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Ole Miss looks to make strides in Insell's second season


Adam Minichino



OXFORD -- There is no offseason when you're building a champion. 


That's the mind-set Matt Insell brings to work every day as he 


prepares for his second season as women's basketball coach at Ole 




Coming off a 12-win season in his first year in Oxford, Insell and his 


coaching staff have been busy trying to build and the momentum and 


excitement surrounding the program. Even though the Rebels went 12-20 


and 2-14 in the Southeastern Conference, Insell is confident his plan 


to transform Ole Miss into a contender in the SEC and on the national 




Still, he admits the final product might not be ready in 2014-15, but 


that doesn't mean he and his staff aren't going to try their best to 


make it happen sooner rather than later. 


"The biggest sell we have is our passion," Insell said. "We tell them 


we're going to be passionate in three areas in our program: to grow 


them socially, to grow them academically, and to grow them 


athletically. If we can grow them socially, academically, and 


athletically, you have had a great experience here and we have won a 


lot of basketball games." 


Last month, Insell and the Rebels received news that could help 


continue the building process when they received a verbal commitment 


from Victoria Lewis. 


Dan Olson, of espnW HoopGurlz and Dan Olson's Collegiate Girls 


Basketball Report, has Lewis, a 5-foot-9 shooting guard, ranked 210th 


in the top 300 recruits in the Class of 2015. Lewis, who attends 


Mississippi Elite Christian Academy, plays Amateur Athletic Union 


basketball with the Tennessee Flight. Matt Insell's brother, Tom, 


coaches that team. 


"She is a deceptively quick off guard who attacks in transition," said 


Olson, a former college basketball coach who tracks high school girls 


basketball recruiting. "She utilizes her weak hand on the break, and 


she is a 3-point threat who draws contact with a confident strike." 


Insell believes Ole Miss has a chance to sign a top-10 or a top-20 


recruiting class this year. He said the Rebels are recruiting against 


many of the nation's top programs, not just ones in the SEC, and he 


hopes that continues. 


"Our recruiting is focused on kids that can help us win a SEC 


championship because if we can win a SEC championship, we can compete 


for a national title," Insell said. "If the kids are local, we want to 


get them. If the kids aren't local, we have to get those." 


Lewis will join a program that will welcome a six-player freshman 


class this season that includes Kelsey Briggs, Kiara Golden, of Olive 


Branch, A'Queen Hayes, of Horn Lake, Sarah Parker, Shandricka Sessom, 


of Byhalia, and Toree Thompson. Ole Miss also landed transfers Erika 


Sisk, a former standout at Oxford High, from Murray State and Precious 


Person from Rutgers. 


"We are a lot more talented than we were a year. We are a lot deeper 


than we were a year ago," Insell said. "I am more excited about 


different things that we're going to be able to do with this 


basketball team." 


That news comes on the heels of a season in which Ole Miss split two 


games against Mississippi State. Each team won a game in overtime by 


two points. Ole Miss was close in a number of other games, including 


an 87-80 loss against nationally ranked Baylor in Waco, Texas, only to 


fall short. 


But optimism is high around the program thanks in large part to the 


return of Tia Faleru. The rising senior forward earned first-team 


All-SEC honors from The Associated Press after she averaged 16.4 


points and 9.4 rebounds per game. She will be counted on to help pick 


up the slack due to the graduation of point guard Valencia McFarland, 


who last month signed her first professional contract with Euroleague 


team CSU Alba Lulia in Romania. 


Ole Miss also has plenty of things to celebrate off the court. In 


June, the school's $13M basketball practice facility was renamed the 


Tuohy Basketball Center for former Ole Miss basketball player Sean 


Tuohy. Last month, Insell and men's basketball coach Andy Kennedy were 


on hand for the groundbreaking of The Pavilion at Ole Miss, an $85M 


basketball arena. 


"For a vision to become reality you have to see it," Insell said. "We 


have laid out a vision. We have laid out a plan. Now we have to work 


hard every day to make that vision a reality." 


Insell said he uses each piece of news to promote his program and to 


show recruits that his plan to transform the program is going to 


produce results. After all, he worked as an assistant coach to Matthew 


Mitchell at Kentucky from 2008-13 and helped mold that program into 


one of the nation's best squads. He said he typically shows recruits 


tapes of practices from when he was at Kentucky to help them see he is 


doing a lot of the same things at Ole Miss, which proves the methods 




"Six years ago, Kentucky was the worst team in the SEC," Insell said. 


"Six years later, Kentucky is one of the top 10 programs in the 


country. I was a part of making that happen. The same print that we 


had there is what we are doing here." 


Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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