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Southern Miss Women’s Basketball Inks Five Players on First Day of Early Signing Period

Nov. 9, 2016

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Southern Miss Women’s basketball and head coach Joye Lee-McNelis announced five signees Tuesday on the first day of the early signing period.

McNelis said that Kennedy Gavin, Hanah Lott, Kyle Felton, Allie Kennedy and Imani Carter bring excitement to Lady Eagle Basketball and offer intangibles to help the team win.

“As a whole, this group possesses high character, integrity, passion, work ethic, and an attitude to ‘make a difference’ each day. We are blessed to have these young ladies become Lady Eagles,” McNelis said.

The Lady Eagles signed some of the best from their respective states in this recruiting class and two Petal, Miss. locals - Gavin and Lott.

Gavin, a 6’1” forward, averaged 13.8 points per game and 13.3 rebounds per game in her junior season. The three time Clarion Ledger Dandy Dozen selection and 2016 MAC North/South All-Star, eclipsed 1,000 career points last season.

“During my recruiting process I was blessed to have many options. I decided what was most important to me and what my long term goals were,” Gavin said. “It was imperative that I choose a school where I can impact the program, leave a legacy and play in front of my friends and family who have helped me thus far. It became clear to me that Southern Miss was a good fit where I can help continue the tradition and allow Southern Miss to nurture my dream. Home is where the heart is.”

She also helped lead her team to an AAU National Championship and her team finished second overall in the 3x3 USA Basketball Trials in Colorado Springs.

“Kennedy is the most highly-touted of this recruiting class, and is expected to be an impact player as a freshman,” McNelis said. “She will bring experience of competing on a high level as she has competed nationally.”

Lott, a 5’8” shooting guard from Jones County Junior College, started every game last season and averaged 11.1 points per game while averaging 32.2 minutes per game. JCJC 19-7 finish last season.

“It was Hanah’s leadership that became the glue to the Jones Lady Bobcats last season,” McNelis said. “She is a hard worker that will bring valuable leadership to our program.”

Lott was selected to the 2016 NJCAA Region 23 All-Tournament team. During her four years at Petal High School, she surpassed 1,000 points and was named to the All-Division and All-Tournament teams.

“I chose Southern Miss for several reasons. I prayed about it and God led me to Southern Miss. After meeting the coaching staff and players, I felt that USM was the best place for me,” Lott said. “They were all very welcoming and I am family-oriented, so choosing USM provides opportunities for my family to continue to watch me play and do what I love and enjoy.”

McNelis is grateful that Gavin and Lott, who were high school teammates for two seasons, chose to stay at home to play. “We are ecstatic to have two local stars choose to stay home and bring the attitude of ‘let’s be difference makers at home.”

Felton – who is teammates with Lott at JCJC – is a 6’3” sophomore from Lithonia, Ga., that plays center and stands at 6’3”. She averaged 12 points per game along with eight rebounds in high school.

“Southern Miss felt like my home away from home. From the coaches to the players and even other staff members there was a warm environment,” Felton said. “They are very hard working and are striving for success. With the environment there, their drive for success, and the all-around love and support from each other it was hard to say no.”

Felton, the 14-15 region MVP, helped lead Columbia High School to two state championship appearances.

“Kyle is a communicator on the floor and has great hands to catch and finish at the rim,” McNelis said. “She also will bring Division I experience after playing at Southeastern Louisiana University.”

Kennedy, who is a former teammate of Gavin’s at the club level, is a 5’8” combo guard from Red Bay, Ala.. In her junior season she averaged 17 points, eight assists and three rebounds per game. The Alabama All-State selection is a career 90% free throw shooter.

“Allie and Kennedy Gavin have been teammates for three summers and have a keen respect for one another,” said McNelis. “Allie is a scoring point guard that possesses toughness. She will bring a wealth of success from her high school and club team to our program. Her ability to find a way to ‘get it done’ is fun to watch. A small town girl with an attitude to make a difference is welcomed into our program.”

Kennedy was selected to the 2016 Alabama North/South All-Star team. In 2015, she guided her team to an AHSAA 2A title and was on the 2015 AAU National Championship team.

“I chose Southern Miss because it is a great school and I believe in the program. I think really good things are going to happen,” said Kennedy. “I love Coach McNelis and the coaching staff, and I know that I will get a great education.”

Carter is a 6’0” guard from Enterprise High School in Enterprise, Ala.. She averaged 10.4 points per game while shooting 44 percent from the field in her junior season. She represented Enterprise High School in the 2016 AHSAA North/South All-Star Game.

“Imani is the most versatile player in this signing class. She can play three positions for the Lady Eagles and is a proven winner with both her high school and club teams,” McNelis said. “She has grit that will allow her thin frame to compete with the best.”

Carter surpassed 1,000 career points headed into her senior season. She also competed on the travel circuit with the Enterprise Lady Thunder and the Alabama Heat Elite.

“The reason I chose Southern Miss is because they stuck with me from the very start of the recruiting process. I could already picture myself playing on their court from the very start,” said Carter. “The coaches are awesome, very respectful, and also make the game I love fun! I know they will help make these four years great. I am ready to soar high with the best, Southern Miss!”

McNelis said these signees are high quality young ladies who are great student that possess an attitude that will make a difference and that she and her staff are blessed and excited to have them become Lady Eagles.

The Lady Eagles open their regular season against New Orleans on Sunday Nov., 13. Tickets can be purchased online at, or by calling the Athletic Ticket Office at 1-800-844-TICK (8425) as well as visiting the Pat Ferlise Ticket Center on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m..

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