Ross: 'We're ready to get rolling'

The following is Coach Carol Ross' preseason press conference as the Lady Rebel head coach prepares for the start of preseason practice Saturday.

Ross: Here we are again, and it's hard to believe we have one season under our belts as a coaching staff. We're ready to get rolling for the 04-05 season. People are asking what our expectations are. You never want to go backwards, so we're trying to make sure that we can hold serve and hopefully improve things and move forward. We've got a pretty large number of new players. We're trying to mold so many new faces and new personalities. So that will probably take a little time. We're excited about starting practice Saturday. After a day or two of intensity and probably adversity, we'll find out more about this team.

Q: What is newcomer Lindsay Roy's status now following offseason knee surgery?

Ross: Lindsay is about 95 percent healthy. She has worked hard on her rehab of her ACL. But one thing not broken about Lindsay was her shot. She can still fire it up and has a great knack for putting the ball in the basket. Her footwork is obviously impaired at this point. She has a great work ethic. We actually had to slow her down a little bit, because she doesn't know how to do anything half-heartedly. We've given her a little more rest and recovery time lately. Hopefully she will be ready to go by Saturday.

Q: Talk about your seniors and how they will help balance out the talented group of newcomers who have arrived.

Ross: I love mixing new and old, young players and veterans. I'm looking forward to that challenge. We certainly have a solid senior class in terms of experience with Carletta Brown, Liz Cansdale, Amber Watts, and Amber Terrell. This group will have to step up as last year's seniors did. If we get that leadership from them, then we won't have any problem molding the newcomers and the veterans together.

Q: Talk about the other newcomers to the team this year in addition to Lindsay Roy.

Ross: We recruited (freshman guard) Lindsay Roy to shoot the ball. We recruited (freshman guard) Tassie Worsham to be a floor leader. We recruited (juco junior guard) LaTanya Jones to be an athletic perimeter player who could slash from the outside in. (RS freshman forward) Jada Mincy is one year out of rehab. She was recruited to be a real physical, banging-type power forward. (Freshman forward) Dee Forrest is a bruising, physical power forward. Carla Bartee (sophomore transfer forward from Western Kentucky by way of Waynesboro and Wayne County High who is sitting out this season but can practice with the team) brings a lot of athleticism and is a physical, talented forward. So far, they have all held true to form. We won't limit them to those roles, but that is what they have come in and showed early.

Q: Talk about higher expectations now for the program after last year's success.

Ross: The key to a successful program is to be consistent and to try to do things consistently year in and year out. That's what we'll find out about this team. I don't know that we will blow people off the map talent-wise. But I do expect to have a team that will play really hard and be aggressive and play with enthusiasm. If they do these things, we have an opportunity to win every time we step on the court. Because we were in the NCAA Tournament our first year, then that has become our standard. Anything below that would be considered failure or taking steps backwards. That's the way we think. We are pushing to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Once we reach that goal, then we refocus and see what we can accomplish once we get into the tournament.

Q: Talk about SEC Freshman of the Year Armintie Price.

Ross: If she plays like she played last year, we'll take that for four years. But she has expectations for herself that are always very high. She's got a very successful mindset and a winner's mentality. She comes ready to work every day. She gives great effort. I don't think I have ever had to correct her in any way when there was effort involved. She doesn't know how to do anything but to play at a very high level. In the offseason she worked hard to get better. Great players always try to find one area to improve on, and they do that throughout their career. By the time you graduate, you are a complete and great player. This year she worked on ballhandling. She is trying to be a little more agile with the ball. She is good going 94 feet north and south. She's working on her east-west game to create openings for herself and to create space for herself. She's got a great reputation in the SEC and the nation now. There will be stiffer defenders on her this season.

Q: Talk about Jada Mincy's rehab.

Ross: She has rehabbed successfully. She has brought to the court a lot of passion for the game. She loves being inside. She's very physical. She's excited to be back on the court. She will give us good depth. She and Dee Forrest will be powerful forwards at the four spot.

Q: Talk about returning guard Ashley Awkward.

Ross: You want to have your point guards to have a strong belief in themselves. Most point guards that are worth a dime are confident. Ashley has that. She also has a great work ethic. She wants to get better. Last year she only lacked game experience. She is a better point guard now than ever. She can uptempo the game. For (starter) Carletta Brown, it is great knowing she has some people with her at the point guard position who can complement what she does.

Q: Talk about your schedule.

Ross: Scheduling is an area that coaches have different philosophies on. I schedule as if I was a player. I would want to play people that got me excited. We are on the road for the first game (at UAB) and that will be a great test. Our first home game is against powerhouse Louisiana Tech. We will go into one of the hardest arenas in the country when we play at Texas Tech. We play Clemson in Tupelo (in a doubleheader with the men, who play Tennessee-Martin). A lot of people say I am throwing them to the wolves. Well so be it. We're going to Knoxville in February so we might as well find out what we're made of. I don't want to hide behind a schedule that is not really going to reveal to me what we're good at and what we're not good at. I think our preconference schedule is going to severely challenge us. We're going to know a lot about ourselves after that.

Q: This program has had very little "high" expectations from anybody – players, coaches, fans, media, opponents – for several seasons now after many years of success. Now it does again. How has this team handled those expectations since none of the current players have been through high preseason expectations at Ole Miss?

Ross: It's our job as coaches to prepare them for whatever expectations might be out there. But I am comfortable that our expectations as a team in the locker room and on the court will not vary from year to year. We expect to win every time we step on the court. Whether that is reasonable or not, that is the way we think. We're going to expect to play in the NCAA Tournament. Whether we do or don't, those expectations will never change. I really believe you have to think big. If you don't, you are allowing yourself to perform less than you are capable of. I don't know how to coach any other way.

Q: Based on personnel, do you expect your style of play to change any this season?

Ross: We are not a very well conditioned team right now. I don't know what the problem is. If we don't get in better shape, I guess we will play six or seven players and walk it up the floor and play power basketball. If we do get about nine or ten in shape, then hopefully we can press and run and do some things I think the players will enjoy more. I am going to coach to win, so whatever style best gives us a chance to have success, that is what we'll do. Hopefully we will get a little more inspired about our preparation and we can get those nine or ten ready. If not, there will be a lot of assistant coaches sitting over there with me, and about eight of them will have on uniforms. That will be the role they will have chosen to play. We can't play the way I want to coach and we can't play the way I think they will enjoy playing if we don't pay the price in preseason. So we've got a ways to go before determining our style of play.

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