HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Southern Miss women's basketball head coach, Joye Lee-McNelis is back coaching the Lady Eagles after recently being diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, which is a form of lung cancer.
And as of now, she is focused on getting her team ready for the last three games of the regular season.
McNelis said "it's like taking a toy from a kid or a favorite lollipop from a kid not being able to travel with them to Florida. I will say this though, I have a great coaching staff. Coach Kiley Hill did a phenomenal job and pulled out two victories. Now, Coach Hill is 3-0. But, I will tell you I'm ready to be back, and I'm excited to be back."
Many people from the community and outside the community reached out to Coach McNelis, including Kentucky men's basketball head coach, John Calipari.
"It's been overwhelming very honestly with the people that have reached out to me. I'm just very appreciative. I'm very humbled by that. I am truly blessed by the number of prayers that have been prayed for me. And, you can feel that. My husband and I can feel that around us," said McNelis.
Her players are glad to have her back.
Guard, Megan Brown said, "It's a whole lot bigger than basketball right now. And, we figured that out first hand, because of the testimony that's walking around on our court right now. She comes and gives everything that she has when she has an excuse to pity herself. But, she's a fighter and that's what she teaches us. And, that's how we play. You can kind of see that in how we play. And, it's a result of the head coach that we have."
"She's someone that you can learn from as a coach, and as a parent as well. She's someone that tries to give you her best no matter what. Despite of how she was feeling yesterday, wasn't feeling well. But, still chose 'hey look, I'm going to give y'a'll what I have.' And, that's meaningful because as the leader of the team, that's what I look at," said guard, Brittanny Dinkins.
The Lady Eagles will try to win these last three games, not only for a higher seeding in the conference tournament, but for Coach McNelis as well.
McNelis said her surgery is scheduled for March 22.