|Madison McCoy had 39 points and 25 assists in four NCAA Tournament games for East Texas Baptist last March. Now she is helping her new team, Mary Hardin-Baylor, advance to the round of 16 as well.
Photo by Joe Fusco, d3photography.com
By Brian Lester
When Madison McCoy was looking for a new school after her freshman season at East Texas Baptist, she called Texas-Dallas first.
The call didn’t last long.
“I hung up. I told my mom I was nervous,” McCoy said.
Her next call was to Mary Hardin-Baylor, another team capable of competing at a high level the way East Texas did her freshman year during its run to the Elite Eight.
“I left a message. Five minutes later, coach (Mark) Morefield called me back,” McCoy said. “I could tell he had a lot of energy and he was a coach who wanted me on his team.”
It all worked out for McCoy, who is back in the Sweet 16 with her new team and in a position to return to the Elite Eight.
She’s part of a UMHB team that is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history and has won a school-record 27 games.
While McCoy isn’t new to the madness of March, her mindset this season is far different than it was a year ago with East Texas.
“It was incredible to even just get there as a freshman. I went in and gave it my all but wanted to have fun with it. It was all about the experience of being there,” McCoy said. ‘This year I know what I’m going into and I want to win the whole thing. I think we can, too. We are a very good team.”
McCoy is one of two on the roster who started her career at East Texas. The other is Hannah Holt, who is now in her second season with 12th-ranked UMHB.
Holt didn’t know McCoy prior to this season but the two quickly forged a friendship.
The fact that Holt was so welcoming eased the nerves Holt had going into a new situation.
After all, it was McCoy and East Texas that defeated UMHB by a point (71-70) in the 2018 ASC tournament championship game.
“I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to like me because we beat them last year,” McCoy said. “Hannah was the first one to talk with me. She’s amazing. We became friends right away.”
Holt, the leading scorer on the team (15.7 points per game), said it was an easy decision to connect with McCoy right away.
“I've been there and done that. I know what it's like to come to a new team and have others take me under their wing. We built a special friendship right away.”
The others on the team followed Holt's lead.
“The girls were like ‘you are the redhead from East Texas and now you are on our team,’ ” McCoy said. “They were happy about that. It's been great ever since.”
Morefield is impressed with how quickly McCoy adapted to her team. He said it took her only a couple of weeks to get into a groove and prove to be a valuable point guard.
“As a point guard, you have to learn the tendencies of your teammates and know which players are great in which situations,” Morefield said. “Her basketball IQ is extremely high. She has a great head on her shoulders.”
McCoy is averaging 5.4 points per game and has dished out 133 assists. But it’s her experience of having played in the NCAA Tournament before that means the most to The Cru this week.
Morefield can tell his players what it’s like to be in the tournament beyond the first weekend. He was on the staff at Valparaiso when it made the Sweet 16 in 2008 and was an assistant at Baylor during its run to the Elite Eight in 2010.
Assistant head coach Nya Johnson has experience as well, having played in four NCAA Tournaments at the Division I level while at Baylor, earning All-American honors as a senior.
“It’s great to have someone like Madison who has been there and knows what it’s like,” Morefield said. “Coach Nya and I have been there, but we can’t go out and play. We can only share our experiences. To have a player on the team who has been there, that’s something you can’t put a price on.”
Holt said she and others on the team haven’t talked too much with McCoy about what the Sweet 16 is like but notes McCoy has shared some of her experiences.
McCoy said one thing she’s brought up is just dealing with the grind of playing extra games.
“Basketball is a very long season, and it’s tough going into the (NCAA) tournament where you are playing nationally ranked teams and trying to advance,” McCoy said. “But if you work as a team and you have the same goal, it’s easier to get through it.”
McCoy remembers walking off the floor last season after a gut-wrenching 65-61 Elite Eight loss at No. 2 Wartburg. She vowed to get another shot at playing for the right to advance deep into the tourney.
“That game was ours last year. We saw that we could compete with anyone and that stuck with me. I wanted to get back this year,” McCoy said. “We kept hearing this year how we are a special team, but I didn’t know what to expect. We know we can do it. We are special.”
UMHB knocked off Rhodes 70-56 in the opening round and punched a ticket to the Sweet 16 with a 66-57 win over Texas-Dallas, the team that beat The Cru in the ASC title game.
A date with No. 22 Washington University, a five-time national champion is next on Friday in Kentucky. The winner plays unbeaten and No. 1 Thomas More or No. 18 Transylvania for a spot in the Final Four.
Though everything is on the line, Morefield wants his team to not let the moment become too big.
“It’s another game, another opportunity to go out and show what our program is about,” Morefield said. “I want us to be happy, but let’s not forget we have a game to play. We have an opportunity to go to the Elite Eight. We don’t want to lose sight of that.”
McCoy is eager to play again. She’s told her teammates to cherish the time they have on the trip and to have fun in the hotel. But she also talked about the importance of being focused.
“We are one of only 16 teams left,” McCoy said. “Every team is coming into win and we want to be the team that does win and advance. We have a skilled team. If we play together, if we lean on each other, we can do it.”