PERKINSTON — Three key players from Mississippi Gulf Coast coach Hope Adams' regional finalist women's basketball team signed with Division I schools Wednesday. Breannah McCullah signed with Tennessee State, and Azaria Howard and Shelli Thigpen signed with Mississippi Valley.
"I'm really going to miss those three. Basically, that's my first recruiting class," Adams said. "They brought a lot to the program. Shelli trusting us coming all the way from Texas, eight hours away. Watching McCullah transform into what she did between her freshman and sophomore years, and Azaria was a force for us inside as well as being a great kid. I told all three of them, I'm going to miss them dearly."
McCullah, a 5-foot-10 guard from Edwards, earned All-MACJC South Second Team honors after a sophomore season that saw her average 8.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. She led the Lady Bulldog with 2.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game, while also picking up 1.4 blocks.
"Gulf Coast taught me about life," she said. "Coach Hope helped me become a better person.
Tennessee State, located in Nashville, is coached by Jessica Kern. The Lady Tigers play in the Ohio Valley Conference.
"I felt like they would improve my game," McCullah said. "The people there were nice, and they treated me like family."
Howard, a 6-foot-2 forward from Richland, shot 55.9 percent from the field, averaging 6.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore. During her freshman season, she averaged 9.4 points and 4.5 rebounds.
"I learned to keep pushing, to never give up and to follow my dreams," she said. "Coach Hope throughout my two years here said if I wanted it, I could go get it. She told me to keep pushing."
Thigpen, a 5-foot-10 guard from Wylie, Texas, averaged 8.6 points, grabbed 4.2 rebounds and dished out 2.0 assists per game as a sophomore. As a freshman, she averaged 8.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists.
"I learned to push myself and not to look for somebody to applaud you every time you do something. You should be doing it for yourself," she said. "Coach taught me to be stronger, to not take everything to heart and at it's all love in the end."
Mississippi Valley, located in Itta Bena, plays in the Southwest Athletic Conference. The Devilettes are coached by Ashley Walker.
"I chose Valley because I thought it was a good fit for me on and off the court," Thigpen said. "The coaches' vibes, I felt like they really wanted me and I'm a good fit for them."
"I felt like I would be more comfortable there," Howard said. "It's close to home, but I felt like I connected with the coaches and players. It's a great environment."
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