James: Sam Purcell's women's hoops program is taking shape

Sam Purcell’s roster has begun to take shape in the offseason 

New Mississippi State University women’s basketball coach Sam Purcell has arrived in Starkville, and his new team is starting to take shape.

This past week, Purcell hired Murriel Page as an assistant coach, along with Gabe Lazo and Corry Irvin as part of his new coaching staff.

Page is a former player for the University of Florida Gators, where she earned All American honors and was a Naismith Player of the Year finalist. Prior to being hired by Purcell, she was an assistant coach at Georgia Institute of Technology, where she helped lead the Yellow Jackets to a Sweet Sixteen appearance in the 2021 NCAA tournament.

While Purcell finishes gathering up his remaining coaching staff, he has also landed a big commitment from a returning veteran.

Bulldog guard Anastasia Hayes announced on her social media she will return to the women’s basketball team next season for her final year of college eligibility.

This is a big commitment for Purcell and his team, as Hayes is the kind of veteran force that can help propel the team to fresh success in this new era of coaching.

This past season, Hayes averaged 18.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 3.1 apg. She also scored in double digit figures in all but one game this season.

Seeing Hayes on the court this past season was a treat for Bulldog fans. She was an absolutely dominant presence on the court and was a shining light on a roster that was plagued by injuries throughout much of the season.

With Hayes returning and the rest of the roster coming back presumably healthy, the Bulldogs could be a decent, if not pretty good, team next season.

Even if Hayes decided not to come back, the women’s basketball team is in good hands. Purcell has had a lot of coaching experience under Jeff Walz, one of the best coaches in the sport, and is a great recruiter that can take the team back to its peak.

The return of Hayes gives Purcell more weapons to utilize, and if the team meshes together the right way, we could see a potential tournament berth in the near future. All thanks to Hayes and her decision to return.

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