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The Dinner Conversation - Bringing MSU news as you arrive home for the evening



Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE - Without further ado:  




Item No. 1 - Mississippi State women's basketball news -  




STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer added another member to his coaching staff as he announced Kansas assistant and former Texas A&M standout A'Quonesia "Aqua" Franklin is joining the Lady Bulldogs as an assistant coach. 


Franklin's lone season at Kansas was a memorable one for the Jayhawks, as they advanced to the program's first Sweet 16 since 1998 and finished 25th nationally with a 21-13 record. The former standout guard for the Aggies helped mentor Angel Goodrich, who paced Kansas with 23.3 ppg in the NCAA Tournament and shattered the school record with 250 assists. Goodrich was named All-America Honorable Mention by both the WBCA and the Associated Press and one of four finalists for the Nancy Lieberman award, given annually to the top point guard in the nation. 


"I'm very excited to join the staff here at Mississippi State. There are a lot of great athletes here in Mississippi and the surrounding areas," Franklin said. "I am really happy to be rejoining with Vic Schaefer, who recruited and coached me. Coach Schaefer is very passionate about the game and developing quality student-athletes. I have looked up to him as a father figure. He is one of my mentors, and I am excited to have the opportunity to help him win championships here at Mississippi State." 


Franklin was an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin for the 2010-11 season. During that year, she coached Tammara Marion to second-team All-Southland Conference accolades after she became the 25th Ladyjack to score 1,000 points and set a school mark for three-pointers made in a season. 


"Aqua is a tremendous communicator. She has been through the wars not that long ago, and she knows what it takes to make it as an elite athlete in the SEC as well as the WNBA," Schaefer said. "Aqua took Texas A&M to the Elite Eight and Sweet 16, so she has instant credibility with our team. Aqua will be a great asset along with Johnnie in not only teaching on the floor and recruiting, but also giving guidance to our players in making good decisions off the court." 


Franklin began her coaching career as a graduate assistant at her alma mater. She joined Schaefer and Lady Bulldog associate head coach Johnnie Harris in helping guide the Aggies to the Big 12 championship and the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 


Franklin knows what it takes to be successful on the court, as her standout Texas A&M playing career earned her the 38th pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft by the Sacramento Monarchs. She played the 2009 season with the Seattle Storm. 


Franklin, who also spent two seasons assisting the Houston Elite AAU program, rated as one of the top guards in Texas A&M history. She earned AP All-America Honorable Mention honors her junior and senior seasons while claiming All-Big 12 accolades the final three years of her collegiate career. 


A 2008 Big 12 All-Tournament Team selection, Franklin led the Aggies to three NCAA Tournament trips, including one journey to the Elite Eight. 




Item No. 2 - Mississippi State softball news -  




STARKVILLE, Miss. - Magnolia madness will consume the state of Mississippi this weekend as the Mississippi State softball team (22-19, 5-14 SEC) travels north to Oxford for a three-game conference clash against in-state rival Ole Miss (16-21, 3-11 SEC). 


Friday's series opener is scheduled for 6 p.m., with Saturday's game beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday's 1 p.m. series finale will be broadcast live on FOX Sports South and will mark MSU's first game on 


television this season. Dave Baker will serve as the play-by-play announcer and National Pro Fastpitch League Commissioner Cheri Kempf will handle the color analyst duties. 


"From all accounts, Ole Miss is a fiery squad that is led by a coach who coached her team to a NCAA Regional last year," MSU head coach Vann Stuedeman said. "Since my first day of work in Starkville, everyone has stressed to me just how important this series is to the people of our state, so I am definitely looking forward to my first experience in this rivalry." 


Mississippi State owns a commanding 31-20 advantage over Ole Miss all-time, including a 12-10 record in Oxford. The last time the two in-state foes met was April 1-3, 2011, when the Maroon and White won two out of three games in Starkville at the MSU Softball Stadium (L 0-6, W 


3-0, W 9-3). As a true freshman playing against the Rebels, Sam Lenahan hit .333 with a home run, double and three RBIs. 


The last time the two schools met in Oxford, State won by an 11-5 margin on March 21, 2010. During that three-game series, MSU shortstop Erin Nesbit went off, going 4-for-8 (.500) with a double, triple, two RBIs, two runs and two walks. While the series is tied at five in the 


last 10 meetings, MSU has won 10 of the last 15 between the Magnolia State rivals. 


Although they are in their first year as head coaches, Stuedeman and Ole Miss' Windy Thees are no stranger to each other. As an assistant coach last year at Alabama, Stuedeman's squad defeated Thees' Memphis squad by a 7-1 margin at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional on May 21, 2011. 


The Bulldogs are ranked 33rd in the third NCAA RPI rankings of 2012, released April 9 by the NCAA. With most teams inside the top 40 making the NCAA Tournament, it was a good sign for MSU, who has already played 18 games against teams in the RPI Top-25. State's 22 wins are only two away from tying last year's overall win total of 24 in 56 games played. 


Through 41 games a season ago, MSU owned a 20-21 overall record. All-SEC candidate Brittany Bell is a big reason for the turnaround, leading the SEC in on-base percentage (.568) and ranking second in 


slugging percentage (.762). Both clips are in the top three all-time for a single season in Starkville. Placing eighth in the country in OBP as of April 9, Bell has reached base safely in 38 of 41 games this year. 


The Rebels of Oxford are led at the plate by sophomore RT Cantillo, who leads UM with a .374 batting average to go along with 25 RBIs for 2012. Redshirt freshman shortstop Allison Brown paces the team in RBIs however with 30 driven in. In the circle Ole Miss' Kendall Bruning (12-11) anchors the pitching staff with a 4.07 ERA and 13 complete games. The senior righty has struck out a team-high 105 batters in 137.2 innings of work. 




All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage. 




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