HANCEVILLE, ALA. — Wallace State’s women’s basketball team opens the 2018-2019 season tonight at Northeast Mississippi Community College.
After leading the Lady Lions to a 23-8 record in an interim role last season, Jessica McBrayer was promoted to the full-time position in June and has assembled an intriguing roster for the new campaign.
“One of the things that was important to me was tweaking the culture a little bit. We have to put in a lot of work to be a high-caliber program, and the team has responded well. The amount of work and expectations have been intensified,” McBrayer said. “Our strength this season is going to be our speed and our defense. We have some good shooters, but we won’t be living and dying by the 3-pointer, which will be different for anyone who has watched our program in the past. I think we’ll be balanced and an exciting team to watch.”
Wallace State returns four sophomores to the fold with considerable experience. All four helped the Lady Lions advance to the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) semifinals last season as the program reached the 20-win plateau for the sixth time in seven seasons.
DeMaurea Moore returns at forward after averaging eight points and 4.6 rebounds per game as a freshman, while Jada Golden is back after scoring 7.7 points per game and finishing second on the team with 50 3-pointers. Moore is from Hillcrest High and Golden from Fairview.
Sophomores Channing Gafford and Miajah Bullock are also back after each made strong contributions down the stretch. Gafford was an ACCC All-Tournament selection in March.
Moore, Golden and Gafford each played in all 30 games last season, while Bullock appeared in 29.
“We don’t have a huge sophomore class, but the core is strong both on and off the court. There’s a lot of leadership and experience with that group,” McBrayer said. “We expect them to continue to get better and better. I’m excited for all four of them.”
Imari Martin, Jasmine Baker and Anna Mathis are among the freshman who have played well during the preseason.
Martin, a 5-foot-7 point guard, helped Hazel Green win a Class 6A state championship last season and will provide an instant impact in the Wallace State backcourt. Baker was a 2nd-team ASWA All-State at Madison County High and should add quality depth in the backcourt.
“Imari Martin is a true point guard and comes from a big program. She’s played the point her entire life and plays like a sophomore. She’s one we definitely expect to have a big season for us,” McBrayer said. “Jasmine Baker has played extremely well for us in the preseason and brings a lot of intensity to the floor for us. She’s quick with the ball and defensively as well.”
Mathis, a 5-foot-6 guard from Hartselle, has also impressed McBrayer in the preseason.
“Anna has been our leading rebounder since the first day and brings a lot of grit and determination to the team,” McBrayer added.
Kyra Williams, an AWSA All-State guard from Jacksonville High, should also earn valuable minutes in the Lady Lions’ backcourt, and Tawana Nevels should provide a strong complement in the post with Moore. Nevels and Moore were high school teammates at Hillcrest.
Rounding out the freshman class are Britney Redmon (Luverne HS), Henslee Brindlee (Brewer), Ivy Fowler (Atlanta, Ga.) and Kele Nelson (Priceville). Nelson is the granddaughter of former Wallace State women’s coach Larry Slater, a member of multiple Hall of Fame groups.
“I’m excited about our freshman class. They are all very different. We have speed and athleticism and we have shooters. It’s a strong group in many aspects,” McBrayer said. “We expect every freshman to come in and make an impact in some way. They’re all capable of playing big roles.”
McBrayer, who is a week shy of her 30th birthday, is beyond appreciative to coach for the program she played for during the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons. She also served as an assistant for Wallace State for three years before accepting last season’s interim role.
“I always thought I would be a high school coach, so this is very surreal for it to come full circle and to be here as the head coach. You know for a fact that God had his hand on it,” McBrayer said. “It’s fun, exciting and neat to reconnect with many people I played with and against in college. I’m very grateful for this experience.”
Wallace State was picked to finish third overall in the conference, according to the league coaches.
Wallace State’s first home game is Wednesday, Nov. 14 vs. Roane State. The Lady Lions’ conference opener is Jan. 8 at Gadsden State.
Tim Bellmon is Wallace State’s women’s assistant coach this season after serving in the same capacity for the men’s program.
For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit www.athletics.wallacestate.edu or the athletics Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Wallace-State-Community-College-Athletics-238544719506181/
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