This season, head coach of the Murray State women’s basketball team, Rechelle Turner, will finally have a team that is made up completely of athletes that fully buy into her system.
“The chemistry is as good as it’s ever been.” Turner said. “This bunch has really bought into the ‘we over me’ that we really stress. This is probably the hardest working team that I’ve had since I’ve been here. I would not say it’s the most talented that we’ve had. We’ve lost some talent maybe we weren’t able to replace, but I’m a firm believer that when you’re willing to work hard and play for each other, a lot of good things are going to happen for you.”
The Racers lost three athletes from last season that transferred out of the Murray State program. Those players accounted for 37 points per game, but Turner would rather focus on players that are returning.
“Everybody wants to talk about who left,” Turner said. “We’re not focused on that. We’re focused on the players who want to be at Murray State. We feel like our kids are working hard, and we’re just going to continue to process each and every day.”
Turner is especially looking to several players to fill in those holes offensively. Those players include athletes who were injured during last years’ season: Raegan Blackburn, Sadie Hill and Macie Gibson.
“They saw very limited time last year due to injury,” Turner said. “I think we’ll be scoring by committee. We’ve got a lot of kids who can do different things to get the ball in the basket. We’ve got some kids who are coming back that didn’t play at all last year because of injury that can score for us .”
Gibson especially will be able to cause some damage to the Racers’ opponents. She only played 25 minutes last season but was able to net 13 points and corralled 7 rebounds in that short amount of time.
“We’re going to have to have her rebounding ability,” Turner said. “She’s going to have to push her big body around and give us some physicality. Her ability to stretch the defense offensively is going to open things up on the inside format because you’re going to have to honor Gibson at the three-point line. She’s one of the purest shooters that we have. 6’1”, she’s going to bring a lot of bigs out onto the floor. Hopefully that tandem can work well together.”
And of course, Murray State is thrilled to have Murray High alumnus Macy Turley back on the Racers’ court. Turley was named the 2019 OVC freshman of the year and was named to the All-OVC and All-Newcomer teams. She started in 30 games and hit 123 field goals, 39 three-pointers, and pulled in 103 rebounds. Turley was also named to the All-OVC first team in the preseason.
“Her being on the first team preseason I think is well deserved,” Turner said. “Not very many freshman carry the load that young lady carried last year. Just being thrown out there almost 40 minutes a game, being expected to bring the ball up the field, score it. If you don’t score it, pass it to somebody that can, play defense. It’s just really good to see her receive the accolades that she deserved, but I’ll be the first to tell you that you haven’t seen her best basketball yet.”
And Turley hasn’t reached her peak yet.
“Her percentages last year shooting were not what she’s capable of doing, and I know those are going to get better just from the year of experience and her getting used to the speed of the game to understand new ways to attack people,” Turner said. “I really think that she’ll have an even better season this year.”
Besides returning athletes, the Racers also have new-comers contributing to the team this season.
“We’ve got some kids who are going to be able to pick up the void that was left with the transfers, but we’ve also got some new comers who I feel like are going to be impact players for us,” Turner said.
Freshman Jentri Worley and junior college transfer Laci Hawthorne will be two new faces for Racer fans this season.
“Worley is a big, strong guard that can get to the basket, get to the foul line. I can see her doing a lot of damage, making a lot of free throws per game,” Turner said. “Jentri is very capable of playing the point and relieving pressure from Macy, and Macy is really good at sliding over to the two. There’s a lot of things we can run and actually get Macy off some screens and give her some help. Jentri is definitely helping us in being able to move pieces around.vHawthorne is going to give us some athleticism that we’re lacking.”
The Racers truly have a great level of depth this season, and that depth is needed because Turner does not believe in cupcake schedules. Murray State has already gone up against opponents such as Louisville and Mississippi State.
“One of the things we’re trying to do this year is make our players as uncomfortable as possible so they’ll be comfortable,” Turner said. “We tell them all the time: ‘You’ve got to get uncomfortable to be comfortable.’ So we we’re trying to do that every single day in practice. We’re obviously doing that in our non-conference schedule this year, it being as tough as it is. I don’t feel like scheduling wins makes your program better. I feel like if you’re ever going to get to where you compete for a championship, as you’re going through the process of growing and learning, you have to compete against the best teams you can. I’m just not a believer in setting up a schedule to look good. I want our players to get better.”
As Turner mentioned, this team isn’t the most talented, but they are definitely the most hard working.
“I think this team is definitely not even close to the ceiling that it can be, but it’s all going to be determined on their ability to go to work every single day, their ability to correct errors as we see them, their ability to adapt and to adjust to the roles,” Turner said. “That’s one thing with a lot of new players: the roles haven’t been established yet. It takes a little bit for that to happen, but if everybody does and leans on their strengths for this basketball team with the effort and attitude, I think we can surprise people.”
Turner and her team are striving to prove the doubters wrong this year.
“We go out every day and try to stress that,” Turner said. “We also are a young team that is going to make a lot of mistakes, and we’re going to have to face adversity probably before we get to where we want to be. That’s just part of it. It’s my job as a coach and our job as a coaching staff to help lead these players to where they need to be.”
Turner would also like to see her team limit the amount of “gifts” they hand out to other teams. Gifts are what Turner calls mistakes that opponents are able to capitalize on.
“It’s not one big thing,” Turner said. “It’s going to be a big bag of little things that we have to do well to be successful. I really enjoy this team. I’ve had a good time. They’re fun. They’re energetic. They want to learn. They’re coachable. And that’s all you can ask for.”