Thursday, November 1, 2012

University of Memphis women's basketball has faith in Pa'Sonna Hope

from Commercial Appeal

 Pa'Sonna Hope hadn't had a chance to get introduced to the large University of Memphis crowd that had assembled at FedExForum for Memphis Madness earlier this month when she got the news.
With a huge grin on her face, women's basketball coach Melissa McFerrin informed Hope, who transferred to the U of M from Ole Miss last summer, that the NCAA granted her a waiver, giving her immediate eligibility rather than forcing her to sit out a year.

In a matter of seconds, Hope's grin was as big as McFerrin's, as were her teammates'.

"It kind of pushed me to go even harder," Hope said. "I knew this was the year I was going to have to help the team out."

Hope's eligibility couldn't have come at a better time for the Tigers, who were in desperate need of a veteran presence to help fill the void left by departed forward Jasmine Lee, last year's Conference USA Player of the Year who averaged 15.2 points and 10.3 rebounds. Hope will get her first taste of action Saturday when the Tigers host Rhodes College in a 2 p.m. exhibition game.

Hope, from Cleveland, Ohio, had a successful freshman campaign, averaging 7.7 points and team-highs of 6.6 rebounds with 22 blocked shots for Ole Miss before tearing her ACL and missing the final four games.

Not fully recovered last season, Hope played sparingly as a reserve as her numbers dropped to 1.9 points and 2.8 rebounds. With Rebels' coach Renee Ladner stepping down following last season, Hope sought a fresh start elsewhere.

Hoping to remain in the South, she researched the Tigers and liked what she heard.
"I got a chance to chat with (McFerrin) on the phone, and come visit here this summer," Hope said. "I really liked the atmosphere, and Memphis as a city was pretty cool."

While Hope isn't the imposing physical presence that the 6-2 Lee was, her slender 6-0 frame provides more athleticism. And McFerrin is hoping Hope's two years of experience playing in the Southeastern Conference will benefit youthful players like sophomore Ann Jones, junior college transfer Devin Mack and freshmen Courtney Powell and Asianna Fuqua-Bey.

"When you've been smashed in the mouth a few times by an opposing team, then you have a little bit better sense about what the intensity level should be," McFerrin said. "She does bring us that. ... She knows how to go to the glass. And when she catches it on the block, she typically makes a pretty good move to score."

McFerrin hopes to add another experienced player as the Tigers await word from the NCAA on the eligibility of senior transfer Jamila "Mimi" Ajanaku. The former Central High star transferred from Middle Tennessee State to be closer to her ailing mother, Pearl Washington. She, too, applied for a waiver to be immediately eligible.

"I'm not going to expect anything," Ajanaku said. "I'm just going to continue to work hard every day and whatever happens, happens. I'll just be ready for whatever."

Ajanaku, a 6-1 guard, played in 13 games, including two starts, last season, averaging 1.3 points.

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