HATTIESBURG — Southern Miss women’s basketball coach Joye Lee-McNelis announced Tuesday that she will take a leave of absence due to personal health reasons for an unspecified amount of time.

Assistant Head Coach Kiley Hill will assume interim head coaching duties during her absence.

Late last week, McNelis was hospitalized for chest discomfort and tests revealed a small mass in the upper left lobe of McNelis’ lung. McNelis was diagnosed with Adenocarcinoma that is contained. She will undergo further testing and is expected to have surgery as soon as possible.

“I am really proud of how this team has over-achieved this year and how they’d fought extremely hard,” McNelis said. “In return, I will have the same fight as I face this adversity over the next few weeks. I know that God is in control and, with the prayers of many, good things will come. I have the utmost confidence in Coach Kiley Hill and my staff and know they will lead this team in a way that would make all of our Southern Miss fans proud. Our community is blessed to have great medical resources and people who will help in any way possible.”

Hill, who served as head coach at Valdosta State for 16 years, will serve as head coach when Southern Miss plays at Florida International University Thursday night at 6 p.m. CT and then at Florida Atlantic Saturday at 4 p.m. CT.

USM, with a 16-9 record, has won two straight and four of its last five.

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.