee-McCuin said. “I think that is the goal to expand from where we were and to where we are trying to go. Which is to be a programme that is expected to go to the NCAA tournament every year and beyond.”
The 2021-22 season came to an end for Ole Miss in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament with a loss to South Dakota.
Ole Miss concluded the season 23-9, 10-8 in the SEC to earn an at-large bid and the no.7 seed in the Wichita Region. It was their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 15 years.
McPhee-McCuin led Ole Miss to its first top 25 ranking since 2007. The season was highlighted by a 13-game win streak, the third longest win streak in programme history. It also included wins over three ranked opponents.
In conference postseason play, Ole Miss earned its first SEC Tournament Semifinal game appearance in 29 years.
The Rebels also found themselves slotted in the national polls with its first AP Poll appearance since 2007, when Ole Miss came in at No. 24 on January 24.
On the heels of a record-setting season and a new contract extension, McPhee-McCuin has landed another star-studded recruiting class for her Ole Miss Rebels women’s basketball programme.
McPhee-McCuin’s incoming class includes highly touted freshman prospects and some of the top rated transfers in the portal.
“This group has a quiet confidence. I think my teams in the past have been very loud. This group is more so quiet, they do believe in themselves. One thing that is unique with this group too is that they have experience in the NCAA Tournament here at Ole Miss so that is the expectation. Last year we were trying to paint the picture and say this is what it’s going to be like, and this group is like ‘coach we are going to the tournament’ that is the expectation,” she said. “This group works pretty hard as well and they get along pretty well. I think every year if I were to bring the same team it would be a different group you know the same people. Because you know time, maturity, experiences so I don’t think it’s much different from any team because every group would bring their own personality and character. But we definitely have a solid blend of personalities and characters you all will meet.”
The class was recently bolstered by the signing of highly touted 6’4” freshman centre J’Adore Young. The class also includes four star freshman Ayanna Thompson along with transfers Marquesha Davis, Elauna Eaton, Rita Igbokwe, Broke Moore, Tyia Singleton, Myah Taylor and international prospect Marta Ostojic from Croatia.
Ole Miss also returns a solid trio of experience, including starters Madison Scott and Snudda Collins, as well as the SEC’s Sixth- Woman of the Year in Angel Baker.
McPhee-McCuin joined the Rebels in 2018 with expectations to rebuild a programme that struggled in recent years and was in the cellar of the SEC. This offseason, she signed a contract extension that will see her remain at the helm through the 2026 season.