Men's hoops, women's tennis, men's golf

You really don't have to be paying much attention to know these are good times for men's basketball. But if you are, then you know full well what's going on.

Start with a team that, while experiencing some growing pains, will be a force game in and game out again this season, just like last season. Kennedy's program is now 18-1 in games played on its homecourt in Oxford. That means you're normally going to leave Tad Smith Coliseum feeling pretty good about things.

Continue with a signing class of four high school players who inked with Ole Miss the past couple of days, guys who will continue to be the foundation for a national resurgence of men's hoops, and you have reason to feel good about all things hoops.

Andy Kennedy has said that as the pieces continue to move into place here, he believes this program will make a serious run. That's an NCAA Tournament run.

Will it happen this year? Next year? A crystal ball we don't have. But when it comes to men's basketball, what we're seeing on the court and on paper looks like he's right. And he's doing and saying all the things to prove he will be the one to lead the Rebels through that run and beyond.

Kennedy's contract renegotiation and extension announced Wednesday was welcomed news and added to a growing list of ingredients required for continued success and improvement for this program. There's a lot to look forward to in men's hoops, and that excitement continues with the next game. Lamar University comes to Oxford for a contest Friday at 7 p.m.


The women's tennis coaches are smiling today. That's because their two signees are ranked among the nation's best junior players.

The program has been working for a breakthrough signing year again, and this looks like it.

Gabriela Rangel of Hendersonville, Tenn., is ranked No. 43 in the nation, No. 17 in the Southeast and No. 2 in Tennessee. She owns a 65-22 overall record, with 25 wins against Blue Chip and Five Star players.

"We are excited to have Gabriela joining our program," Ole Miss head coach Mark Beyers said. "What's really neat is she hasn't even come close to reaching her potential. We feel that she can improve so much more. We look for her to being a tremendous contributor to this team and a great college player."

The Rebels also got one even closer to home as Grenada native Kristi Boxx, who is ranked No. 25 in the nation, signed. Boxx is ranked No. 8 in the Southeast and No. 2 in the state of Mississippi, according to Boxx has been a Blue Chip recruit throughout her junior career, while attending the John Newcombe Academy in Texas. She has the No. 17 RPI in the country with a 46-15 record, including 25-15 against Blue Chip and Five-Star recruits.

Boxx reached the finals of the USTA National Clay Court 16-under, and won the USTA Southern Closed 16-under championship. She also won the Mississippi State High School Championship as a seventh grader. In addition, Boxx was ranked as high as 12th in the nation in 14s and 16s and was ranked No.1 in the South in the 18s.

"We're so excited to get a player of Kristi's level to join the Ole Miss family," Beyers said. "It makes it even more special to have somebody of her level choose to stay at home and represent the Rebels. We feel that she will come in and help us immediately, and she will be a huge part of our program in the future. We are also thrilled to sign another top national player."

Ole Miss sophomore Elizabeth Wood was rated No. 29 nationally when she signed.

UM assistant coach Whitt Taber says it's as big a day for Ole Miss women's tennis as there's been in a long time. He admits it's been easier to attract non-American players to the program than American players, and they have worked hard to be able to turn that some.

"A lot of times there is just a good fit, and we felt that with these two players," Taber said. "It's been a lot of hard work, and of course we have a great university that sells itself."

Beyers concurs.

"To have two kids in the top 43 sign with us is extremely exciting for us as coaches and for the future of this program," he said. "We are so pleased to have signed arguably the best American recruiting class in the history of the program, and all Rebel fans will really enjoy watching both of these players wear the Red and Blue."


UM head men's golf coach Ernest Ross is also smiling broadly today. His two-man signing class is the envy of many collegiate programs throughout the country.

Now that Ross and assistant coach Jonathan Dismuke have built the Rebels into an NCAA Tournament program again, they will be able to attract even higher-ranked competitors, like the ones they added today.

Sean Dale of Jacksonville, Fla., and Joe David of Madison, Tenn., signed national letters of intent to join the Rebels beginning in the 2008-09 academic year.

"I am extremely pleased to have Sean and Joe joining our team," Ross said. "I fully expect them to make their marks on the college golf scene immediately next year. They are also both great young men and will be great additions to our program."

Both were highly coveted by numerous programs. Dale narrowed his choices to two and picked the Rebels over Florida. David chose the Rebs over Tennessee, Kentucky, and others.

"I just felt at home there," David said in an interview with the Spirit this summer after he committed. "I liked the campus and the coaches. I liked the players that I met. It just had a homey feel that I really liked. Coach Ross is a heck of a guy and coach, and Coach Dismuke is a great recruiter and helps to keep the players' games on track. I know I will enjoy playing for them."

So will Dale, who has already pulled a little prank on his future college head coach.

Sean, his father, and stepmother had come to Oxford for the Missouri football weekend on his official visit. For the Florida football weekend, his mother, his girlfriend, who is considering attending Ole Miss, and his girlfriend's father were all coming to Oxford. Sean was not planning to make that trip. At least that's what he told Ross.

So Ross was expecting to see only the three of them when he met them upon arrival. But after those three exited the vehicle, out stepped Sean Dale, smiling and sporting an Ole Miss shirt.

He said he was here to surprise his new coach and to commit to him and to Ole Miss.

Ross has been smiling ever since.

Today, Joe David and Sean Dale are signed, sealed, and delivered. They are officially Ole Miss Rebels.

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