When Matt Insell was fired last season after a really bad year, Ole Miss found Yolett McPhee-McCuin or “Coach Yo” at Jacksonville University and hired her. A prolific mass exodus followed, with nine players leaving despite no seniors on the team.
Yeah. That’s pretty rough. Coach Yo scrambled to fill the roster, signing four high schoolers, two junior college players, and three transfers from four-year colleges.
The Rebels have been bad this season. They’re 3-6 with a No. 200 RPI ranking. Real Time RPI predicts they’ll finish the year with a 12-18 record. With an injury to freshman point guard Mimi Reid (who I’ll talk more about in a minute), the team is starting three seniors and two juniors. There isn’t a single sophomore on the roster right now.
To say the roster construction is rough would be an understatement. It’s almost as if Coach Yo has had to start all over again and throw out this season.
But there’s hope in her recruiting.
Last year’s class was a stopgap, but her first real class just signed, and it is quite good. Yo signed two high schoolers (both top 50 players nationally on ESPN) and two junior college players, who both play for winning programs and are well regarded.
The bigs, JUCO Dominique Banks (6’5) and high schooler Tai-Yanna Jackson, would each be the tallest player on the team right now by three inches. Banks started for the team that lost last year’s national championship, and Jackson is the No. 11 post player overall in the class.
JUCO PG Valerie Nesbitt is small, but Yo called her explosive in signing day quotes. High school senior Sarah Dumitrescu comes from IMG Academy, and is a 6’0 guard ranked as the No. 49 player in the country by Prospect Nation. She is originally from Romania and has played on Romanian national teams at every level.
Yo doesn’t have commitments for next season yet, but she has shown the ability to sign highly regarded players already, and that will likely continue.
And the freshmen aren’t bad, either.
I mentioned Mimi Reid above; Reid is actually a redshirt freshman who had to sit out last season with an injury. She has started all seven games in which she’s played this season at point guard, and she’s doing pretty well there too, with a team-leading 31 assists (next highest is 16). Reid was also a top 50 player out of high school and the No. 11 point guard in her class.
Then there’s Gabby Crawford, a 6’2 forward who is playing 20 minutes or so a game after being a late qualifier. Crawford was the No. 80 player in her class nationally and one of the first jewels in Coach Yo’s cap. She’s likely to step in as a starter next season.
Iyanla Kitchens was ranked just ahead of Crawford at No. 76 and is also a 6’2 forward. She has played sparingly this season, but remember— she’s a freshman.
Past those three, there’s uncertainty, but whenever I’m evaluating things I always like to look for the foundations a new coach can build upon. Yo has some good long-term pieces in place.
Sure, this season is going to be a dumpster fire, but this is not what she should be evaluated on. She’s taking great steps to make this program better.