Friday, June 20, 2014

Jacksonville's "Coach Yo" Talks Bahamas, Recruiting, JU and more


RELEVANT LINKS
 JU Women's Basketball
Tribune242 
Coach Yo Twitter 
#ASUNWBB 

First-year head women's basketball coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin told the JU community in April of 2013 that there are "No Ceilings" to the program's potential. 

Seven months later she and the Dolphins put their hard work into action, winning 10 conference games and recording their best A-Sun finish since 2008-09, along with the right to host a first-round quarterfinal game in the A-Sun Championship.

Now is time for her to work the same kind of magic at home in her beloved Bahamas, as she takes the reigns as head coach of the Bahamian Women's National Team.

Basketball runs in Coach McCuin’s blood. The daughter of legendary Bahamian coach Gladstone “Moon” McPhee and educator Daisy McPhee, she has continued her storied basketball career by inspiring young women – especially those from her home country of the Bahamas – to chase their dreams.

She was the first female Bahamian to sign a Letter of Intent for women’s basketball at a Division I school, and is the first to coach at a Division I program. As a player, she led the 18U Junior National Team to a silver medal at the FIBA National Games and now as a coach has her eyes set on the 2016 Olympics.

Preparation for Brazil is underway as Coach McCuin prepares to go back to the Bahamas to find the 12 best players to represent the country at the games.

The senior women’s championship begins on July 8th, with the Bahamas suiting up against the Virgin Islands, Dominica and Barbados in the preliminary rounds. Currently leading the Caribbean as the winningest nation with nine medals, the Bahamas boasts six gold, one silver and two bronze medals.

If Coach McCuin’s expectations are anything like those she places on the Dolphins, the Bahamas should get ready for some up-tempo, defense-oriented, blue-collar basketball. 


Following are a few of her thoughts on a number of topics ranging from the Bahamian national team to her family.

Q: Trailblazing runs in your family. You were the first Bahamian female to sign a Letter of Intent to a Division I school, and were also the first female from the Bahamas to coach at a Division I program. Now you are the Bahamian women's national team coach in March of 2013. What does all of that mean to you? 

Through hard work I have been blessed with opportunities to succeed not only individually, but also to help others to do the same. I am honored and humbled to be able to give back and represent my country internationally. I was a part of our country's junior programs and played on the Junior National Team and that experience is one I will never forget. This is a dream come true for me.

Coaching and playing on the national team is an opportunity to do something that is bigger than yourself. Nothing is bigger than your country. I was born and raised in the Bahamas and so this means the world to me. Bahamians are big sports lovers, and so getting this program and the sport back on track with some success is a tremendous opportunity for me.

Q: You have made a large impact in each of the communities in which you have been a part, including developing the foundation in the Bahamas called Back2Basics, which helps the development of children through education and athletics. Talk about your commitment to community service. 

I take great pride in being involved in the community, and I learned that importance from both of my parents. My Mom was also an educator and of course my Dad was extremely involved in our community, so I have known all of my life how important it is to give back. Even in the Bahamas I had the opportunity to participate in a couple of initiatives while we were down for the national team tryouts.
 
The most recent community service activity that has been rewarding to me was having the opportunity to visit Children's Hospital in April with our team. We had the chance to meet with several patients and spend time with me, which I believe was as good for our team as the kids.

Q: While you were at Clemson you were tagged as one of the top assistants in the nation by the National Women's Basketball Insider. In fact, in 2012 you helped assemble the 16th-ranked recruiting class in the country, landing five McDonald's All-American nominees for the Tigers. Talk about your approach to recruiting.

I see recruiting as an opportunity to build relationships. My approach in my career has panned out to be true, and that is to be honest and transparent. It is extremely important to me that people are able to believe in what I say. Having that balance between convincing someone to buy in to what you are presenting while at the same time being completely transparent has helped make me a successful recruiter. Plus, I can still relate – I haven't been out of college too long to separate me from understanding what student-athletes are going through. 

Q: Your father has been influential in Bahamian sports, particularly basketball, for years as one of the country's most passionate advocates, coaches, administrators, etc. How much has that affected your success?

It is true that my Dad has been an integral part of the development of sports and youths at home, but it unfair to just single him out in talking about the impact that my family has had at home in our community and in sports. My Mom was also a pioneer in education and sports and they both instilled in me the importance of discipline, pride and focus. I was given opportunity to earn what I had the success that I accomplished, it was not given to me. So those disciplines became second nature to me. I would see something I wanted and I would work hard to get it. That is where our theme at JU of "No Ceiling" came from - there is no limit to what we want to accomplish. Sometimes I think our youths grow up and have put glass ceilings put in front of them, where they see what they want to accomplish but then they aren't provided the means to get there. I am living proof that hard work does pay off.

Q: When you were hired at JU you talked immediately about changing the culture. You have said the same thing about the national team. What does that mean and how did that play out at JU in your first season?

Any coach has aspirations to win championships. I am encouraged by the steps we took as a program this year, and we are changing the culture at JU, putting down milestones that we can build upon. 

We won 10 games in the Atlantic Sun and clinched the No. 4 seed in the championship, which was JU's highest finish since 2008-09. We were picked to finish eighth and we finished fourth, and earned the right to host a home quarterfinal game in the conference championships. Obviously the last outing didn’t end the way we would have liked, but our last game can in no way define our season. There is a lot to be celebrated and a lot that we can build on as far as the future is concerned. Our end goal is still to win an A-Sun Championship. Once we achieve that, we’ll set another goal for this program.

Q: You have been back home once for initial tryouts and now head back for more practice beginning June 23rd. What are your thoughts on the team at this point?

I expected to see athleticism and some terrific competition, and we got that. We will be young, but talented and I look forward to working with the best talent that we have to offer. One of the things that I expected was that we will need to be in better condition. Something that has hurt the Bahamas over the years has been that we are out of shape when we came overseas to compete. Everyone has been in a conditioning program since tryouts last month and I look forward to seeing the difference as we get back to work next week.

We tested them not only in conditioning but also in basketball and implemented some things to see how they would respond. They did a good job and I like the way that things are shaping up. 

To be honest this is also a wonderful opportunity for me individually, because coaches don't get chances for reps during the offseason. It is challenging, however, because there really has been no time to relax since I joined JU last April. 

My husband if a great support, and my daughter, while still very young, gets to experience another culture. They travel with me and so we get to experience all of this as a family.

Plus, this experience will allow me to work among good coaches around the world, sharpen my craft, and build a program that my fellow Bahamians will be proud of. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

#ASunBSB Championship Social; Owls vs. Bisons

The 2014 Atlantic Sun Baseball Championship Final between Kennesaw State and Lipscomb took place on Sunday from FGCU's Swanson Stadium. To highlight the last day of the conference tournament, we have put together some of the best moments from social media.

Here is your chance to relive the excitement in the tweets, pictures and videos of fans, coaches and staff members in our Social Media Timeline. Join the conversation by using the #ASunBSB hashtag on Twitter for a chance to be included in the recap.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pitching in the Shadows of MLB All-Star


When Michael Murray, a sophomore exercise science major, walks into his home stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. a wall poster greets him reminding him of the shoes he is filling at Swanson Stadium. Over the past couple of years Florida Gulf Coast has become synonymous with #DunkCity, after the basketball team’s run to the Sweet 16 in 2013. In baseball, Chris Sale opened those eyes in 2010.

Sale, the 13th pick in the 2010 draft by the Chicago White Sox, was the National Player of the Year in 2010. He went 11-0 that year with a 2.01 ERA. In 103 innings pitched Sale struck out 146 while only surrendering 14 walks. Those numbers set a new standard at FGCU for starting pitchers to follow.

Sale has also found success in the Major Leagues with the Chicago White Sox. He won 17 games in 2012 and has made two All-Star appearances. Those are some big shoes to fill, but fast forward to 2014 and once again Head Coach Dave Tollett has a pitcher whose numbers look very similar to those of Sale.

Murray sits at 13-1 with a 1.85 ERA entering this week’s Atlantic Sun Baseball Championship. His command has been outstanding all season long only allowing 14 walks. Opponents are only hitting .229 against him and he has struck out 79 batters. Murray’s 13 wins, a FGCU school-record, lead the nation and have helped the Eagles to the regular season title. Every Friday night Murray takes the mound and fans come to the park to witness some #MurrayMagic.

The improvement this year for Murray has garnered him much more attention than his freshman season. When asked what the biggest difference is this year and Murray said “I’m more confident and last years’ experience has really helped. I really enjoy the intensity and energy that Friday night brings.” He is on the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Watch List and on the College Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher of the Year Watch List. After four Atlantic Sun Pitcher of the Week honors this season, which tied another one of Sale’s records set in 2010, Murray was voted the 2014 A-Sun Pitcher of the Year, the fourth Eagle to win the award.

FGCU's Head Coach Dave Tollett said “Mike’s weight room work and commitment to improving his craft have made him the pitcher he is today. This conference produces some great pitching talent and to be awarded Pitcher of the Year is a great achievement.” Brady Anderson, FGCU’s number two pitcher, added “Mike works hard and competes every day. He learned a lot last year from Ricky Knapp, constantly picking his brain and it’s made him a better pitcher.”

So is there any extra pressure in pitching with Chris Sale’s wall poster hanging on Swanson Stadium you might ask. Murray doesn’t think so “I’ve been pitching since I was eight years old. I don’t put extra pressure on myself, just go out execute pitches and have fun. The guys who came before me taught me a lot and have made me stay humble and continue to work hard.”  

At 13-1 it’s fair to say that Murray has been having a lot of fun.

A-Sun Player of the Year Max Pentecost Takes Time for 20 Questions

On Tuesday Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost became the first Owl in program history to land A-Sun Player of the Year honors as he batted .422 for the season with a league-best 97 hits and 54 RBI. The junior catcher tallied 21 doubles, eight homers and 50 runs scored, while adding 15 stolen bases. 

"It's an overall blessing," said Pentecost. "All the hard work we put in and the time and effort paid off. I'm glad I could receive this award and it means a lot to me and the team."

A Winder, Georgia, native, Pentecost entered the A-Sun Championship with the nation's longest hitting streak at 35 and is in the top five in the conference in hits, batting average, RBIs (55) and doubles (21) and is named on every major award watch list in the nation.


On the day he was announced as the Player of the Year, Pentecost took some time to go one-on-one with the A-Sun Insider for 20 questions. Find out more about Pentecost below.


Hobbies Outside of Baseball: Anything outdoors (hunting, fishing, riding four wheelers, etc) Favorite Athlete: Buster Posey Favorite MLB Team: Atlanta Braves Favorite Song: Amarillo by Morning Favorite Band/Artist: George Strait, Jamey Johnson Favorite Website: I don’t spend a lot of time online Favorite Movie: The Green Mile Favorite Actor: Tom Hanks Favorite Food: Country Fried Steak

Q: Of all the rankings that you are a part of, which national ranking means the most to you?
A: Our 16-game win streak that tied the nation’s longest streak, because that was really important to our team at that time.


Q: If you could improve one thing in your game what would it be?
A: Keeping on weight and staying strong. I know that sounds kind of crazy, but the season really wears on your body and it is a battle for me to stay strong and healthy sometimes


Q: What does it take to win an A-Sun Championship? A: We have to play like we have been playing. Our starting pitchers have done their job, and we have been able to contribute timely hits, move runners over, and play good all-around defense. We will have to continue that for sure in the championship.

Q: Any personal highlights from the season?
A: I guess a couple of things. First, I am proud I was able to experience the 35-game hitting streak. Then of course winning Player of the Year in a conference with a lot of really good players means a lot, it makes all of the hard work and sacrifice pay off.

Q: You are regarded as a probable top 15-20 pick in the upcoming MLB draft. What does that mean to you?
A: I really haven’t let that sink in yet. I am still just playing my hardest and living day-to-day. Making the majors has certainly been a goal and definitely an opportunity that I am looking forward to, but right now I am not worrying about it. I still have a few games left here at Kennesaw State and I am going to enjoy those to the fullest.


Q: Who’s the toughest pitcher you’ve had to face? How’d you do?

A: David Speer was a left-handed pitcher from Columbia. I think I had one hit against him. He had a four-pitch mix and he could put it wherever he wanted it. He definitely had all of the pitches and kept you off balance, really almost made it to where you got yourself out!


Q: Who’s the best young player you have played with, either in the A-Sun or in summer leagues? What stands out about him?
A: On our Cape team last summer there was a pitcher named Ryan Kellogg. He plays for Arizona State and I really think he is going to be a great player.


Q: What is your best memory as a baseball player? At KSU?
A: I have to go back to the 16-game win streak. We got off to a rough start and actually ended a seven-game losing streak with the beginning of the win streak. I am not really sure what happened, but something just got in us and it became contagious. During that time I think there were several games in which we were down three or four runs in the eighth or ninth innings and were able to get some come-from-behind wins, It was almost indescribable how we were doing it, but we did.

Q: What kind of advice can you offer to younger players out there who want to play college baseball?
A: Always play your hardest. Every day is another day that you get to play a great game when others are not so fortunate, it is a privilege to do that. Also, spend your off time doing things that make you a better person. And of course stay strong with the Lord.

Q: What is your personal game-day routine? What is your routine on the on-deck circle?
A: I don’t really have a routine per say, but I do get to the field early with some of the other guys and we just have a good time. We show up early, hang out, watch some tv, or go out on the field and toss around some other ball like a football or nerf ball, and just have a good time. But when we start stretching, we know that it is time to get in the mindset of getting ready to play.

Q: If you could excel at another position, what would it be?
A: Outfield. I played shortstop until I was about 11, then I began catching and have ever since. I played outfield a little here and there but I would like to give it more of a shot.

Q: Do you have a favorite saying or motto?
A: Live every day to the fullest. I guess that stems from having an uncle that passed away with Muscular Dystrophy and seeing the scenario of his life and how it unfolded. It really opened my eyes to how much we are blessed to be able to do and accomplish, and helped me realize not to take things for granted.

Q: What was the best advice that you were ever given?
A: My parents always told me that I could do whatever I put my mind to, and I have always believed that. That started when I began playing baseball and I have played all of my life and had some success with it, and I love playing. It is just a part of my life now.

Q: What about your training/preparation makes you better than most baseball players?
A: I try to stay in the weight room to stay healthy and strong. I know that some players get tired and more sore as the season goes on, but for me I stay in there because it keeps you healthy and helped protect from injury when you are tired and worn down. Plus I try to get as much sleep as I can because the season really wears on you, particularly on the body.

Q: What is your favorite situation in a game?
A: Any time there are runners in scoring position, hitting in the three-hole it is my job to get them in. That may mean bunting and moving them over, sacrificing on a long fly or driving one up the middle. That is one of the most important things to do in my position.

Q: When you were a kid what was the pretend situation in which you were the hero?
A: Actually this happened as late as my freshman year at KSU. We were in the conference championship and we had already lost one game. We were playing Stetson, it was the top of the ninth, and we were down three with two outs and bases were loaded when I got up. I doubled and scored everyone to tie the game, then we got another hit and ended up winning the game. That was my first big memory at Kennesaw State. I was one of only a few freshmen in the lineup and we ended up playing in the championship game, which we wouldn’t have if things hadn’t worked out that way for me in that moment.

Q: What is the worst slump you can recall? How did you come out of it?
A: Last season for the first 20 games I was hitting like .140. I was letting bad days carry over into the next day and finally I just had to clear my mind and adjust my attitude. I began playing how I know how to play and my attitude got better and my game picked up.

Q: How would you define a “good teammate”?
A: I think a good teammate is someone that you find off the field. They are someone who picks you up on or off the field when you are down, but yet they let you know what you should or should not be doing because they are concerned with the best for you. It is someone who you feel comfortable with just hanging out, so I think that person plays just as important role off the field as on it.

Q: How do you deal with failure on the baseball field?
A: I will get back to dugout, maybe get a drink, think about it some, pick up something or throw it back down on my bag and then start clearing my mind. You can’t let it carry over.

Q: How do you quiet your mind in the batters box?
A: Walking up to the plate I often will picture a time when I had a good at bat or got a solid hit and play that in my mind. That gives me positive mental notes, remembering how the swing felt and how I saw the pitches.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Baseball Looks to Join the A-Sun's Memorable 2013-14 Season

Legendary coach Vince Lombardi once shared his thoughts on experiencing success as, “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” 

As the 2013-14 Baseball Championship punctuates this year’s A-Sun Championship season, fans can certainly reflect on how the exceptional institutions that comprise the A-Sun helped fashion this season into one of the conference’s most prolific in recent history.

Why has this season been particularly memorable? For starters, four sports – men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s golf and softball –equaled or established records for postseason participation.

Men’s basketball saw a high mark of four teams advance into postseason play, highlighted by the 78-71 Mercer victory against Duke in the second round of the NCAA Championship. The win also gave the A-Sun its second straight second-round victory of March Madness. ETSU joined Mercer with a postseason victory, as the Bucs topped Chattanooga in first-round action of the CIT. FGCU (NIT) and USC Upstate (CIT) also joined the Bears and the Bucs in postseason play.

Four A-Sun women’s teams also advanced to postseason play for the second consecutive season. A-Sun Champ FGCU advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the last three years, while Northern Kentucky and Stetson picked up first-round wins in the WBI and WNIT, respectively. USC Upstate also joined the Norse in WBI action.

Four men’s golf teams – Mercer, Kennesaw State, North Florida and ETSU – ranked among the nation’s best all season and advanced to NCAA Regional play to double the A-Sun’s previous best of two in NCAA play. Kennesaw State advanced to the NCAA Championship, giving the A-Sun at least one team in the NCAA final for the last five years. 

For many it has been a long time coming, but this was also the year for A-Sun softball. Three teams – Stetson, USC Upstate and Lipscomb – advanced to NCAA Regional play, with each picking up wins to prove that the A-Sun has deservedly arrived on the national stage. 

Along with record numbers of teams in postseason, success was achieved conference-wide as each of the A-Sun’s nine institutions eligible for postseason participation sent at least one team or individual to NCAA tournaments.

Lipscomb set the pace at the first two A-Sun championships of the year, sweeping the men’s and women’s cross country events and leading a pack of six men’s and women’s teams into the NCAA Regional Championships. 

Jacksonville women’s soccer followed and became the first of five Dolphins’ teams to achieve their goals of A-Sun championship titles. Indoor and outdoor track and field recorded their historic ninth conference title each, and volleyball also returned to the NCAAs for the second time in program history. Women’s lacrosse concluded the run by claiming its second straight A-Sun Championship title. 

Along with basketball and men’s golf, the Bucs also made A-Sun history with their eighth straight men’s tennis title. Women’s tennis also claimed their third trip to postseason in the last five years. The A-Sun Player of the Year, Jordi Vives appeared in the NCAA Singles Tournament and landed FGCU's first-ever win for tennis with a decisive two-set victory before falling in the Round of 32, while North Florida's tandem of Jack Findel-Hawkins and Norbert Nemcsek ousted the nation's No. 1-ranked doubles team in the opening round of the NCAA Men's Tennis Doubles Championship. 

Speaking of repeats, Kennesaw State men’s track and field continued its string of successes, winning its third straight indoor and second straight outdoor titles as well in 2013-2014. Also for the third straight season, the Owls’ Andre Dorsey earned Most Valuable Player honors in the victory. 

Stetson and Mercer completed the A-Sun’s team representation in NCAA postseason, both knocking off back-to-back champs in the process. Hatters’ sand volleyball advanced to the AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championship, knocking off two-time defending champ North Florida in dramatic fashion in the A-Sun Championship.

The Bears also made history with their first trip to the men’s golf NCAA Regionals, claiming the program’s first A-Sun Championship and Individual Medalist honor with Trey Rule. 

Basketball great Michael Jordan once echoed Lombardi’s sentiments, simply saying that he’d always believed that ‘if you put in the work, the results will come.” 

Thanks to the “work” put in by everyone associated with the A-Sun and its membership, the results – firsts, records, postseason victories, unparalleled success – did come and only serve to brighten the A-Sun’s rising star.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Day Two Social at #ASunBSB Championship

The 2014 Atlantic Sun Baseball Championship continued on Wednesday from FGCU's Swanson Stadium. To highlight the second day of the conference tournament, we have put together some of the best moments from social media.

Here is your chance to relive the excitement in the tweets, pictures and videos of fans, coaches and staff members in our Social Media Timeline. Join the conversation by using the #ASunBSB hashtag on Twitter for a chance to be included in the recap.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

#ASunBSB Day One Social at Swanson Stadium

The 2014 Atlantic Sun Baseball Championship began on Wednesday from FGCU's Swanson Stadium. To highlight the first day of the conference tournament, we have put together some of the best moments from social media.

Here is your chance to relive the excitement in the tweets, pictures and videos of fans, coaches and staff members in our Social Media Timeline. Join the conversation by using the #ASunBSB hashtag on Twitter for a chance to be included in the recap.