Important Week

In a busy few days for UM women's basketball, head coach Renee Ladner got a contract extension and former superstar player Armintie Price returned as part of the coaching staff.

The Lady Rebels already have five commitments to sign in the fall period. Getting the program back to NCAA Tournament status, even like the Elite Eight squad Price played on back in 2006-07, is well underway.

When Ladner moved up from assistant coach to head coach after the 06-07 season, she knew there was some rebuilding that had to happen and said so. The first year, 13-16. Year two, 18-15 and a WNIT appearance all the way to the third round, falling to eventual champ South Florida.

"The improvement was there last year," said Ladner, a former Lady Rebel player herself. "In my mind we left six games on the table we could have won. We just didn't finish them."

A loss at Tennessee still haunts, but it isn't the only one that does. The Lady Rebels were leading the Lady Volunteers five points with a minute and a half to go. But they didn't finish and lost.

"We didn't handle it mentally," Ladner said. "I know how badly we wanted it. But in front of 14,000 fans, maybe we ‘thought' too much or we lacked confidence that we could finish. You learn from situations like that.

"We'd beat a team like Vanderbilt and then lose to Alabama. We were just too inconsistent."

As painful as those type moments were last season, Ladner hopes and believes this year's team is better equipped to handle them. Six seniors on the roster will help that for one thing. They've been there before.

And there is only one newcomer this year – Courtney Marbra, a 6-foot-1 post player from Forest Hill High in Jackson.

Next season, however, fans will need a program to learn the new names. With five newcomers out of high school set to sign in November, the Lady Rebels will have a lot of new faces in 2010-11.

And it's an impressive group. Already committed are Valencia McFarland, a 5-4 point guard from Raymond High, who is ranked by ESPN as the 35th overall player nationally and the 13th-ranked point guard for the upcoming class nationally.

Also 6-0 wing player Shae Nelson from Cordova High in Memphis (44th-ranked wing by ESPN nationally); 6-0 wing Ja'Monica Orton from Dayton, Ohio (Stebbins High); 6-3 post player Jasmine Trotter of Marion (Ark.) High (42nd-ranked post player nationally); and 6-3 forward Kenyotta Jenkins from Potts Camp High.

But that's all for the future. Ladner is focused on excellence this season, and not just on the court but in the classroom and soon on a "new" court.

"Eight of our 13 were on the Honor Roll last spring," she said, proudly. "They're getting it done in that area as well. They're spending some quality time in the FedEx (Academic Support) Center.

"And the new practice facility is a sight to behold," Ladner continued. "It is impressive and something all of us in this community and on campus can be proud of. It will help in recruiting, and it will help Ole Miss basketball every day."

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