By: Michael G. Lander
This article was originally written on February 2, 2012 and posted on February 14th.
When it comes to sports in Memphis, the men’s basketball program at the University of Memphis may be one of the biggest attractions in town, but they might soon have to share some of that limelight with another up-and-coming team at the University of Memphis. The women’s basketball team, led by Coach Melissa McFerrin, has, with far less fanfare, quickly and almost surreptitiously, turned their struggling program around and made it into a top Conference USA contender.
“Since my first press conference as the women’s basketball head coach, my goal has been to win more games and for the team to get to the NCAA tournament,” McFerrin said during a press conference Wednesday at the University of Memphis.
McFerrin is in her fourth year as head coach and her team currently has a 16-4 record this season and is 6-1 in C-USA.
The coach attributes her team’s success to playing a high tempo game, being tenacious in their offense, and being, as she said, “one of the top teams in the nation in rebounds and scoring.”
Despite the confidence that she has in her team, and the success that she and her team have experienced this season, she is not willing to ever underestimate her opponents. She always approaches each game, she said, "as if we were the underdog."
Part of McFerrin's success lies in what she and her team do on the court and in what happens before any of her players play their first game. The coach puts a lot emphasis on her players and believes that her role really starts early in the recruiting process. It is there, she said, that she tries to “create a great degree of trust with the players and their parents.” From that point forward, she strives to challenge her players and to help them to develop the best that they have within themselves.
Two of the players who have greatly contributed to the team and its success, McFerrin said, were her guards, Brittany Carter and Ramses Lonlack. Both are seniors and are leading scorers for the team. These players, she said, "have been the heart of the team. From the beginning, they believed in the vision that we had." It may be their belief in that vision and in themselves, that has led all of them to be where they are today.
Since she arrived as head coach in 2008, the University of Memphis women's basketball team has compiled an overall 69-49 record. Since their 11-18 record in 2008-2009, the women's team has improved to 20-15 in 2009-2010 and 21-13 in 2010-2011. It was last year, in the 2010-2011 season, that McFerrin led her team to the conference tournament semifinals. In mid-2011, the University of Memphis extended her contract to carry her through the 2015-16 season.
|Coach Melissa McFerrin at the first Conference USA tournament game between the University of Memphis Women Tigers and Southern Methodist University Mustangs on March 8th. The Tigers won 77-67 in this first round Conference USA tournament game.|
|Conference USA tournament game between the University of Memphis Women Tigers and Southern Methodist University Mustangs on March 8th.|
|Brittany Carter, University of Memphis Women Tiger's Guard, is fouled by a Southern Methodist University Mustangs player as she attempts to score during the Conference USA tournament game on March 8th. The Tigers won this first round game 77-67.|