Cleveland State CC hires Ayana McWilliams as Women’s Basketball Head Coach

Cleveland State has a new women’s head basketball coach.

The Cougars hired Ayana McWilliams to take over the team this season.

“I am truly excited about being here at Cleveland State Community College and in the Cleveland, Tennessee community,” said McWilliams. “The opportunity to serve and impact change in multiple capacities, being back in the region of the country where I have deeply rooted connections, as well as being closer to family and friends made this opportunity a big draw.”

She spent her last three seasons in her first junior college head coaching job at Laramie County Community College, where her teams hold records for single season wins at 23, best field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, assists and opponents point allowed per game. She led her team to the regional semifinals and recruited multiple all-region performers.

McWilliams began her coaching career in 2006 at Winston Salem State University, helping that team complete the transition from Division II to Division I. Her primary duties were individual player development, film exchange, and scouting of opponents.

The next three years she served as an Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator at Livingstone College. She then took the same position for the next three seasons at Elizabeth City State University. There she helped turn a team picked last in the CIAA preseason poll to a second-place regular season finish advancing to the semifinals of the CIAA tournament. The following season the team won the Northern Division title.

From 2011-2016, she worked as an assistant for her former college coach at the University of South Carolina Upstate helping bring in a number of dynamic recruits that earned All-conference honors and are now Hall of Famers. They posted the first Division I postseason win in school history, a program record 22 victories, and earned the opportunity to compete in the Women’s Basketball Invitational advancing to the semi-finals.

From 2016-2020, she served as the Head Coach at Lincoln University of Missouri, her first head coaching experience, leading the team to its best start in program history, winning their first seven games and nine of the first 11 contests. Her team improved in many defensive statistical categories and posted a 3.4 GPA.

Originally from Pensacola, Florida, McWilliams graduated from B.T. Washington High school in 2001. She played D1 basketball at East Carolina University from 2001-2003, before transferring to Brevard College where she was the 2005 AAC Co-Player of the Year (sharing the honor with teammate) and 2005 Defensive Player of the Year. She set the school record for most points in a game at 44 and recorded two quadruple doubles.

She earned a Bachelors in Exercise Science from Brevard College, Master’s in Sports Management & Sports Coaching from the United States Sports Academy, and recently finished her Certificate in Community College Leadership. She is actively pursuing an Ed.D in Educational Leadership at the University of Wyoming.

McWilliams resides in Cleveland, TN with her five-year old son Kai.

“I am grateful to Mike Policastro and Willie Thomas for the opportunity to serve this great institution and community,” McWilliams said.

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