May 1, 2010 11:51:00 PM
CALEDONIA -- Ricky Ford covets versatility.
Ford''s Northeast Mississippi Community College women''s basketball program loves to use a full-court pressing style of play. To do that, the veteran coach needs players who can play a variety of roles and are equally comfortable facing and with their backs to the basket.
Suriah Blanch fits that mold, which is why she will take her game to Booneville in the fall.
On Friday, the Caledonia High School senior forward celebrated her decision to sign a national letter of intent to play basketball at NEMCC.
Blanch is part of a 12-player signing class for Ford, who returns only two players. The 6-foot forward, who was a team captain, averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds this past season for the Lady Confederates.
"You always want to find young ladies with her size and her athletic ability," Ford said. "She is pretty mobile for a girl her size. She is what we call ''a little rough around the edges,'' but we hope we can get her on a good weight program and a good running program and then work on her inside moves a little bit. We can see some good things for Suriah once she gets there."
Ford said Blanch attended at NEMCC game a few years ago and NEMCC coach Maurice Stafford gave Suriah''s father, Oathe Sr., a card so they could keep in touch. He said Suriah''s father called the coaches and they invited her to the school for a tryout, where she impressed them enough to offer her a scholarship. Blanch signed the national letter of intent April 15.
"We see her playing as a four or a five (power forward or center)," Ford said. "I noticed at tryouts she played facing the basket a good bit, which is good. We''re going to work with her on her back to the basket at the four and the five. With her size, I think she can shoot it from the outside, so we''re going to look at her at the three position (small forward), too. The way we play, we move our post players in and out, which is why we think she can fit in well."
Blanch, who also considered Itawamba C.C., said she still isn''t 100 percent from after she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in her junior season. She wore a knee brace this season and still was a productive player as the only senior for the Lady Confederates. She said she hopes to use her time at NEMCC to realize an opportunity to play basketball at a four-year school.
"I have a lot of conditioning to do and I am working on now," Blanch said. "My leg has a lot more strengthening to do. I am willing to make it as strong as it can. It brought me this far, and I am willing to continue and to work as hard as I can."
Blanch said she knew a lot about NEMCC because her brother, Oathe Jr., went to school there. She said the school "felt like home" when she visited, which helped make her decision easier.
It also helped that Tigers play a brand of basketball that Blanch likes. She is excited to show all she can do in a variety of roles.
"I don''t mind playing the four and the five because I am used to playing both and I can adjust," Blanch said. "I am looking forward to the experience and to which positions he is going to put me in."
Blanch also is ready to face her next challenge: playing against bigger girls. As a post player in college, Blanch said she will have to body up down low with taller and more physical opponents. She said she her versatility gives her the confidence to know she will be ready.
"If they want to come at me inside I can just back off and go outside," Blanch said. "I am kind of flexible on the four or the five. I hope I will be able to play both positions."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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