Women’s Basketball Finalizes 2024-25 Coaching Staff – Ole Miss Athletics – Hotty Toddy

OXFORD, Miss. – Head women’s basketball coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin has strengthened the Rebel family in naming Empress Davenport, Kayla Gordon and Joy Cheek Smith as assistant coaches and elevated video coordinator Jake Whitehead to an assistant coach on Thursday. 
Coming off of three seasons as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at UTSA, Davenport joins the Rebels as an assistant coach for the 2024-25 campaign. A four-year letterwinner for Texas from 2012-16, Davenport reached three NCAA Tournaments as a player while averaging 7.2 points and 3.6 rebounds during her career for the Longhorns. 
“Empress is a rising star, a winner and a competitor. I’ve had the pleasure of watching Empress from afar and it her work ethic and competitive nature reminds me of myself,” said McPhee-McCuin. “She has impacted every program she touched positively, and I am excited for her to get to work here in the Sip.”
After her playing days in Austin, Davenport played one season professionally overseas in Sweden before returning to the United States to serve as an assistant coach for two years for Nike ProSkills EYBL. 
Davenport entered the collegiate coaching ranks in 2018, spending three seasons as an assistant coach at Lamar where in 2018-19 the Cardinals posted a 17-1 record in the Southland en route to going 24-7 overall. 
This past season at UTSA, Davenport assisted the Roadrunners to reach 18 wins for its most in a single season since 2009.
A Duncanville, Texas, native, Davenport graduated from Texas with a bachelor’s degree in applied learning and development in 2016.
“I am extremely excited and grateful to join Coach Yo and the entire Ole Miss family,” said Davenport. “Coach Yo has a tremendous vision for success and I am appreciative she trusts me to be a part of her staff and part of that process. I cannot wait to get started in helping to win championships at Ole Miss and I look forward to hitting the ground running.”
After spending three seasons at her alma mater as an assistant coach at Jacksonville University, Gordon reunites with her former collegiate coach in McPhee-McCuin. As a player at JU, Gordon left her mark in the Dolphin record book in several categories. As the best rebounder in school history, Gordon tallied 1,031 boards and is the only player in school history to surpass 1,000 in her career. Her 1,225 points scored are the fourth-most all-time in program history.
“It has always been a dream of mine to work alongside a former player but timing has not presented that option for me until now. Kayla is an elite level person, has elite character, and someone I’ve been able to watch closely as she has begun her coaching journey.” said McPhee-McCuin. “We won a championship and a lot of games together. Kayla knows what I stand for and would be incredible for our players. She is a great teacher, communicator, and person and I am excited to see her impact with Team 50 and every team after.”
In her four years on the floor for the Dolphins, Gordon was a member of JU’s 2015-16 ASUN Tournament Championship team and also earned accolades as the ASUN Freshman of the year in 2014-15 and was honored as the ASUN’s Defensive Player of the year and to the All-Conference First Team as a senior.
Following her playing career at Jacksonville, Gordon ventured to Europe where she spent three seasons at the pro level where she most recently played with Vimpelin Veto in the Finland Korisliga. In her final professional season, she averaged 19.4 points per game and shot 49% from the field in 23 games.
The Meridian, Miss., native returns home after graduating from Meridian High School in 2014. At Meridian, Gordon was named a 2012 Region 5-6A Player of the Year, a three-time all-conference selection and a two-time Clarion Ledger Dandy Dozen Selection.
“I am overjoyed to be joining the women’s basketball program at Ole Miss. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with someone that I love and respect as a coach and as a person. Coach Yo is a phenomenal coach who has and will continue to impact the game of basketball,” said Gordon. “As her former player, I know first-hand of her impact and willingness to grow and develop those around her. This is truly a full-circle moment to return to my home state of Mississippi and to work alongside Coach Yo.”
Following six seasons as an assistant coach at Clemson, Smith boasts over 13 years of coaching experience at the Power Five level. A standout at Duke from 2006-10, Cheek Smith played in 137 contests for the Blue Devils in making four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. While in Durham, Cheek Smith earned All-ACC Tournament First Team Honors, All-ACC Third team and was a finalist for the Lowe’s Senior Class Award.
Smith was drafted 35th overall in the 2010 WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever and appeared in seven games before traveling overseas to play in Poland. She signed a brief contract with the Washington Mystics in 2011 before returning to her alma mater as an assistant coach at Duke. 
“Joy is a future head coach and is a huge addition to our program. She has an incredible knack for relating to players,” said McPhee-McCuin. “As demonstrated by the success of the numerous professional players she has developed, her reputation as an elite player developer is well known. Joy has helped signed All-Americans and high-level players throughout all of her coaching stops. I am excited for her to bring her knowledge of the game and competitive nature to the Sip.” 
Following reaching the Elite 8 in both seasons with the Blue Devils, Smith ventured to Ohio State to serve as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator from 2013-16. With the Buckeyes, Smith helped Ohio State land top-25 classes in her final two seasons, including a top-five class in 2015-16.
Before joining the Tigers in 2018, Smith spent two seasons at Vanderbilt where she earned the national honor of being named one of the WBCA’s “Thirty Under 30”. At Clemson, Smith reached one NCAA Tournament with the Tigers in 2019 and guided Amari Robinson to a Second Team All-ACC nod in 2023.
Smith is joined in Oxford by her husband Allen and daughters Harleigh and Emori.
“I am extremely excited for the opportunity to work for Coach Yo at Ole Miss. She is a dynamic leader and a proven winner on and off the court,” said Smith. “I’ve always admired what she has done in rebuilding the program and how she has positively impacted her players lives. I am excited to be a part of the program as she continues to elevate Ole Miss and win championships.”
Following two seasons as the coordinator of video operations, McPhee-McCuin has added Jake assistant coach duties for Jake Whitehead heading into the 2024-25 campaign.
“I have had the opportunity to closely watch Jake blossom since being here at Ole Miss. Since he has joined our program, he has stood out with his work ethic, positive energy, and knowledge of the game,” said McPhee-McCuin. “I am grateful that the NCAA has allowed two more positions for assistant coaches because Jake deserves the opportunity. I look forward to seeing him spread his wings in his new role and I am grateful that he is a part of our program.”
Entering his third season with the Rebels, Whitehead has spent the last two seasons as the coordinator of video operations where he assisted with all video aspect of scouting reports as well as live coding games.
Before Ole Miss, Whitehead spent a a stint as the video coordinator as well as the interim director of men’s basketball operations at SIU Edwardsville. With the Cougars, Whitehead was responsible for all video aspects of the scouting reports as well as live coding games on the bench and creating edits in-game for halftime. His duties even included overseeing all student managers and team social media.
Prior to his role as a video coordinator, Whitehead was a graduate assistant during the 2020-21 season. From 2017-2020, Whitehead worked as the head men’s basketball manager. He graduated from SIU Edwardsville in 2020 with a degree in criminal justice and earned his masters’ degree in physical education and coaching pedagogy in 2022.
“I am honored for this new opportunity here at Ole Miss. The mentorship Coach Yo provides not only to her players, but also her staff as well, is truly one of a kind,” said Whitehead. “I look forward to continue to grow under her leadership and also contributing to her program in my new role.”
Follow the Rebels on X at @OleMissWBB, Facebook at Ole Miss WBB and on Instagram at Ole MissWBB. You can also follow head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin on X at @YolettMcCuin

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