November 3, 2011
Mississippi College Newcomers Key to Another Winning Season
The Mississippi College women's basketball team has enjoyed tremendous success since head coach Paul Allen Duke took the reins back in 1995. That first season was the only year in which the Lady Choctaws did not finish over .500, and their record ended up at 12-12. Since entering the American Southwest Conference, MC has advanced to 12 of 13 postseason tournaments, which is the second-best mark in the league.
Coach Duke enters the 2011-12 season with eyes on his 300th win with the Lady Choctaws. In his 16 seasons, P.A. has the most wins (292) and best winning percentage (.717) in school history. Since the 1995-96 season, MC has won at least 15 games in each of his 16 seasons. Coach Duke's record at the "Golden Dome" has been impeccable with a 181-37 (.830) mark.
The 2010-11 season saw the Lady Choctaws get off to an 11-0 start and earn the #23 ranking in the D3Hoops.com Top 25. The regular season ended with MC handing nationally-ranked Louisiana College only their second loss of the season with an 86-84 victory over the Lady Wildcats. The Lady Choctaws then advanced to their 12th ASC Tournament and ninth in-a-row.
The Lady Choctaws will have some holes to fill with the loss of senior All-ASC players Randa Lee, Jalessa Taylor, and Jennifer Wair. MC does return five juniors with two years of experience to go along with a talented recruiting class. It may take a few games, but the 2011-12 version of the Lady Choctaws will be another formidable foe in the American Southwest Conference.
One of the biggest voids on the floor that MC will have to fill is at the point guard position, where All-ASC selection Randa Lee departs following a stellar four-year career. Lee holds the career marks for free throw percentage (.800) and assists (287) since the Lady Choctaws made the move to Division III back in 1996.
Stepping in will be junior Lindsay England (5'3"), who saw some significant minutes last season as the back-up point guard. The Jackson, MS native played in all 26 games and averaged 10.6 minutes per contest. England has great speed and is a good leader on a team that brings in 14 new players this season.
Pushing for playing time behind England will be sophomore point guard Sarah Workman (5'3"). The Denton, TX native was a three-time All-District performer at Springtown High School and was an outstanding track and field athlete. Workman is a very heady player that has great speed on the floor.
The Lady Choctaws will also have the luxury of a freshman that could see some playing time in her rookie season. Porche White (5'3") led her New Albany High School team to a 4A State Championship and is a very intelligent player on the floor. The future looks bright at the point guard position.
The Lady Choctaws bring back the most experience on the outside with three returning juniors that scored 457 total points in the 2010-11 season. Elizabeth Brooks (5'11") has started 51 of 52 games in her career, missing only one start due to illness in her freshman season. The Hernando native was hampered by a shoulder injury in her sophomore campaign, but comes into her junior year at 100%. Brooks has good size and slashing ability but also provides shooting ability to open up the post players for the Lady Choctaws.
Junior Traci Rodgers (5'7") had a breakout season in her second year at MC, averaging 8.8 points and scoring in double-figures in five of the final six games of the year. The Slayden native scored a season-high 24 points in the ASC Tournament against Hardin-Simmons. Rodgers finished in the top five in the league in three-point percentage (41%) and her shooting touch helps to spread the defense out.
Splitting starts with Rodgers last season was junior Valeri Stewart (5'6"), who averaged 3.9 points per game and shot 49% from the floor. The Starkville, MS native scored 15 points in a double-digit win over Hendrix last season. Stewart gives the Lady Choctaws depth at the position and scoring punch.
While MC is solid on the wings heading into the season, the coaching staff has added four newcomers that will give MC a positive outlook on the future. Sophomore Breckley Neale (5'9") leads the group with an excellent shooting touch that presented itself at Oak Hall High School in Pensacola, FL. Neale averaged 19 points per game as a senior and finished her career as the second-leading scorer in school history.
Freshman Jessica Hayes (5'9") is a very athletic player from Oak Grove High School that will give the Lady Choctaws another option on the wing. Two more freshman that will push for playing time are Mesha Martin (5'6") from Brandon High School and Chelsea Humphries (5'9") from St. Mary's High School in Natchitoches, LA. Both are good shooters with great potential going forward.
The biggest question mark heading into the season will be filling the holes left by All-ASC performers Jalessa Taylor and Jennifer Wair. Taylor was a First Team selection, played more games than any other Lady Choctaw in the Division III era and ranks second in points scored (1,128). Wair owns the third-best rebounding average (8.5 rpg) in school history and was named the ASC East Defensive Player of the Year. The coaching staff will have to find a way to make up for the loss of 42% of their scoring from a season ago.
Junior Caitlin Brown (6'0") made huge strides from her freshman to sophomore seasons and looks to do the same heading into this year. Brown became more physical and improved her shot in her second season. The Douglasville, GA native played in 24 games, averaging 10.5 minutes and 2.9 points per game in 2010-11. Her role will be much more relied on as the season opens.
Sophomore Bianca Maiden (5'10") also comes back after getting her feet wet as a rookie. The Keithville, LA native is extremely athletic and gives MC good size on the block. Maiden has excellent potential and should see more minutes this season.
The only senior for the Lady Choctaws this season will be Delta State transfer Jamie Lack (6'3"). The Elkmont, AL native played in 27 games for the Lady Statesmen last year and score 68 points, while shooting 45% from the floor. Lack provides good size and can stretch the defense with her long-range shooting ability.
Two junior college transfers that will see significant playing time are Kristin Newsome (5'9") and Ebony Williams (5'10"). Newsome comes in from Region 23 Champions Copiah-Lincoln Community College and is a very athletic player with good quickness down on the block. Williams transferred from Itawamba and possesses the athleticism necessary to work well in the Lady Choctaw system.
Another player that has a bright future for MC is freshman Madelyn Cross (5'10"). The Natchez, MS native has excellent potential and may be the most athletic Lady Choctaw.
The Lady Choctaws are bringing in 14 new players to a program that has an excellent tradition of winning with head coach Paul Allen Duke searching for his 300th win. For the 2011-12 season to be successful, the returners must gel with the newcomers to advance to their 10th consecutive ASC Tournament and 13th in 14 tries.