Mississippi State Women’s Basketball: McCray-Penson reloads roster with talented transfers

Mar 4, 2021; Greenville, SC, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Nikki McCray-Penson reacts during the first half against the LSU Lady Tigers at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dawson Powers-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 4, 2021; Greenville, SC, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Nikki McCray-Penson reacts during the first half against the LSU Lady Tigers at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dawson Powers-USA TODAY Sports /

The first season under Nikki McCray-Penson did not go as planned for anyone. The Lady Bulldogs turned down an invitation to play in the NIT Tournament. What followed that news was a flurry of transfers that felt like knockout blows. Six now-former Lady Bulldogs decided to transfer, and all have now found new homes.

The coaching staff also experienced some attrition as Scepter Brownlee and Brittany Young departed, and Wesley Brooks and Tamisha Augustin are now part of the Bulldog family. There is no place to go up for the Coach McCray-Penson and Lady Bulldogs next season with such a difficult first season.

The roster is not full as there are a few more spots Coach McCray-Penson could choose to fill. I will talk about that later. Check out the list of new Lady Bulldog players and how I think they will play a role in getting the program back on track.

New Lady Bulldog # 1: Ashley Jones

Ashley Jones is a name we already know as she enrolled in classes in the spring. Mississippi State is her third school but, Jones showed she could be an impact player by earning the 2020 AAC Newcomer of the year. Jones is a scorer with the ability to knock down a three consistently. She is also is a solid free-throw shooter.

Jones has the experience McCray-Penson is looking for as she also a tough rebounder and talented passer. I don’t think Jones will start, but she will play a critical role off the bench on a guard-heavy roster. Jones was also a 4-star recruit out of Neuman-Goretti.

New Lady Bulldog #2: JerKaila Jordan

JerKaila Jordan will be an impact player for Mississippi State this season. She had one of the most successful freshman seasons in Tulane Women’s basketball history. She was named the AAC Freshman of the year and earned the week 7 times and player of the week once.

Jordan is a true scoring threat with the ability to shoot the three. She needs to improve her free-throw shooting. I predict Jordan will start in her first season at Mississippi State. Jordan was a 5-star recruit out of John Curtis.

New Lady Bulldogs #3Times 3: The A-Team

” I love it when a plan comes together.”

If you are an 80s baby like me, you know those are the words of the leader of A-Team, Colonel Hannibal Smith. The plan in our case is a trio of talented sisters deciding to play together, and all three are now Lady Bulldogs.

The only issue I see is that all three are point guards of similar height and build. I am sure Coach McCray-Penson will work all of the kinks out but let me introduce you to the A-Team. I can hear that iconic music playing now.

Anatasia Hayes is a high-scoring guard that can take over a game at will, and she will be in the starting lineup when the season starts. She was the second-leading scorer in the nation last year, averaging 26.5 ppg.

Anatasia started her career at Tennesee, where she earned the 2018 SEC Sixth Women of the year, and she also earned the flurry of C-USA awards, including the 2021 player of the year and First team performer. Anatasia was a 5-star recruit out of Riverdale High School.

Aislynn Hayes does not score as many points as her older sister, but she is tougher on the boards. She is also a tough defender and a capable three-point shooter. Aislynn earned the following C-USA awards: 2021 All Second Team and the 2020 Freshman of the Year. Aislynn was a 3-Star recruit out of Riverdale High School.

Alasia Hayes did not follow her sisters to Middle Tennesee St. She signed with Notre Dame and contributed as a true freshman before opting out of the season. Alasia’s best college basketball is ahead of her, and she will look to grow as a player under the tutelage of Coach McCray-Penson while reuniting with her sisters. Alasia was a 5-star recruit out of Riverdale High School.

Remaining Open Spots & Incoming Freshmen

Three more freshmen will join the roster for next season. Denae Carter will be the fourth Lady Bulldog at 6 feet or taller on the roster. Her length will be welcomed on a guard-heavy roster. Carter’s classmates are guards Mia Moore and Jasmine Shavers.

All three of the young ladies are essential building blocks for the future of Mississippi State Women’s basketball.

Coach McCray-Penson can choose to add two more players to her roster. I would say these players would need to be post players or athletes definitely over 6 feet tall. One player I feel McCray needs to add would be Nancy Mulkey out of Rice.

Mulkey would be the tallest player on the roster at 6’9″.  Mulkey led Rice to the WNIT title this past season. Mulkey averaged 15.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks on the season.

Mulkey removed her name from the WNBA Draft, so she is one player that Mississippi State needs to add to the roster. McCray-Penson needs to add more size to her roster, and two players that are still in the portal are Elyssa Coleman, a 6’3 forward out of Texas, and Digna Strautmane, a 6’2 forward out of Syracuse.