First off, let me apologize for the lack of posts on the women's basketball blog. In deciding to launch a blog for women's basketball, none of us knew that a coaching change was going to be so close around the corner, and without a staff, I opted to not ask the girls to post in order to give them some time to process everything that was going on.
Sunday night, April 20th, was the season-ending Fastbreak Club banquet. The Fastbreak Club did a great job of making sure the girls were recognized for their work this season and handled what could have been an uncomfortable situation very well. Freshman Savannah Ellis received the Most Improved Player award, much-deserved for a player with a bright future ahead of her. Junior Paris Leonard was named the Most Valuable Defensive Player, quite an honor for a player who will likely be our next Lady Tiger to 1,000 career points in her senior season. I don't know what Lady Tiger fans thought, but I thought the biggest growth in Paris' game from her sophomore to her junior seasons was definitely her defense. Jessica Hall received the Most Valuable Offensive Player Award. Imagine all those points having to sit on the sidelines over the past two seasons due to injuries for J-Hall...she's made a really remarkable comeback and was also one of 14 players from across all NCAA divisions (I, II and III) across the country to be selected a finalist for the V Foundation's Comeback Award, quite an honor. Ashley Thornton received the Lady Tiger award and the Les Phillips award. Both are awarded to the player who best exemplifies what it means to be a Lady Tiger. The Les Phillips award is a perpetual award, meaning anyone who walks in the women's basketball office back by the door to Coach McFerrin's office can see the plaque in honor of the former Lady Tiger booster hanging on the wall.
A little later that evening, new head coach Melissa McFerrin landed in Memphis and in arriving at the hotel, crossed paths with some of us leaving the banquet. I think it's fair to say everyone was impressed and excited to meet Coach McFerrin, although we did kind of ambush her in the lobby of the hotel -- sorry coach! So far, Coach McFerrin has had a busy few hours. She had not even been in Memphis for a full 24 hours when she had already knocked out some local school visits and made an appearance at the Tiger Scholarship Fund spring tour event at the DeSoto Civic Center. Today (Tuesday) is the last day women's basketball can be out on the road recruiting, so today will likely be more of the same for Coach McFerrin. Women's basketball enters a Quiet Period beginning on April 23rd, which lasts until July 5th. The NCAA's website defines a Quiet Period as the time when coaching staff can only make in-person recruiting contacts at the member institution, which means Coach McFerrin, in addition to having to hire a staff, will also only have the opportunity to host potential recruits here at the U of M for the remainder of this recruiting cycle. She can begin the evaluation period for her class of 2010 on July 6th when the next Evaluation Period begins.
For this year, the late signing period for basketball ends on May 21st. As of now, Memphis did ink two signees earlier this season (NCAA rules prohibit me from mentioning them again in a second release, but you can find the first releases I did on both signees under women's basketball, news headlines, on our website). For fans who may not know, women's basketball has 15 scholarships. We had 14 players this season, including one walk-on, and lost two to transfers during the season and one to graduation next month (Aroha Jennings).