Taking the Lead

Junior Bianca Thomas was named to the All-SEC first team Tuesday following a stellar junior season. Read about it inside.

After a strong season that saw guard Bianca Thomas average 15.4 points per game, the junior was named to the All-SEC First Team Tuesday.

Thomas becomes only the 11th player in Ole Miss history to earn the distinction, and the first Lady Rebel since Armintie Price was named to the team in 2007.

"It's a big honor," said Thomas, who has produced eight games of at least 20 points this season. "Coming into the season, I didn't think I was going to be able to get an honor this high. I'm very blessed and privileged to be considered one of the top guards in the SEC."

In an up-and-down season for Ole Miss, Thomas has been a stabilizing force.

Along with her aforementioned overall scoring average per game, she has been a terror in SEC contests, averaging 18.1 points ppg.

Considering she's often targeted by opposing teams and draws the toughest assignment defensively each night, the junior has proven invaluable for Ole Miss this season.

"Every game we've played in the conference, I've had to fight for everything," she said. "(Opposing players) are always right there on me. Over the course of the season, I got a little fatigued from it. Defending their best player and also trying to create offensively was hard. But I've continued to work on my game. I can always improve."

With her 60 three-pointers this year, she now ranks fourth in school history for most long distance makes in a single season. She needs only six more threes to become Ole Miss' all-time leader.

"I think she's very deserving. I'm very proud of her," said Ole Miss head coach Renee Ladner. "She has really emerged as our go-to player. If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that she would end up being our main cog on the offensive end, I'm not sure I would have bought that. But she has become more confident as the season's progressed. I'm glad she got this honor."

While Thomas was an active member for the Lady Rebels in her first two years on campus, appearing in 53 combined games, it wasn't until 2009 that she took the reigns as leader for the team.

She never averaged in double-digit points during either of her freshman or sophomore seasons, but now ranks third in the conference in scoring.

Somewhat soft-spoken but loud on the court, Thomas has even exceeded the expectations of her head coach.

"She's always been a good offensive player, but it's as if she flipped a switch and knew she could really do this," said Ladner. "I think once she started hitting big shots for us, her confidence grew and developed. She's always had a three-point shot, but what she's been able to do for us lately is create her own shot. When she's struggled, she's still wanted the ball. We've needed someone to want the ball. I slowly watched her turn into a really good offensive player."

Considered (arguably) the face of women's hoops, Thomas will now try and lead her team to an opening round win over Arkansas in this week's SEC Tournament.

"This is like a new season for us," she said. "We're trying to go in, win four games and a championship. We're playing for the postseason right now and have a chance for the NCAA Tournament."

The No. 9 seeded Rebels tipoff Thursday at 12 p.m.

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