SportsBasketballSouthern Miss' basketball programs begin practice

Southern Miss’ basketball programs begin practice


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Photos by: Charlie Luttrell

Southern Miss Men’s and Women’s Basketball officially began their first practices last week as they prepare for the season.

Men’s Basketball,  led by head coach Jay Ladner, began its first practice last Tuesday at 9:30 am. Head Coach Jay Ladner, former Southern Miss basketball alumni, made a subtle statement at the first practice, wearing an NIT (National Invitation Tournament) 1987 Championship shirt. Ladner, who was a part of the 1987 historic squad in the NIT tournament, felt very optimistic about the collection of talent he has on this team.

“I really like our team, they’ve been incredibly positive every day. It’s been great to work with them in the off-season,” said Coach Ladner. “We’re so much further along now than we were last year.”

Entering his third season at Southern Miss, Ladner is 17-39. After finishing last season 8-17, Ladner spoke on the pressure he may be feeling to perform this year after two lack-luster seasons. 

“I don’t feel any more pressure. My pressure is my passion for this school. There’s nobody in this world that expects more out of themselves than I expect out of myself as the leader of this basketball program,” said Ladner. “The pressure that I feel is my impatience with myself, to make sure I do everything that I possibly can to get it done.”

Looking forward to the season, Ladner stated that the team will run a faster tempo and will feature a positionless basketball scheme. 

“We’re playing a much faster tempo and by opening our post up, we’re playing more positionless basketball, and that allows us to play multiple lineups and take advantage of putting our best unit out there,” said Ladner.

“I’ve been getting pretty comfortable with it,” returning Southern Miss forward Tyler Stevenson said. “It really was a confidence thing for me and gaining my confidence back.”

Tyler Stevenson drives against Walyn Napper during practice.

For the 2021-2022 season, the Golden Eagles boast six newcomers to its squad. Two of those newcomers are freshmen Rashad Bolden and Trey Alfonso.

True freshmen Rashad Bolden, from St. Andrews Episocal, averaged 26. 5 points, four rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.4 steals per game in his senior season as a top recruit from Mississippi. The Golden Eagles also added junior college standouts Walyn Napper and Tate Ryder. Lastly, Southern Miss added St. Johns’s transfer Isaih Moore and Jacksonville transfer Mo Arnold. Moore brings much-needed energy to the floor averaging 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game on 57.2 shooting percent from the field. 

On the other hand, Southern Miss returned nine players from last year’s squad. The Golden Eagles avoided the loss of Tyler Stevenson after he entered the transfer portal this off-season. Stevenson led the Eagles in scoring, averaging 14.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Ladner looks for sophomore Jaron Pierre Jr. to take a huge leap this year after being named to Conference USA’s All-Freshman Team last season. Last season, Pierre averaged 9.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. 

“He’s improved his overall game so much from last year. He’s so much more polished now and understands the game is beginning to slow down,” said Ladner.

Lady Eagles Basketball

Lady’s basketball started its first practice Wednesday at 3:00 pm. The 1,000-point scorer and Southern Miss alumni Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis enters her 18th season as the Lady Eagles basketball coach. Coach McNelis currently is one win away from reaching 500 career wins at 499. 

“I really don’t think a whole lot about it. I’m just grateful that I’ve been able to continue to coach for a long time. I’m here now because of God and family and all the people that have been a part of my life, “ said Joye Lee-McNelis. 

For the 2021-2022 season, the Lady Eagles bring in six newcomers. Four of the newcomers are freshmen in Emma Wallhoff, Asia Broughton, Morgan Dillard, and Asjha Leake. While the team brings in two SEC transfers Dominique Davis and Macy Weaver. 

The Lady Eagles return with nine players this year. The Golden Eagles are headlined by Daisha Almond, Kelcy Jones, and Melyia Grayson. Grayson averaged 8.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game being named Conference USA Freshman of the Year. 

“Melyia is continuing to get better every day. We plan to put her in situations where she is facing the basket because she is a great passer.  She has improved on her jump hook on the block and her passing ability has really gotten better.. She just has a great feel for the game,” said McNeils.

McNelis joined the 4th Street Sports Show to talk about the upcoming season.

“We have unfinished business, we have some stuff we have to accomplish and it’s not the end. We must be able to make strides this year,” McNelis said.

Lady Eagles Basketball starts its season off at home in the Reed Green Coliseum on November 1st against Southeastern Baptist. Men’s basketball season begins November 4th at Reed Green Coliseum against Delta State University. 

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