Ross meets the media in Birmingham

Ole Miss women's basketball head coach Carol Ross got a chance Wednesday to face the media of the SEC at the annual basketball tipoff meetings in Birmingham. It was Ross' fourth time to do so as the UM head coach. Here's what she said to those gathered.

Carol Ross said October is a fun time for basketball. Nobody's lost a game, and everyone is undefeated.

"We are all great in October. It is a coach's favorite time," said the former Florida Gator head coach for 12 seasons prior to coming back home to Ole Miss before the 2003-04 season.

She also believes her 2006-07 Ole Miss squad is more ready than last year for the challenges ahead.

"I think that we are a team that is hungry. Last year we went to the NIT (after two straight NCAA tourney appearances), and that is not the place we want to be playing in March. We're a more talented team this year, a more experienced team, and a deeper team."

Last season's non-conference schedule was filled with tough games. Even before SEC play began in January, Ole Miss had faced the likes of Rice, Clemson, Texas Tech, Rutgers, Villanova, Memphis, Louisiana Tech, UAB, and Miami (Fla.), and had victories over six of those nine teams among their 10 non-SEC wins. But they only won five of 14 SEC regular season games after that.

Rather than scheduling lighter in the non-conference this time around, Ross and company loaded back up with teams like Illinois, Penn State, and Miami (Fla.) at home. They also play Rice and Rutgers on the road and could possibly meet defending national champion Maryland in a tournament in the Bahamas; that after playing Northwestern of the Big Ten in round one. They also play in the Tulane tourney in late December in New Orleans.

"When I got to Ole Miss, we were not used to winning," she said of the players in the program at that time who hadn't experienced an NCAA Tournament bid in their careers. "I think last year, I might have overscheduled, and we spent our energy too soon in the season. We had some great wins in December over teams like Rutgers and Texas Tech But I don't think we knew how to manage our energy and focus. You don't need to lose either one of those qualities going into January. As a coach, I didn't really do a good job of handling that. Hopefully that won't happen again."

It all starts with a talented group of players, and at the top of the list is unanimous All-SEC selection Armintie Price, a senior from Myrtle High School in Union County.

"We have great players with experience," Ross said. "Players like Armintie Price. And she is surrounded with players like (seniors) Jada Mincy and Ashley Awkward. They are great leaders both on and off the court. In all, we have nine returning players and five feisty rookies that are hungry. They've got a good attitude. Hopefully we won't run out of gas like we did last year and can play better longer."

Ross was asked what makes Price special.

"A player like Armintie Price, people obviously see her on the court. But they don't see her passion and intensity for making it fun for the players and coaches. I mean in practice and in workouts. She comes to work everyday, and that really makes it easy on the coaches. She comes to practice everyday, and she is ready to work everyday. She's special and it's special for us to be in a program with someone like her."

Ross, whose team was picked by attending media as the best team in the bottom half of the league this time around – 7th place, said the SEC continues to be a powerful league that has "grown" in stature – literally.

"This league has gotten bigger, that is for sure. It's bigger than it's ever been as far as height. When I left Florida, I went to the beach for a year. When I came back to coach at Ole Miss, I was like 'What happened?" Everything changed. Now we have some 6-5 guards. It's changed the way we play, the game, strategies, recruiting, everything. It's made it more interesting. It's different. It's changed for sure. And it's changed how we coach."

The first exhibition game for Ole Miss women's basketball this season will be Sunday, Nov. 5, at 2 p.m. in C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum.

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