Young Racers heading culture rebuild

Story by Gage Johnson

Senior writer

gjohnson17@murraystate.edu

Racer Mania and OVC Media Day have passed, meaning Racer basketball is right around the corner. With Murray State women’s basketball’s season now in full swing, here’s what to expect out of the Racers.

Turner’s first recruiting class

The Racers will host a nearly brand-new team on the hardwood this season. Murray State Head Coach Rechelle Turner’s first recruiting class consists of nine new players – six freshmen and three junior college transfers.

The freshman class consists of guards Macey Turley, Lex Mayes, Alexis Burpo, Sadie Hill, walk-on Raegan Blackburn and forward Macie Gibson.

The group has many prestigious accolades between them. Turley, Mayes and Burpo are familiar faces in Murray, as they all eclipsed the 1,000-point mark while playing at Murray High. A few of those seasons were under Turner in her previous coaching job at Murray High.

Gibson was a regional and district MVP as well as a Miss Kentucky Basketball finalist. Hill was a two-sport athlete who earned three all-conference selections and won the discus event in the 2017-18 state track meet in Indiana. Blackburn was also a member of her high school’s 1,000-point club and earned several all-region and all-district selections.

The other three newcomers consist of JUCO transfers in junior forwards Cekeya Mack and Evelyn Adebayo and junior guard DeAsia Outlaw.

Mack finished sixth in the nation in rebounds (12 RPG) and 24th in the country in scoring (18.7 PPG) last season at Albany Technical College. Outlaw was ranked in the Top 20 in the country with her 57 percent shooting percentage and was selected for the NJCAA Top-40 All Star game last season at Wabash Valley College.

Adebayo is a relative newcomer, as she sat out last season and watched the Racers from the sidelines. Turner noted that Adebayo has since progressed immensely and she expects a lot from the Gardner-Webb University transfer.

“About a month ago or so I don’t know what happened, but something just clicked,” Turner said. “I truly believe she is an All-Conference type of player. I’m really excited to watch her growth and see what she can do this year.”

C.H.A.M.P.S and “We over me”

Most teams abide by a team motto to motivate team chemistry. The Racers have done so by adopting the C.H.A.M.P.S. acronym and the mantra “We Over Me.”

“Our overall culture is ‘We Over Me,’” Turner said. “We identify that through C.H.A.M.P.S. That’s character, hard work, accountability, mental toughness, positive attitude and selflessness. Those are the core values of our culture that we teach everyday. Every decision we do is based on that. I’m excited about how our kids have bought into it.”

Leadership and experience

With only four players that logged minutes returning from last season and only one senior among the four, the Racers don’t have many upperclassmen to provide experience and leadership.

Despite a mostly new team, Turner was shocked at how quickly the players bonded over the summer and is thrilled with the five returning players for making it happen.

“We have five players returning and they need to understand they are the reason this happened,” Turner said. “These new eight players came in and were like ‘what do we need to do?’ and ‘what are we about?’ and our returning players did a great job of setting an example. Overall, the chemistry of this basketball team is what excites me more than anything.”

In late December the Racers have scheduled games against the University of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee. Turner knows they’re not expected to come out on the winning side but thinks the games will serve as great learning experiences.

“Our kids are excited about those challenges,” Turner said. “It gives us an opportunity to make memories. These are schools these kids grew up admiring. It also gives us an opportunity to challenge ourselves against the best schools in the country.”

Game plan and expectations

Murray State is coming off a 2017-18 campaign in which they had an 11-19 overall record and a 7-11 record in OVC play. This will be Turner’s second season at the helm and she expects a much different outcome this season.

Turner prides herself on her teams being some of the best defensive teams in their conference. Last season, the Racers ranked last in that category, but she believes this won’t be the case this season.

“That hurt my heart more than anything last year,” Turner said. “That’s unacceptable. That’s the difference in this year’s team. We have kids that are committed to playing both sides of the ball, and they know if they don’t play defense, someone else will.”

On the offensive side, the game plan has changed from last season. The Racers lost Ke’Shunan James, last season’s OVC Player of the Year. With newfound depth and a team effort expected in terms of scoring, Murray State will be playing offense through many different facets.

“This gives us the ability to play different styles at different times depending on what we need to do,” Turner said. “When we get to the point where we can play fast and execute, we’re going to put people on their heels in the way they have to defend us.”

While the team is very young and and the Racers are predicted to finish last in the OVC, according to the OVC preseason poll, Turner believes her team will shock many people.

“Our players are just going to get baptized by fire,” Turner said. “We can’t give them experience that they don’t have. But we won’t make excuses. I believe by conference time we will surprise a lot of people. Not a lot of people know anything about our players, but I know about our players and I know the expectations that I have for them.”

Game Info

The Racers will play the second game of their season against Oakland City at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10 at the CFSB Center.

 

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