Renee Ladner begins her first season as head coach after assisting former leader Carol Ross for four years in Oxford. Her biggest task is replacing all-American and WNBA Rookie of the Year Armintie Price, along with starters Ashley Awkward and Jada Mincy.
"You don't ever replace Armintie, but we can still be successful," Ladner said. "We have to have a deeper team with the points and rebounds coming from eight and ten players instead of two or three. We have the talent in place to keep winning. The goals don't change."
The leading returning scorer is 2007 All-SEC Freshmen Team member Alliesha Easley, who averaged 11 ppg. and was named the SEC Freshman of the Week on two occasions. Also playing a vital role for the up-tempo Rebels is sophomore point guard Shantell Black. She appeared in all 35 games last season and is the leading candidate to replace Awkward.
Experience returns in the frontcourt for Ole Miss with seniors Carla Bartee (5.5 ppg.) and Danetra Forrest (5.8 ppg.) and junior Shawn Goff (7.8 ppg.) handling the inside presence.
Newcomers to the team are freshmen Kayla Holloway (C) and Kayla Melson (PG) along with Florida transfer LaKendra Phillips (G).
Ole Miss has taken advantage of two hours per week that is allotted for practice since school began, but the full sessions kicked off with practices Friday and Saturday.
"In the preseason, you mostly work on strengths and weaknesses and now you are looking to accentuate and make the strengths work for us and find out how to minimize and disguise the weaknesses," Ladner said.
"We started out a little sluggish, but I feel our effort has been much better today. Since school began, I have thought this was the hardest working team I have seen, and that we would step on the floor and just be excited about playing. The things we have to do are develop verbal leadership and get to players to reach out and take a spot, a place and understand they are competing everyday for that. It isn't just a given for anyone."
Leadership was a constant for the Rebels last season with the seniors leading the way. This time, the upperclassmen are developing into the same roles as last season's elders.
"It is a learning process," Ladner said. "It doesn't just come natural because it has always been someone else's job. They are willing, but now they must make the effort to do it everyday.
"As a senior, you have been here four years and understand what it is about. During grueling times like practice, the seniors have to go to the youngsters and teach them the ropes."
The first couple days have been challenging due to injuries. Three Rebel point guards were all banged up and missed practice Saturday. Senior Tasi Worsham and Black both sprained ankles, and Melson hit her head during the scrimmage.
"The beauty of it is someone else had to play point," Ladner said. "Alliesha had to step up and run it. We would like for all the guards to be interchangeable, so it gave an opportunity to see how it would work."
The Rebels open the season with an exhibition home game against DT-3 on November 4 and travel to Nebraska to face the Cornhuskers on Nov. 11.
Lady Rebs begin official practice
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