Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Previewing the 2016-17 Race
"I'm very excited. I've been waiting for this since last year when I committed," Taylor said. "I'm very eager and ready to be at Mississippi State."
Taylor was invited to the United States Women's U17 Olympic Trials following a second-straight Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year honor.
"We are so proud of Nyah, and we are proud to have her become part of our Mississippi State family,” Schaefer said. “My staff and I have been working hard recruiting Myah for many years, and it's an honor for us to have the two-time Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year becoming a Bulldog. She has been a tremendous high school player, and she is going to be a great college player.
"Nyah comes from a great family, and we are thrilled to have them joining our family here in Starkville."
She averaged 26.1 points, 6.9 assists, 5.8 steals and 4.1 rebounds during her junior season, helping the Conquistadors to a 25-3 record and the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Taylor shot nearly 50 percent from the field, including 39 percent from 3-point range.
She played AAU basketball for Doug Bush's Alabama Southern Starz, helping lead her team to a Division I national championship.
Garvin, joined Palm Beach State College this season after starting her career at Auburn a year ago.
"We are really happy to have the opportunity to re-recruit Jonika after losing her to Auburn the first time," Schaefer said. "We are very excited to have the opportunity to have her back in the Bulldog family."
As a freshman with the Tigers, she averaged 10 minutes in 20 games, averaging 1.9 points and 1.6 rebounds per game. She also hit eight blocks with an average seven steals.
"Mississippi State is truly my home. I knew that from the beginning," Garvin said. "The team itself is very welcoming and normally that would be enough for me, but the whole school itself is also welcoming. The other sports, the academic professors and the students that go there, they're all very welcoming.
"It's a great feeling because I know I'm going where I'm supposed to go. I know once I get there I'll be taken care of. I already know a couple girls on the team, and they've known how I play since my junior year of high school. Not only the coaches, but also the players will try to bring out the 'Bulldog' in me."
Garvin led her team to the regional finals in 2014, averaging 18.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.7 steals in her junior season.
Garvin comes from a basketball family, as her mother, Melissa, played at Edison Community College while her father, Jonathan, competed at Bethune-Cookman.
It shut up the naysayers and online anonymous critics in chat rooms. We suggested she change up the coaching staff to get back to quality recruiting.
The dismissal of friend Kyra Elzy was a move in that direction. You can remain friends, but this is big business.
“I love Coach Reaves’ energy and have always been impressed with her ability to recruit players at every level of basketball and at every stop along the way,” Warlick said. “She’s a native Tennessean and she played in our league at Alabama, so she is quite aware and understands the magnitude and history of this program.”
With Reaves directing the recruiting efforts, WVU signed the 2016 WBCA Junior/Community College Player of the Year. Her abilities in that area have enabled the Mountaineers to land strong recruiting classes in not only her current stint with the team but also in a previous stop at the school.
“Being born and raised in the state of Tennessee and having the opportunity to come back home and coach for the Lady Vols and coach with Holly, it’s honestly hard to put into words just how amazing that is,” Reaves said. “I’m honored, extremely blessed, and it just means everything to me.
“My career has prepared me for this opportunity. I’ve been fortunate to be at West Virginia University twice, and I’m grateful to Coach Carey for giving me those opportunities to help build the program and help make it known out on the recruiting trail. Same thing at Mississippi State; these schools helped me learn how to work hard and grind as recruiter and develop players as a coach to compete in the SEC, BIG EAST and Big 12.
“The recruiting piece, I am ready for. Knoxville is a great city. University of Tennessee women’s basketball stands alone. The respect that it carries and the opportunity to go out and recruit the caliber of players that can put Tennessee back where I know Holly wants it to be, I’m so ready. I know we’re going to do some really special things.”
From 2008-10, Reaves was assistant coach and recruiting coordinator on the Mississippi State women’s basketball staff, helping the 2009 Lady Bulldogs to the NCAA Second Round and the 2010 squad to their first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance.
As Sharrona Alexander, she was a forward at Alabama and helped key the Crimson Tide to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances, including the Sweet 16 in 1992-93 and the Final Four in 1993-94. She was a team captain as a senior.
The mercurial Diamond DeShields is a lynchpin. When she is focused, she is all-world. When not . . . well, UT lost and fell out of the final AP Top 25 before the NCAA tournament.
She is but a junior. Her classmates are a middle difference-maker, 6-6 Mercedes Ruseell -- the tallest Lady Vol -- and Alex Middleton.
The only rookie is is Kamera Harris, a 6-3 shot-blocker from Hampton, Ga. She makes four Georgia players on the roster. Her 7.8 blocks per game average reflects a skill that earned her the nickname “Block Party.” She owns the national high school record of 28 in one game and 22 in another.
“We’re very excited that Kamera has made the decision to become a Lady Vol,” Warlick said. “She’s a fantastic pick-up for us in the late signing period.
“Kamera is a strong defensive player, as evidenced by her ability to block so many shots. That love for defense is what initially got me excited about the possibility of her joining our program. I like her energy and have enjoyed hearing about her love for the Lady Vols. We have signed an outstanding player who is going to help us, and we look forward to having her wear the Orange.”
Then Warlick got more immediate help by picking up graduate transfer Schaquilla Nunn from Winthrop University. She had sat out a season with a broken foot She is A 6-3 center, brought in to work alongside Mercedes Russell. She set program records for rebounds (910) and blocks (279), starting 86 of her 88 games in three seasons, with 49 double/doubles.
“We are really pleased to welcome Schaquilla to our program,” Warlick said. “She’s a very talented and highly-motivated player and one who has a great deal of experience at the college level. I am extremely impressed with her maturity and focus as well, and all of those attributes are going to help our team in the coming season.
“Schaquilla is very excited about becoming a Lady Vol, and certainly we are looking forward to blending her and Kamera with our returning players. They provide us good size and depth in an area we needed to address and we are equally pleased to add two quality young ladies to our group.”
Then came junior-college transfer Cheridene Green She will rehab a knee injury this season and follow the trail of UT center who sat out a year and came back dominant.
Green is from London. the Lady Vols' first international player.
But they also lost oft-injured guard Adraya Carter. "She had a hard time last year," Warlick said. "I don't see her making it through another year."
Carter underwent a surgical procedure on her left knee after the 2014-15 season. It was the same knee in which the redshirt senior had a torn anterior cruciate ligament during her senior season at Buford (Ga.) High School.
She played in all 36 games last season with 25 starts. She averaged 4.8 points and 2.3 rebounds per game and was second on the team in steals with 54. She often served as the postgame player spokesperson
They have 1,300 wins, the most of any programs. Russell scored 17 with 11 rebounds in the 81-69 win over James Madison.
Juniors Jaimie Nared and Alex Middleton led the effort.
Nared had 19 points and eight rebounds, including connecting on a career-high 3-of-6 shots from behind the arc. Middleton's 18 points on 5-of-6 shooting was the most she has scored since her first game as a Lady Vol.
UT then beat Navy, 85-55, as Middleton was 7-of-11 from the field for 21 points and Russell had her 13th career double/double, 18 points and 10 rebounds. DeShields is the next-best at a dozen points per game
Warlick has already started her tradition of amping up the crowd with her jacket throw before she starts yelling.
"I guess when the jacket comes off I'm just glad I kept my pants on,” she said.
“Navy is a good basketball team, they made us do things. They made our 4 come out, they made our 5 come out and play away from the basket.
“It's hard, it's difficult, it's things we don't see. That doesn't have anything to do with how hard you play. I thought we just settled, we started feeling sorry for ourselves as well.
"It's not going to work I was trying to do whatever I needed to do to get this team up."
We're getting Mercedes Russell the basketball and she's demanding the basketball. So she is drawing a lot of attention and two we're not forcing shots the way we did last year. We're taking shots that were set, we're taking really good looks. I'm going to go to three, we've gotten into the gym and worked on it.
"Alexa Middleton, six for seven, that's a result of her getting into the gym and putting in the hours and putting in the reps. That's the result of especially Alexa working at it and that's the result of it."
Off campus, Bashaara Graves made the opening day roster at Minnesota as a bench player, where she weighed in at 200, one of two rookies to top the weight watch which is still unlisted in the women’s college game for some archaic reason.
With five players leaving the program along with graduates, this looms as another challenging season for Matthew Mitchell. His best rookie, 14-game starter Batouly Camara, decided near the end of the school year to join those climbing the ladder over the wall to new freedom.
She landed as part of the restocking at UConn, which had originally recruited her. Then a major commitment, 6-4 Madison Reece, decided to reopen her decision. The Indiana native settled at UCLA.
Sophomore Alexis Jennnings developed as a starter in 18 games, also successfully got her release as the school year ended and went to SC. She had considered Alabama in her native state, as well as Georgia and lesser programs when signing up. Camara, from New York state had a dalliance in recruiting with UConn, Louisiville and Oklahoma and lesser programs.
She had played for USA Basketball on the 2014 under-18 national team. She was accepted by UConn Ivana Jakubcova,at 6-6, another of the previously announced transfers out, ended up at Southern Cal, where she will have the 2017-18 season left
What Mitchell has left is what most good teams have in this league, a serviceable center with a full year of the grind done in Evelyn Akhator. He has the cornerstone player in Makayla Epps. Like SC.
It will be up to whomever wins point guard to determine the receding fate of the Kats. But bench depth is at situation critical.
Mitchell staged a weird press conference in late April in which he addressed the heartache of all the players leaving. He talked of the stress on the seven remaining players. He talked of the “quest” he is on.
Strangely, he rehired Kyra Elzy as associate head coach after she was let go at Tennessee. She had been with him for four years then fled for the Lady Vols, with whom she had been a player.
Then again, all his other assistants quit.
We had suggested a coaching watch was on and, in a parallel universe, that Holly Warlick needed badly to change up her staff.
He then continued the rebuild of Knoxville North by hiring another former four-year Lady Vol, Niya Butts.
She had twice been an assistant at UK, first for former Kats coach and very close friend of Pat Head Summitt, then as a Mitchell assistant.
She had an arc as the Arizona coach. She was then a top-flight recruiter. It is a good position to accept if Mitchell would step aside, due to her former associations in Lexington.
He added former Ole Miss and Purdue coach Linn Dunn out of her WNBA retirement gig. With Stephanie White and Micki DeMoss back in the league and now Dunn and Stephanie White off the WNBA championship team at Indy and even White as a player for Carolyn Peck . . . who replaced Dunn at Purdue. It is all one interrelated all-star family.
“I could not be more excited to get the chance to work every day with one of my greatest mentors and dearest friends in Lin Dunn,” Mitchell said. “When you think about those that helped paved the way for women’s sports, Lin Dunn is one of those names that comes to your mind. She has helped me become the coach and person that I am today and I am forever grateful. With our staff now complete, it’s time for us to turn the page and take this program to new heights.”
“I’ve known Matthew for 20 years. He’s a great person, a good father and an excellent coach,” Dunn said. “You don't accidentally win 25 games every season in the SEC without being a great basketball coach. I’m really excited about helping him maintain this level of success. He has put together such a great staff and I know working with Kyra, Niya and Amber will be a wonderful opportunity for me and one that I couldn't pass up.
"I am confident that Matthew and I share similar core values and I'm excited to get back on the court.”
So there is a Kentucky Kollege of Koaches.
They are also 2-0.
Akhator has gotten it from the beginning.
She scored 18 points with 10 rebounds in an 82-66 win over visiting Miami.
In the second win, she hit a career-high 28 in beating Albany 70-46. She had a game-high 13 rebounds. No teammate hit double figures, though Makenzie McCann, Makayla Epps, Maci Morris and Alyssa Rice each had eight.
“ We haven’t spent a lot of time on zone offense and I was really proud of our players staying the course and grinding out a really tough game,” said Mitchell. “It’s been a tough 24 hours after that tough, hard-fought victory over a good Miami team.
"To come back and be able to earn a victory was just awesome. I am so proud of our team for how we performed this weekend and we will do nothing but get better from here. Great couple of days and really looking forward to what we can become as a team.”
“It is just feeling. I told them that my fouls really got me last night and when they took me out I was devastated and I said ‘They don’t want me to be great” Just kidding.
“But it fit with my teammates feeding me the ball. Last night Epps told me she doesn’t care how many times I get the ball or if I shoot the ball 30 times. She just wants me to go and so I just have to be there for my teammate when things aren’t going well.”
She is 10-of-10 from the foul line through two games. She knows familiar foes will put her there.
UK did sign Jaida Roper, a 5-foot-7 guard from Memphis.
“We are so excited for Jaida to become a Wildcat. She is a high-character person, an exciting basketball player and a very hard worker,” Mitchell said.
Roper was selected to play in the Basketball Coach Association of Tennessee East-West All-Star game, She led shined the 15-AAA championship game, scoring 22 to earn the tournament Most Valuable Player award.
She scored more than 1,500 career points in high school, averaging 13.2 points, 5.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game her senior season. Roper was named the district most valuable player and was one of 17 Class AAA players to be named to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association All-State Team.
"Each of them approach every day with great attitude and effort, which is very important to me and our staff. I cannot wait for these five to get to Lexington and be a part of this program.”
McKinney is 6-1, wing from Fulton High School in Knoxville who also said UT recruited her.
She averaged 18 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocks per game last season. “Keke is one of those players that checks all of our boxes and really stood out to us as a player we had to have here at Kentucky because of her competitiveness and toughness,” said Mitchell.
Paschall is a 5-6 guard who plays at Gulf Coast State College.
Amanda is one of those players and we are thrilled she decided to be a Wildcat. The leadership skills she developed last season in junior college are going to pay dividends for her and for us.
She is an athletic guard that creates for her teammates, but can also create for herself through her tough, hard-nosed play on both ends of the court.”
Roach is another 5-6 point guard. She was invited to the 2016 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Championship Team Trial. She said South Carolina also recruited her.
“Kameron is a special player and person that showed great loyalty to our program,” Mitcvell said. “ She will enter our program with a high level of maturity and confidence, which is very important and will help her succeed on and off the court. Kameron is a physical guard.”
Wyatt is a 6-3 post. “Tatyana is an explosive athlete that can make plays all over the floor,” said Mitchell. “She embodies everything that it means to be a Kentucky women’s basketball player and lives her life by our winning tools of honesty, hard work and discipline. We are thrilled she is a Wildcat.”
Harrison is a 6-2 post from Hillsboro High School. Did not play last season due to injury. She is the younger sister of Izzy Harrison, former star at Tennessee who plays in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury. She said Tennessee did recruit her.
Still, Mitchell may be on double-secret probation for the proud Kats. The administration will not allow the heritage to be tarnished.
Graduated senior Janee Thompson signed to play pro ball in Germany, not the WNBA.
She has four freshmen and has signed five for next season. The most exotic freshman is Elif Portakal, an experienced point guard from Turkey.
The Gators open the season with 12 games away from home, the first a win at Jacksonville vs. South Alabama, 85-33.
The top three scorers from last season all return; senior Ronni Williams, junior Haley Lorenzen and exciting sophomore Eleanna Christinaki led the attack with 16 each.
“I really enjoy this team,” Butler said I love the way they love each other, how hard they work for each other. I think that they take themselves very seriously.
"There is a great deal of pride in the amount of work that's been invested going back from the summer all the way into the preseason, and it's showing up in the way that we practice and in the strength of our culture.
"Everyone spent their summers lifting and getting shots up and trying to perfect their game.
“We really want to try to find every way that we can to expand and enhance our mental skills. “And as physical as boxing sounds, it's something that puts us completely at a discomfort disadvantage. It's something no one on our team has ever done. So you have to embrace being uncomfortable.”
Signed for next year are Mikayla Hayes (6-2, Forward, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota); Tameria Johnson (5-6, point guard, Ocala, Florida/); Karissa McLaughlin (5-8, guard, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Priscilla Smeenge (6-0, forward, Celebration, Florida) and Jalaysha Thomas (6-2, forward, Ocala).
"This is a very complete group on and off the floor,” Butler said. “They all bring something special that is going to give them a chance to make an immediate impact on our team. Each individual meets a need and reinforces our team culture in her own unique way. “
Hayes is the first Gator from the state of Minnesota in program history.
Johnson and Thomas are classmates in high school., the first from the schook to sign Division 1 papers.
They are cousins.
"Tameria is a dynamic and spirited point guard. I don't think there is another point guard like her in the 2017 class,” said Butler. “She has a fearless spirit, very aggressive with the ball in her hands and very excited to be a Gator. I love her competitiveness."
Thomas committed on the sidelines of the football game against Ole Miss.
"Jalaysha is one of those players that every team needs,” said Butler. “ solid, catches every pass. She can impact the game a lot of ways. She is going to be a player who will contribute in a lot of different lineups, and will also fortify our post play. I'm excited about all the ways she makes us better."
“Florida's team culture instantly stood out to me,” she said:
It is one of the biggest things that defines them from anyone else. I loved how much they love and play for each other. They play for something bigger than themselves. Butler said, “Karissa is the best shooter in the 2017 class. She's also used to competing for championships. She's very well-rounded and will being a winner's mentality to every day."
Smeenge is originally from Texas; her family moved to Florida this year, when her dad took over the high school program as coach. Joel was an 11-year NFL defense end, who played with the New Orleans Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars. He played college football at Western Michigan University
A cousin, Isaac Nauta, is a freshman tight end at the University of Georgia.
“I am confident in my decision to commit to The University of Florida because I truly believe I will be held to a standard of excellence as a student-athlete. It has become evident that whenever great things are expected, great things can happen in life,” she said.
“I desire to glorify God in all that I do moving forward."
“ She is going to fit perfectly into our style or running, pressing and playing tone-setting basketball,” Butler said. “ She's a tremendous young lady, on and off the court and I'm thrilled to coach her."
He has 14 seasons at the school, but Amanda Butler at Florida and Matthew Mitchell at Kentucky have nine seasons each in the league.
The incoming freshmen are all guards; the junior college additions are not. The trend of JC signees was replicated at other top conference programs.
The freshmen are 5-11 Aahliyah Jackson, 5-10 ArLeighshya McElroy, 5-10 Jasmine Williams and 5-11 Rakell Spencer.
“They will challenge for starting positions and playing time as freshmen, just like this season’s senior class did in 2012-13. “These signees are every bit as athletic as the seniors graduating and all are extremely well-coached players.
“Rakell fits right into what we want to do at Texas A&M, which is to play pressure basketball defensively and offensively for 40 minutes,” he said.
“She comes from a small New Orleans Catholic school, Cabrini, which is steeped in traditions and core values, just like Texas A&M.
“She was extremely well-coached in high school by Nancy Walsh and her summer coaches were very good as well,” said Blair. “She is particularly interested in the Huffines Institute’s Coaching Academy at Texas A&M that Dr. John Thornton directs, and the benefits that come with that certificate.”
She is twice all-state, has scored more than 1,700 points in high school. Additionally, Spencer was a middle blocker for the state runner-up volleyball team, all-state in that sport for the past two seasons.
”We have been recruiting Aahliyah for three years, and are very happy that she has chosen to attend Texas A&M,” said Blair. “She immediately became the best player in the state of Arkansas when she moved there a junior.
“She can play on the block, or can play on the wing,” added Blair. “She is very good inside and can shoot 3-pointers very well. She’s going to fit into our program well.”
Jackson ran track in high school before focusing solely on basketball. She played AAU Basketball for Texas Elite, the winners of two adidas National Championships. She is a member of National Honor Society.
McElroy is a 5-10 combo guard and a two-time Texas all-state selection.
“ArLeighshya is just tenacious on the defensive end, and is an energy player all over the court, who is just going to get after her opponents,” said Blair. “I like what she brings to the table on offense and defense—she is very similar to Chelsea Jennings who can play a variety of positions on both sides of the basketball.
“She will come in and challenge for playing time immediately,” said Blair. “She has got the mindset of a player who wants to play for a championship.
For immediate help, the Aggies now have two quality frontline Junior College All-Americans from Texas.
Walnatia Wright is from Midland Junior College. At 6-2 she is a native of Georgia. She averaged 17.6 points and 9.7 rebounds and was the Western Junior College Athletic Conference MVP.
“Walnatia is another junior college player who will fit into our team very well,” said Blair. “She is an inside scoring threat who will help us out at not only the 5 position, but also at the 4.”
The second junior college All-American is Caylinne Martin of McLennan.
“We have followed Caylinne since her days at Langham Creek, and she has continued to improve while at McLennan,” added Blair. “We have had success with junior college players both on and off the court, which made adding the experience and skill of Caylinne a no-brainer for both our young team and for Caylinne.”
A 6-3 forward, Martin averaged 13.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in her JC All-American season.
Courtney Walker was selected as the No. 16 pick in the WNBA by the Atlanta Dream, and Jordan Jones was the No. 34 pick by the Chicago Sky Jones was cut May 6 but picked up by Atlanta. She and Walker were the last cuts there Courtney Williams was undrafted but signed as free agent with Minnesota.
She was released May 9.
With the strongest academic traditions in the league the Commodores still attract quality players. Chassity “LeaLea” Carter made a commitment to Melanie Balcomb, which shows Balcomb was trying to save her job.
Then she was allowed to resign. Balcomb ended up joining the South Carolina staff.
We had questioned her shelf life as early as February.
They were 5-11 in the past two SEC seasons and attendance had fallen to less than 3,000.
The Commodores did not mess around, hiring Stephanie White and her college coach, Carolyn Peck as the top assistant before May was out.
It is the fourth conference stop for Peck, a native of Tennessee and a former Vanderbilt all-SEC player, a grad assistant for Pat Head Summitt at UT, the head coach at Florida.
White was the Wade Trophy winner for Peck at Purdue
A good barometer the season after this one would be Georgia, a revived program not yet caught up to the top conference teams.
Vanderbilt’s academic requirements were also a draw.
“To go to a place (like Vanderbilt) that has such high standards, athletically and academically, is intriguing,” White said. “There are a handful of schools that I sort of have on my radar that I think would be tremendous opportunities that if they ever called I at least needed to give myself an opportunity to inquire. Vanderbilt was one of them.”
Coach Joni Taylor earned national Rookie Coach-of-the-Year honors from the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association after being overlooked by her own conference. Sje delivered the most important addition to Lady Dawgs basketball when her daughter was born.
The summer addition was Simone Costa, a 5-10 native of Lisbon, Portugal, who spent the past two seasons at Independence Community College in Kansas.
“We are so excited to welcome Simone to our family,” Taylor said. “I have really enjoyed getting to know her throughout the recruiting process, and I look forward to welcoming her to Athens.
Simone is a versatile player who looks to push the ball and will fit well into our system. She has a lot of experience going back to her playing days in Portugal and her time at the junior college level. Simone can contribute immediately to our team, and I think Lady Bulldog fans will be excited to watch her for the next few years.”
Costa played in multiple FIBA (International Basketball Federation) events, including the 2011 and 2012 U12 European Championships, the 2012, 2013 and 2014 U18 European Championships and the 2015 U20 European Championships.
Her two best seasons were in 2012 and 2014. She averaged 14.1 ppg in the U16 European Championship in 2012, before averaging 11.9 points per game in the U18 European Championships in 2014.
Costa is the third member of the signing class.
Georgia also accepted a transfer from Washington State 6-5 Bianca Blanaru, a native of Romania. She has two years of eligibility.
Taylor said the transfer year to year the system is a good thing, Her career started at home where she played on both the under-18 and under-20 national teams in the European Championships and the 2012 FIA 3x3 championships in Spain.
She also accepted the transfer of a whiz-bang point guard, Taja Cole, a McDonald’s All-American and Virginia’s Gatorade Player of the Year. She played one season at highly respected Louisville.
“We are excited to have Taja joining our program,” Taylor said. “She is someone who has the ability to make an immediate impact on our team. She was one of the best players in the nation coming out of high school last year, and I look forward to seeing great things from her.
Taja is a dynamic player who has tremendous athletic ability. Once again, we wanted players in this class who would come in and fit well into our system, and Taja does just that.”
Taylor next signed Malury Bates of Roanoke, Virginia.
It is tough leading one of five programs in the best conference in America to seldom make the playoffs.
It says here he will be a great hire anywhere else.
In August, he gained 10 extra days of needed practice then a three-game trip in 10 days to Costa Rica.
“There is not a more exciting time to be apart of our program as we move into a new year and being able to take our team to Costa Rica speaks volumes of the commitment our great university has towards women’s basketball,” said Insell. ”It gives us a early start in meshing our returners and new players together on and off the court for what is going to be a special season for our basketball program.”
Ole Miss will bring its entire 2016-17 team including incoming freshmen Shelby Gibson (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Kaitlyn Rodgers (Birmingham, Ala.) and Bree Glover (Glasgow, Ky.) as well as Chrishae Rowe. Rowe bottomed out at Oregon, ricocheted to Kentucky where she also did not quite fit in and is now eligible at Oxford.
It is worth noting Insell was at UK before this so perhaps the map to Ole Miss was discovered there.
during summer school to qualify for the trip.
It is Ole Miss’ first international trip since taking a trip to Canada in 2011 where they played four games and explored Vancouver. The Rebels also went on an international trip when they traveled to the Bahamas in 2007.
Tony Perrrotti had been an assistant to the current LSU coach for three seasons at UCLA then all five in Baton Rouge, but was wished well in his future endeavors soon as the season plunked to an ignominious end.
Whatever happens this season will revolve around former superstar Raigyne Moncrief, lost for the season three games in with a knee injury. She should have two seasons left. It is a truly frail program right now, 3-13 in the league and under .500 at home.
It was a successive non-20 win season. The coach watch is under way.
Strangely, they added the well-traveled Micki DeMoss as an assistant. They called her a “champion at every level” except she failed as a head coach at Florida, Kentucky and as an assistant at other programs. She was the associate head coach at the disastrous Louisiana Tech experiment with Tyler Summitt.
She was the interim head coach there but not considered as a replacement. She is a long-time associate of Tyler’s mom, Pat Head Summitt.
Tcheneavia “Coco” Knight and LaKyesha Stennis are the JC players.
“We are excited to add Coco and LaKyesha,” said coach Kristy Curry. “Both will provide depth and experience to the perimeter and will provide quality minutes for our team to be successful.
"These young ladies have had success at their previous institutions and we are looking for that to continue at a high level.”
Knight, in 36 games, averaged 14.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists with 98 steals, 11th nationally.
“We are excited to keep Coco at home,” added Curry.
“She is a dynamic guard that can create her own shot and has a great mid-range game and explosiveness when getting to the rim. She will be able to impact the game defensively with her athleticism. Coco played for Alabama alum Madonna Thompson, so she will be prepared physically and mentally for the SEC.”
Stennis, another guard, is 5-9. She started all 29 games last season, averaging 20.3 points, good for 10th in the nation, and 4.5 rebounds per game. Stennis scored double figures in all but two games and had 20 or more points 16 times.
She scored a season-best 39 points, hitting 11-of-19 shots from the floor and 10-of-11 from the free throw line.
Her hometown is another SEC site, Lexington, Ky.
She will sit out a season. She averaged 14 points per game with 10 starts in 17 games of the 22-10 season. She was the leading scorer against Iowa, Illinois, Southern Illinois, UT-Chattanooga, Vanderbilt, Eastern Kentucky and in a win over her new team.
Jones, a native of Wheaton, Ill., played one season at Shawnee, leading the team to a 30-3 record and a conference title as a freshman. She was named the Great Rivers Athletic Conference player of the year, the NJCAA Region 24 player of the year, and a second-team NJCAA All-American. She averaged 22.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.8 steals per game.
Her scoring average was third-best in the NJCAA, and her 746 total points led the nation.
She scored 20-plus points 24 times on the season and topped the 30-point mark six times.
“Emari gives us yet another versatile player that we covet for our system,” coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said.
“She has great size (6-2) for a wing, which will allow us the flexibility to play her at many different positions. She was one of the top junior-college scorers in the country who also shot over 40 percent from the 3-point line, and she’s extremely competitive and has the potential to be a great defender in our system.”
Gray, a native of Houston, played one season at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas. She led the team to a 26-9 overall record and a berth in the NJCAA Championship, where they advanced to the second round.
She led the team in rebounds (7.5/game), assists (3.9/game) and steals (1.7/game) while averaging 13.9 points/game, second-best on the team. She posted nine double-doubles during the season.
Jones will have three years of eligibility remaining, and Gray will have two years starting with the 2016-17 season.
Straight transfer is from Clemson is 6-4 center Justice Wright from Clemson. She will sit out the coming season and have two left. She started 17 games for those Tigers.
“When you think about the way we play and our style of play, Daisa is a perfect prototype for that,” Williams-Flournoy said.
“She’s athletic and she’s quick. It was really amazing the first time I watched her, and I knew right then that we needed her, that she fit us. She reminds you a lot of Erica Sanders, just with her athleticism.
"And she can score, too. She can attack the basket, she's got a good pull-up, and she can shoot the 3.”
As a senior, she averaged 15.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 steals, including a 22-point average in the postseason. She was named to the All-Metro Atlanta team, the all-region team, and selected to the 2015 Nike Tournament of Champions all-tournament team.
Her AAU team was the Douglasville Lady Tigers. She also competes on her high school's cross country and lacrosse teams.
“I chose Auburn because it gave me a family-oriented feeling,” Alexander said. “I believe that my coaches care enough to help me reach the next level in my basketball career. I know they’re not only concerned about my athletic success but also my academic success.”
The school may someday take the program seriously.
Top assistant Christy Smith fled to take over a startup Division 1 program.
The Razorbacks were six games under .500 and have enough back to do that again and again and again.