HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Wallace State Community College announced the appointment of Jessica McBrayer as head women's basketball coach this week.
McBrayer, 29, takes over the permanent post after spending the 2017-2018 season as the interim women's coach. She guided Wallace State to a 23-8 record and to the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) semifinals.
McBrayer is a Hartselle graduate and former Wallace State Lady Lion.
"I couldn't be more excited. Wallace State is home and the place that gave me the opportunity to be a collegiate student-athlete. Wallace State was it for me out of high school, so for me to be able to come back to the program and offer an opportunity to other deserving females is special," McBrayer said. "It's hard to explain the emotions behind it other than knowing I'm beyond excited and humbled."
McBrayer played at Wallace State under Hall of Fame coach Larry Slater during the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons after leading Hartselle High to the AHSAA Class 5A title game in 2007 during her senior year.
"I look forward to Coach McBrayer continuing the winning tradition at Wallace State. She knows what it takes to compete and, more importantly, to win," said Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics. "She is an exceptional role model and mentor to our female athletes, and I look forward to the Wallace State Lady Lions basketball team claiming a national title in the future under her leadership."
Before accepting the interim role at Wallace State, McBrayer served as the program's assistant coach for three seasons, including helping the Lady Lions make a NJCAA Division I national tournament appearance in 2014-2015.
"I'm excited for Jessica McBrayer. She did an excellent job for us in the interim period, and the players truly relate to her as well. She's done a great job recruiting," said Wallace State Director of Athletics Paul Bailey. "It's fun to watch her coach and see her incorporate things she learned both at Hartselle and at Wallace State under coach (Larry) Slater. I expect big things down the road for coach McBrayer and her staff."
During the transition from McBrayer shifting from assistant to interim coach, Wallace State didn't miss a beat last season. The Lady Lions compiled an 11-1 record at home and surpassed the 20-win plateau for the sixth time in seven seasons. As a group, Wallace State allowed an average of only 59.9 points per game and was among the leaders in most offensive categories.
"When we had our first meeting, I wanted to make sure the players knew we weren't here to tread water. Our goal was to improve in every area, from preseason practices to the weight room. Looking back on the season, we improved in a lot of categories from shooting percentage to rebounding," McBrayer said. "It was tough for the sophomores to take on a new mindset, but they did it with flying colors, and I'll always be grateful for that."
During her playing career, McBrayer, a Wallace State and Athens State alum, had the urge to one day be a basketball coach. That desire kicked into a higher gear when she initially became an assistant coach with the Lady Lions.
McBrayer has been busy this offseason working to replace eight sophomores off last season's team, seeking to find players who can fit the mold and style she learned as a player both in high school and college.
"At Hartselle, we were always a solid program. We went to the state championship game and won big tournaments we weren't supposed to win. Under coach (Greg) Adams, I was taught to do things the right way and be focused on the fundamentals. When I got to play for coach Slater, that's when I learned how to be tougher and more of a fighter. He wanted us to have guts on the court and get after it. Both were recipes for success. I was extremely blessed to have two very different coaches growing up that put a lot of stock in me. I try to take a little bit from each one and mold that into what I'm trying to do for this program," McBrayer said. "I want us to be a gritty program. I want every player to give everything they've got. It doesn't mean you are the most talented or athletic person on the court, but the effort should always be there."
Wallace State will return five players next season under McBrayer, including Jada Golden, Channing Gafford and DeMaurea Moore.
Wallace State women's basketball has won six ACCC/Region 22 championships and made five appearances at the NJCAA Division I national tournament with the last being in 2015.
"We're taking the steps to get back to that championship level, and it's great to be a part of this winning tradition at Wallace State. You see coaches come and stay here for 10 to 20 years or more, and it's because it's a special place. If you ever coached, played or been a student here, you understand how special it is. Each program thrives on the overall success we have," McBrayer said.
McBrayer and her husband, Michael, live in Cullman. They have two daughters, Kinsey, 14, and Brantley, 7.