Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis Quotes from Media Day

Joye Lee-McNelis addresses the media

Oct. 31, 2011

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Southern Miss women's basketball coach Joye Lee-McNelis addresses the media at the Annual Media Day Monday afternoon in Reed Green Coliseum.

Opening statements...
"One thing I can tell you about this group is that they are a special group. They have bonded and chemistry has developed. It's been a lot of fun watching them enjoy each other off the basketball court. I believe when you do that off the court, when the tough gets going on the court good things happen. You learn to depend on each other and you learn that when things get tough you're able to lift each other up. We have talked to them about that. I believe that's what going to make this year special."

About last year...
"Last year we lost right at 50 percent of our scoring and 50 percent of our rebounding. I truly believe the group we have returning in Danielle Johnson (who is injured right now), Niesha Pierce, Ewa Urbanowska, Jamierra Faulkner and Rachel Vigers - that group is going to be able to provide some continuity and leadership for our group of newcomers. Our returning players have worked very hard in trying to help the younger players and the newcomers understand what it takes to be a part of Lady Eagle basketball."

Talking about the newcomers...
"Our returning players have provided some solid leadership. They have helped our younger group understand what it takes. Our newcomers we have Sedreka Plummer and Ance Celmina who are junior college post players. Sedreka led her team, Copiah-Lincoln, to the junior college national tournament. Ance is from Chipola Community College that was ranked in the nationally all year and had a lot of success. These two post players are going to add a lot for us. You throw in another post player who was with us part of the year last year and that is Nitesha Pierce. She had not played in quite some time. She hurt her knee in the Mississippi/Alabama All-star game and has continued to make some strides. I call her my bull in the china shop. She is going to knock you over to get to the basket to score. Sometimes you have to have someone like that. She is going to give us that physical presence, that meanness that you have to have to be able to compete inside. Our guard newcomers begin with Tanecka Carey who was rated as one of the top juco guards in the nation. She comes in with a lot of accolades and has very high expectations. As good as Tanecka is, her potential is untapped. I believe she will reach it, our coaching staff believes she will reach it too. She is not somebody who knows it all. We met with different groups on film and she is eager to get better. She wants to know what has to be done. She is not that player who gets out there and talks about it. She wants to learn. She is like a sponge soaking it up. She has a chance to be somebody special because of her willingness and eagerness to learn. Our other newcomer is Hannah Fletcher who we recruited out of Ponchatoula, La. I like her spunkiness. For a freshman to come in and play point guard, going against one of Conference USA's best in Jamierra Faulkner, she has not wavered. Her confidence she has within herself is very fun to watch for a freshman. Wendy Miller is another 6-foot guard out of Palatka, Fla. Wendy has established herself a very special role on this team. The role I believe she has established is the spirit award. She is a player who is positive, cheery and up-lifting. As a staff, we have decided based on our practices that Wendy Miller has a chance to be a spark for this team. Wendy is very raw."

Talking about the returning players...
"We return Rachel Vigers who led our team in scoring last year. We expect her to have an even better year than what she did last year. When a junior college player comes in sometimes they have a little bit of feeling through to do. She did that initially and then she hit a stride and played extremely well. We kind of road Rachel's back. When Rachel was with us, we won ball games. She broke her hand and missed the final 10 games of the regular season. It was a real challenge for us. We expect great things out of Rachel, being her senior year."

"Jamierra Faulkner, Conference USA's assist leader, was a freshman last year who established herself as one of the Conference USA's best. She is a player who our staff expects to elevate her play. Last year, we had very little opportunities for different players to score. This year, Jamierra has a lot of people to score. I've challenged Jamierra with averaging a double-double this year. We expect great things out of her. "Another returning player is Ewa Urbanowska. She was a role player for us last year, but in practice has been our most efficient post scorer. She is not going to shoot the ball 15 times. She is going to shoot five times and make four. I think people will be surprised at how much Ewa has improved. We now have three big girls to play inside. We've not had three big girls since Liz Biland and Stephanie Helgeson were here and we only had two then. For us to have three, I think is huge for us and Ewa has made tremendous strides."

"Niesha Pierce is another returning player who started for us last year. She has continued to make strides. We saw flashes of Niesha last season having big games, hitting big shots and playing with a lot of confidence. As her confidence continues to grow and continues to work hard, she will have a better season as a sophomore."

"Danielle Johnson is another returning player, but unfortunately for Dani, she has been injured or sick and has missed more games than she has played games. We thought this year was going to be different, but at the end of the summer we found out she had a broken ankle and had to have surgery."

About making progress...
"Are we where we want to be? No. We still have a long way to go. We have a lot of things to work on. When you have this many new players, you have to be a little bit more patient as a staff of putting stuff in. Everything is a lot slower in teaching on the ball defense, help side defense and teaching the things we want to do when running the break."

The schedule...
"Our schedule is going to be very challenging. Not quite as challenging as last season, but nevertheless, just as challenging. We have seven non-conference teams that played in postseason play including Kentucky, Mississippi State and Arkansas-Little Rock. All those teams we play on the road. We have South Alabama and we are playing in Montana Tournament where two of the teams played in postseason. Our staff is very excited about what this group brings and we believe this group has something special about them and will be successful."

On Conference USA...
"We get into Conference USA play in January. I believe Conference USA is a league that is better than what has been in the past. Why do I say that? I believe from top to bottom there is even more parity than ever. You have Houston who lost four starters. You have UCF who lost some starters and Tulane lost some starters, but you have Memphis who returns all but one starter. They return nine of their top 10 players and that's why they were picked to win. You have Rice who returns nine of their top 10 players and that's why they were picked No. 2. I don't even think it's a guess as to who the top two teams are. They both played in postseason play. UAB is a team that returns all five starters and they won the WBI Tournament. They won over 20 games and return the majority of their players. I think Conference USA is going to be more competitive and more of a challenge, but don't count this group out because I think it will be a fun year for us."

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