By Josh Troy
Two long-time friends from Ashley County, Ark., are reuniting in Clarksdale to coach the Coahoma Community College women’s basketball program. Shanae Govan Williams, the Lee Academy girls’ basketball coach from 2014 to 2017, was introduced as the Lady Tigers’ head coach nearly two weeks ago. Quinton Pippen was officially announced as the Lady Tigers’ assistant coach on Tuesday.
Williams is a 2010 Crossett High School graduate in Crossett, Ark. She returned home to coach Crossett from 2017 to 2021. Pippen is a 2009 Hamburg High School graduate. Both schools are in Ashley County, Ark.
Williams, a guard, played for Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Ark., and then Delta State University in Cleveland. Pippen, a shooting guard and small forward, played for Missouri State University-West Plains and then Chicago State University.
“She’s from my rival in Crossett,” Pippen said. “I’m from Hamburg. She’s a hooper, and I’m a hooper, so I’ve known her for a long time on the basketball side. She’s been a hooper for a long time, and I kept up with her after she graduated at Delta State and everything she was doing. We’ve been close friends for a long time. We started out as rivals but became real good friends.”
Even when their schools were on opposing sides of the basketball court, they remained friends.
“We’ve been on the same team for a while,” Pippen said. “We always check in with each other. I make sure she’s OK. She acts likewise on my side, so I think we’ve been on the same team for a while. But right now we’ve got the same Coahoma on our chest. We’re on the same team right now.”
Williams said Pippen will do a good job knowing the athletes’ skill set and getting them to buy into the program.
“It’s a blessing,” said Williams of having Pippen as an assistant coach. “I’m so excited and thankful. He’s a home run hire, literally what I was looking for to come to this college with me. Coach Pippen is going to change the game.”
Pippen had been training in Conway for a while and was the strength and conditioning coach at the University of Central Arkansas for the past year when he decided to make the transition to full-time coaching.
“It’s something I’ve been looking to get into more and more, something I brought up to Shanae when we were talking about getting into coaching, and something that I’m very passionate about. An opportunity came, and I took it and ran with it,” he said.
Pippen is the nephew of long-time NBA star Scottie Pippen, who went to Hamburg High School, played for UCA, and is most known for helping the Chicago Bulls win six championships in the 1990s.
“Scottie is my uncle, and basketball has been around our family for a long time,” Pippen said. “That’s all we know in our family. I try not to lean on his name. I try to lean on my name. I mean Quinton Pippen and Scottie Pippen are two different people, so I just try to lean on my name and try to make a name for myself and just try to follow the path that he did.”
As Pippen began his journey at CCC, he said he was impressed with the facilities on campus, particularly The Pinnacle, where the Lady Tigers play.
“A lot of JUCOs don’t have nice arenas like this, so just walking into a place like this makes me think that me and Shanae can pack this place out,” he said.
Pippen said he is already accustomed to small communities like Clarksdale from growing up in Hamburg. “I think I’m going to love it here,” he said. “I think Shanae is going to get this team and this community to rally around each other. We’re going to have a lot of fun here.”
The Lady Tigers newcomers for the upcoming season are Ceriah Evans from North Little Rock High School in Little Rock, Ark., Kamil Washum from Hillsboro High School in Nashville, Tenn., Kennedi Wagner from Ramsay IB High School in Birmingham, Ala., Tereah Hayslett from DeSoto Central High School in Southaven, Ganae McAllister from Tupelo High School in Tupelo, Cayla Myers from Velma Jackson High School in Camden, Chrystance Walters from Pearl High School in Pearl, Jamaica Young from Starkville High School in Starkville, Shari’a Davis from Cleveland Central High School in Cleveland, and Robynn Jennings from Kemper County High School in Dekalb.
Williams was the head coach at Bryant High School in Bryant, Ark., last season and had the opportunity to go against Evans. “She is a phenomenal athlete,” Williams said. “She’s a post player that can stretch the floor.”
Williams said former Lady Tigers head coach Stephanie Murphy and former assistant coach Jade Patrick were responsible for bringing the new recruits to the program. “Coach Murphy and Coach Patrick did a great job of recruiting this class,” Williams said. “We’re thankful these girls decided to stay with us even after Coach Murphy left.”
Williams talked about the praise Murphy had for the new freshmen. “Coach Murphy told me herself this is probably one of the best recruiting classes that she brought,” Williams said.
Janiya Jones and Dajah Turner will be returning to the Lady Tigers for the upcoming season. Jones, a guard, earned second-team all-conference honors last season and was the Lady Tigers’ leading scorer, averaging 14.5 points per game. “She’s a great shooter,” Williams said. “We’re excited to learn more about her and the young ladies who have signed.”
Pippen and Williams are not focused on how many freshmen or sophomores will be on the roster. “Everybody has to learn how to play the game, the ins and outs of the game,” Pippen said. “It’s not about how old you are. It’s about how much do you want to learn from the game, how much you’re taking from the game, and how much you put into it.”
“That’s a reason why I’m glad he’s here,” said Williams in agreement. “We think a lot alike. I agree. It’s all about knowing their game. It doesn’t matter how many freshmen we have, how many sophomores we have. At the end of the day, they all have to be in a position where they’re willing to learn and grow.”
Tryouts to fill some of the spots were held this past Friday. Williams said there will be a maximum of 15 athletes on the roster. She is looking to build on everything Murphy did in the past five years and take the program to another level.
“We saw some good talent,” she said. “We saw a few pieces that we’re going to talk about adding to what we already have. There’s some good talent in Mississippi. It’s good to see that multiple talents come out to try out for the program.”
Williams emphasized that developing athletes’ talent is important, but other factors play a role in building the roster for the 2023-24 season. “Are you going to be a good teammate?” she asked. “Are you going to be coachable? How do you handle constructive criticism? All of those things are about character. That’s something we’re going to continue to instill in our program. We look for high-character kids with good attitudes and body language. As for the skill part, that will take care of itself.”
Williams made it clear to everyone who tried out not to let the opportunity to play for the program slip away. “Every minute you have to maximize your potential, you need to put in the work,” she emphasized. “We want to instill a sense of pride in the girls. They need to put in the work and develop a passion for the game. I spoke to the young ladies who tried out. Everything they desire is on the other side of the court. We talked to them about the opportunities available.”
Pippen mentioned that his experience in other areas will aid him in the recruiting process. “Knowing a lot of kids from training and my recent activities will be advantageous,” he said. He specifically mentioned his connections in the Louisiana and Arkansas regions. “With the background we have, we can cover a lot of ground in our search for great talent to join Coahoma.”