As University of Memphis women’s head coach Melissa McFerrin enters her 13th season of coaching the Lady Tigers, she acknowledges that she’s never experienced times such as the present.
With a renovated arena and the loss of lone senior Gazmyne Herndon from last year’s team, however, McFerrin realizes the upcoming season gives her squad a chance to grow from last year’s injury-riddled season.
As offseason workouts recently began, McFerrin noticed her players are at different stages in terms of their readiness for the season.
A few of her players haven’t been able to fully participate in workouts due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Some players are ready for the beginning of the season, while others still need time to get their bodies right before we get into the full swing of things in September,” McFerrin said. “By the time September comes around, I’ll expect everyone to be here and ready to go.”
Last year’s team dissolved due to injuries, as Lady Tigers Julan McDonald, guard Jamirah Shutes, forward Lanyce Williams and guard Madison Griggs suffered serious injuries. However, with all four players returning for the upcoming season, along with seniors Alana Davis, Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu (Mend-jee-a-dew) and Keke Hunter, McFerrin knows her team possesses the ability to make some noise during the season.
Mendjiadeu, last year’s leading scorer, is McFerrin’s best player. McFerren, however, said she must improve the weaknesses, including shooting and ability to pass out of double teams, in her game to become the player McFerrin knows she can be.
“Dulcy’s going to be really good for us this year, but the issue for her is if she wants to go from being good to being great,” McFerrin said. “She needs to work on a few aspects of her game, but for the most part she’s got it together.”
McFerrin also brought in freshmen Callie Wright from Canada, En’Dya Buford, a former local star at Olive Branch; Tye Jones from Jones College in Mississippi, and Coriah Beck from Arkansas.
With all the talent she’s accrued, McFerrin thinks her team can withstand the injuries that plagued last year’s squad, and with everyone back and healthy, the team can make a postseason run.
“We expect to participate in the postseason this year, and nothing less will be accepted,” McFerrin said.
Despite now being in the full-swing of workouts, McFerrin reminds her squad to constantly to be aware of protests over the deaths of Black men and women at the hands of police officers and other racial injustices suffered by African-Americans.
She has provided the team with Black Lives Matter Zoom meetings, videos on the history of Memphis and consistently educates her squad on existing racial injustices.
The coach wants her players to know the importance of movements such as Black Lives Matter and more.
“All of the world’s started to take a step back and see what’s important,” McFerrin said. “I want my players to know we support Black Lives Matter and that we strongly condemn acts of racial injustice.”