Tackling The Task

Adrian Wiggins had a good thing going at Fresno State. A young head coach with a strong resume' already, Wiggins was solidly entrenched at the California school.

Follow SpiritJeff on Twitter

But he left after 10 seasons there, serving first as an assistant coach, then as interim head coach, and finally as head coach for the past seven years. His teams won at least 22 games every season he was head coach except one, and that was his second year when the Bulldogs won 18 games in 2006-07. This past season was a school-best mark of 28-6.

The list of accomplishments for the program the last five years is impressive. Wiggins and his coaching staff took the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament all five years, won the WAC postseason tournament all five years, and won outright or shared the WAC regular season title all five years.

But the Southeastern Conference came calling, in particular Ole Miss. With a storied history of winning but mired in a recent downward trend, the Rebels were in need of a lift. Enter Wiggins, who was named head coach in March and finally got his family to Oxford last month.

"My children got out of school (in mid-June). The family moved out here. We're closing on a house (in July)," Wiggins said. "(The coaching staff) has been doing a lot of recruiting and there has been some professional development and things like that. This time of year you need to do those things."

With all that happening in recent weeks and looking to the future by searching for talent, there is also the matter of Wiggins' first season as head coach at Ole Miss. Although the season begins in November, there is focus on this year's team already. What he didn't have time to learn about them in the few weeks before the end of the school year, he's learning this summer.

"We were able to go through a few workouts with the players before we had to break for finals and the summer," Wiggins said. "Obviously we have a point guard (junior Valencia McFarland) that's returning that's put up some good number and been a good player. We have a lot of forwards that are good players who have been forced to play out on the perimeter in some manner that made it difficult for them. We feel like if we can re-position them a little bit, that they have some talent to do well, and that they can be OK. So we've tried to refocus their position on the court which hopefully will help.

"We added a lot of perimeter play," Wiggins continued as he talked about the incoming group of five players. "We didn't go for size. There wasn't a lot of size remaining out there. We felt like there was good guard play, so we added five players, basically guards. One is a transfer who will sit out from San Diego State, and who was rated among the top guards in the country coming out of high school."

Valencia MxFarland
Bruce Newman

That player is 5-foot-10 junior Melissa Sweat from Stockdale High School in Bakersfield, Calif., rated 70th-best overall recruit coming out of high school in 2010 and the 20th-best guard, according to ESPN HoopGurlz. She will have two years left to play beginning with the 2013-14 season.

Wiggins added four other players since his arrival who will be able to contribute this season, mostly from junior colleges. One had ties to Mississippi and to a couple of coaches now on staff at Ole Miss.

The 2012 WBCA National Junior College Player of the Year, All-American Sha'Kayla Caples of Vicksburg, will play beginning the season and have two years' eligibility. A 5-11 forward who played two years for current Ole Miss assistant coach Kenya Landers and women's basketball coordinator of operations, Michael Landers, Caples comes to Ole Miss from Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas.

Three other players were inked for this season – 5-9 guard Brandy Broome (Natchitoches, La./Pensacola, Fla., State College) and 5-8 point guard Diara Moore (Cedar Hill, Texas/Independence, Kan., Community College/University of Kansas). Both have two years to play at Ole Miss.

And freshman guard Destini Price, a 6-0 combo guard from Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster, Calif. She is ranked as the 45th-best wing in the nation and a four-star guard by ESPN HoopGurlz.

Two high school players signed by the previous staff - Quinndella Ford and Destinie Gibbs – won't be joining the Rebels.

In addition to the Landers, Wiggins brought his longtime Fresno State assistant Brett Frank to be associate head coach at Ole Miss. Also joining the staff is Rebecca Kates-Taylor, a former Mississippi State player and a Rice assistant coach the past four years.

Wiggins said he knows the Rebels have some improving to do to be more competitive.

"We have a team that has to get better at a lot of things," he said. "We have some time to work on that. The biggest thing we added was perimeter play. We feel like we need to shoot the ball better from the outside and handle the ball better off the dribble."

Wiggins said every day is a chance for Ole Miss women's basketball to improve and make its way back to a higher status as a program.

"It's a growing process for us," he said. "The main thing for us is that wherever we are (as a program), we just want to make it better in every area. We've had camps. We're speaking when we can, getting in front of the alumni, whether that's in cities further away or locally, trying to meet people and get them connected to the program or reconnected to the program. Just day by day get better."

Wiggins wants fans to enjoy their experience when they come to games.

"We believe the 3-point shot is an exciting part of the game," he said. "We are a team that philosophically will rebound and defend very hard. That's an area we can improve upon. I'm excited about that challenge. Truthfully, we don't have a half-court defense. We pick you up full court. We're going to play the entire floor. We want to put together a team that when the fans leave they will not only be proud to be a part of Ole Miss and what we have here, but also to be inspired and passionate.

"That doesn't happen overnight," Wiggins continued. "I'm really looking forward to that challenge. We have a team that's been open and willing to try new things. Anytime you can be around a team like that and a group of people like that, you have a chance to do something. It's a great time to be a part of Ole Miss and the SEC."

OM Spirit Top Stories