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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 

 

Miss. 

 

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 

 

scene. 

 

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 

 

work. 

 

"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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