by darren reese
sun sports editor
North Greene girls’ basketball coach James Buchanan describes junior guard Mendy McNeese as one of the hardest working players he has ever coached.
McNeese missed the majority of her sophomore season after tearing her ACL eight games in, but her tireless work ethic allowed her to return 100-percent for the 2012-13 campaign.
She went on to average 15.9 points in helping the Lady Huskies to a District 1-A tournament championship.
McNeese was recognized for her efforts late this week when the Tennessee Sports Writers’ Association named her to the girls’ Class A All-State team.
She is the third North Greene player to receive the honor in recent years, joining Dakota White (2010) and Mariah Britton (2011).
“It’s a great honor to get this award, though it’s disappointing that our season didn’t finish the way we would like,” McNeese said. “Playing with the teammates I had this year is really what I will always remember.”
McNeese also led the team in assists (4.1) and steals (3.7) this season, and was second in rebounding with 4.4 per game. She connected on 37% of her shots from three-point range.
She made the All-District, All-District Tournament, and All-Region teams.
Buchanan is quick to point out that McNeese’s successes didn’t come without a lot of sacrifice during the offseason.
“This recognition really says a lot about her, because she had to put in a lot of time and sweat,” Buchanan said. “After last season was over, there was not a day went by that she wasn’t in the gym, in the weight room, just working hard to get back into playing shape.”
“She has done the same thing this year since the season is over. She is running on her own, continually trying to improve and get in better shape. She doesn’t want to be out-worked.”
North Greene with 25-9 this season, winning the District 1-A tournamentand advancing to the semifinals of the Region 1-A tournament.
The Lady Huskies saw their season come to an end with a 36-31 region loss to Hampton, a team North Greene routed by 19 points just aweek earlier in the district tournament.
“Losing that last game really helped open my eyes to a ton of things I need to improve on,” McNeese said.
McNeese and and Buchanan sat down at season’s end and talked about areas the coach felt McNeese could improve on in order to become an even better player heading into her senior campgain.
McNeese immediately took the conversation to heart.
When asked what the main area she saw for improvement in her individual game, McNeese said, “Defenitely defense.”
Buchanan explained that he just wants McNeese to become a complete all-around player so that she gets the best opportunities she can in regards to playing at the collegiate level.
“When you look at what it takes to being successful in college, that requires a player that does all the little things right,” Buchanan said. “Everyone knows that Mendy can shoot the ball, that she is a great passer, a great scorer, has an unblievable basketball IQ.”
“Now we want her to take pride in her rebounding, in stopping opponents, diving on the floor for loose balls. And I know she will do that. She is just a great joy to coach.”
One area Buchanan knows he will be able to count on McNeese next season is in the leadership department.
North Greene loses three senior starters from this past season, and McNeese will be surrounded by many fresh faces next winter.
But Buchanan says being a leader is something McNeese hasn’t had a problem with to this point.
“Even this year, when we had those three seniors, Mendy has been one of our vocal leaders out there on the court,” Buchanan said.
“When Mendy was hurt as a sophomore, she was over on the bench encouraging our players, basically coaching the younger ones. Next year, we will ask a lot from her, but I know she will rise to the challenge.”