By Thomas Sellers Jr.
All it takes to transform from a Golden Eagle to a Cardinal is flying over the state line that divides the Magnolia State and Volunteer State.
2015 marked the arrival of former University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagle Tiffany Porter to Brighton. She takes over the Lady Cardinal Basketball program after making a name for herself in the Mississippi Prep ranks.
Porter was a combo guard for USM from 1996-2000. After 11 years in coaching and a season as the head coach at Terry High School in Jackson, Miss., Porter got the call she’s been waiting for.
“I’ve been wanting to get out of Mississippi for a long time,” she acknowledged. “This was a great opportunity for me when Coach Cetrice Bounds hired me. He and Ms. (Christi) Huffman provided a great opportunity for my son and me. I have an 11-year old now and he’s a basketball fanatic. Tennessee is also a girls’ basketball state.
“As far as adjusting, I think I’ve adjust pretty well,” she continued. “The girls have adjusted to me over the summer. It’s been tough but I love challenges. With us being being behind as far as fundamentals, that’s been the biggest challenge. But the girls are coming around.”
Porter has seen her share of coaching challenges with four years in the Long Beach School District
and another five years in the Gulf Port School District. Then in 2014 she received her first chance to lead a program with Terry High School.
She took that team from winning 6 games to a 24-8 record and the school’s first district championship. Terry was defeated by the defending State champs Horn Lake in the Elite 8.
“With a new face coming in and new ideas, just having that passion for the game they have shown a passion for learning,” Porter said. “I think a lot of them are just really grasping onto the point they can actually succeed and win.”
Porter said the preseason has been filled with drills and her preaching defense and a strong mentality toward the game. She said several of her players are picking up on her philosophy like Danielle Collins, MG Smith, Shayna Johnson, T’Aliyah Brown, Sam Sloan, Lindsey “Turkey” Morrissett and Makayla Rose.
“I preach fundamentals. I am a fundamental-type of coach,” she said. “I’’m also a defensive-type of coach. That is the biggest thing I see when it comes to success — not giving up. I want them to just learn mentally how to focus in a game and get through that adversity.”
Porter said basketball is 85-90 percent mental. Her junior guard Collins is picking up on that.
“Danielle Collins, she’s stepping up this year toward being a vocal leader on and off the court,” she said. “She’s going to rally help us when it comes to the structure of the program and what we want to do.
“Shayna Johnson, senior, is going to really help us out,” Porter added. “Shayna is all out a great leader. She’s going to rebound and she’s going to score. But she’s going to her teammates all rallied up and ready for the game itself.”
Collin and Johnson will be featured in the offense along with inside/outside threat Smith. Players like Brown, Rose and Morrissett will be counted on defensively.
“Turkey — she’s just hard-nose to me,” Porter said. “I just have to work on getting her under control. Makayla Rose, they’re just tough and they play hard. They’re going to help us inside a lot.”
Porter said a successful 2015-16 season for her will be seeing her team flying in the right direction.
“Ideally with it being such a young team and a team where it’s a rebuilding program I expect them to really win because I am a defensive coach,” she concluded. “I know we’re going to have our battles. I don’t like to say number. But I believe once we all come together, cohesively, from November until March, I think we’re going to become contenders somewhere.”