Dayzsha Rogan drives to the basket for a layup and draws a foul. She walks quietly to the free throw line and eyes the basket. After a few dribbles, she releases the ball and it quietly swooshes through the hoop. The second shot does the same and as the celebration begins, she looks to the sideline. Head coach Tomekia Reed smiles and nods. When the buzzer sounds seconds later, the girls celebrate as Reed shakes hands and then looks out onto the floor. This is exactly where she is supposed to be.
As much as Jackson State University women’s basketball coach Tomekia Reed knows that now, her journey to this moment has been one of twists, turns and potholes. She grew up in Jackson. The youngest and only girl in a family of three brothers, Reed grew up as just one of the boys. The tomboy could often be found playing outside with her brothers, actively participating in the neighborhood pickup games and even helping to cut the grass. Her athletic ability sprouted and she took the skills she honed to the middle and high school courts.
The standout basketball player earned two state championships at Murrah High under legendary coach Anna Jackson. Reed learned a great deal during her time at Murrah. The Lady Mustangs were highly ranked in the nation and gained notoriety, but Jackson taught them to be confident yet humble. Jackson held high expectations of her team both on and off the court. The lessons of discipline, academic prowess, and hard work resonated with Reed and her teammates.
Reed would use the lessons she’d learned more than she realized. During high school, she lost her mother. It was a devastating blow to Reed, who was just beginning to come into womanhood herself and saw her mother as “the softness” in the midst of the masculinity. Her father and brothers recognized that Reed now needed them more than ever.
“My dad had to step up in that spot,” said Reed. “My brother, Carlos, stepped up into that spot. They (became) very sensitive to my needs as a female.”
It was during this time that Reed became very close to her brother Carlos. He helped her improve her game, offered advice and became her closest ally and best friend. He became a consistent presence in Reed’s gym throughout her playing and coaching career.
Reed graduated from Murrah and began her collegiate playing career at the University of Southern Mississippi. She spent the 1999-2000 season with the Golden Eagles helping USM reach the Women’s NIT and earning Most Improved Player honors. She then transferred to Hinds for the 2000-2001 season where she led the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges in rebounds, placed second in scoring and was named Most Valuable Player. She also earned an associate’s degree in sports medicine.
After finishing at Hinds, she transferred to Georgia Southwestern State University. There she earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, while leading the team in scoring and again earning the title of Most Valuable Player.
After a two-year stint at South Georgia Technical College as the recruiting coordinator, Reed returned to Jackson to became the recruiting coordinator and lead assistant coach at Jackson State. From 2006-2009, she served as the team’s academic liaison strength and conditioning liaison, player development, community service coordinator and summer basketball camp coordinator. The Lady Tigers began to see amazing success. That year, they won the regular-season SWAC title and reached the WNIT. The next year saw a SWAC championship and a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Reed was beginning her third season at JSU and excited about another successful run, when tragedy struck the family again. Carlos, the brother who had become her best friend, was shot and killed at his South Jackson apartment on August 13, 2008. He was 35. Reed found herself flailing from the loss. As the days passed and the murder went unsolved, the feelings of fear grew. She pushed through a season filled with sleepless nights and foggy days. The days dragged on and the pain and questions grew. Reed realized that she had to leave Jackson.
“I just wanted to get out of the state and out of the city,” Reed said. “He’d been murdered and no one was working with us to find out who did it. It was a lot of pressure on me mentally and I just chose to leave the state.”
She accepted a position at the University of Louisiana Lafayette for just one season. Then made stops at Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, and New Orleans. In each location, she saw success. At USM, she helped sign the No. 1-ranked class in Mississippi in 2010 and 2011, and the 42nd ranked class in the nation in 2010. At La Tech, she helped the Bulldogs land a top-50 recruiting class and the No. 2 class in Conference USA.
However, a return to the Metro area was imminent. In 2015, Reed took over a fledgling Hinds Community College team that had finished the previous season 2-21. By her second year, the Bulldogs went 21-7 overall and 10-4 in conference play reaching the Region 23 championship game. The next season saw the program finishing 21-7 overall and a repeat appearance in the Region 23 tournament.
That success landed her square in the sights of Jackson State who was searching for a new head coach after the departure of Surina Dixon. Reed was announced as the new head coach at a press conference in April 2018. It had been 10 years since she had left the Tiger’s Den. There along with her university officials and her new team, her father stood proudly beside her.
The death of her brother had brought the already close pair even closer. Reed was known to talk to her dad multiple times a day. He offered advice on life, basketball and even her choice of clothing.
“He was my everything. He was my best friend,” said Reed. “He ministered with me and prayed for me when I was down. He kept me together.”
A few weeks later, Reed’s father suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. It seemed almost unreal and even more unfair. The loss hit the first year head coach hard. She took three months off questioning her decision to return before her son, Carlon, spoke up.
“He said, ‘Mama, do you like Jackson State?’ I said, ‘I do.’ He goes, ‘Well, you better get back to work before they fire you!’”
Reed returned to work and found support in her staff and her team. The success that followed is unquestionable. Reed and her staff began an overhaul of a program which ranked near the bottom of the conference. The revamp touched everything from team culture to a revamp of their style of play. In her first year, the Lady Tigers earned a trip to the SWAC championship.
“When they all bought into the system and bought into each other’s role, they respected each other’s roles,” said Reed. “Once we got on the same page we began to see success. We changed the culture and I was so impressed that we did it as fast as we did.”
The success was important to recruiting. Reed and her staff have brought in a talented recruiting class. Many with local ties. Ten of the fifteen players on the roster are from Mississippi with four from the metro area. With the new crop of recruits, much of the preseason was spent again creating that chemistry. Jackson State saw a rough start to the season going 2-8 before beginning conference play. Three of those losses came from top-ranked teams. The competition was simply preparation for the conference. The Lady Tigers are undefeated in SWAC play and 11-8 overall.
The team is talented. Northeast Community College transfer Daysha Rogan gives JSU a spark on both offense and defense. Considered “small” for Division I basketball, the 5’3” guard was a top pick for Reed. The measure has paid off. In her first year at Jackson State, Rogan has been named SWAC player of the week twice. She leads the Lady Tigers in steals and is the team’s leading scorer. Despite her stature, she is also averaging 2.7 rebounds a game.
“Rogan brings a lot of excitement, speed, quickness and versatility,” Reed said. “She can do a lot with basketball. She can score the ball at the rim. She can shoot the three pointer and she is our best defender.”
Senior forward Marneisha Hamer also plays a key role for the Lady Tigers. In addition to her leadership and experience on the floor, Hamer is a threat on both ends of the cart. The preseason first team All-SWAC selection is second in scoring with 13.3 points per game and is second in rebounds and steals. She ranks 4th in the conference in rebounding and 6th in scoring.
The Lady Tigers also are earning valuable minutes from Ameshya Williams. Another Mississippi product, the West Harrison alumni is a strong presence in the paint. Williams transferred into the program this season from Mississippi State. As a freshman at MSU, she saw limited playing time behind on a team that reached the National Championship. At JSU, the junior provides valuable minutes for Reed averaging 8.6 rebounds and nearly 10 points per game. She tops the conference charts in blocked shots and ranks third in rebounds.
Rogan credits the team’s success to their willingness to work hard.
“We bonded coming into SWAC play,” said Rogan. “The preseason (is why) we are successful right now.”
The team still has nine regular season games on their schedule including Texas Southern, ranked second in the conference and reigning conference champion Southern. Reed and the Lady Tigers recognize that a championship is within their grasp, but there is still work to be done.
“Every night is a big game. Every team that comes in is coming for us,” said Reed. “We have a target on our back and every game that target grows bigger. They are putting their best effort and the floor and we have to continue to exceed (their) effort.”