Matt Insell expects to see balance in this year’s Ole Miss women’s basketball team
OXFORD, Miss. – A season ago, the Ole Miss women’s basketball team lacked depth in its frontcourt and relied largely on its backcourt for scoring. But with the addition of three post players, Matt Insell is confident this year’s team will have much more balance.
He’ll get a glimpse tonight when the Rebels play Mississippi College in an exhibition game at 7:00 p.m. (CT) in The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
The Rebels return four of their five top scorers from last season, most notably junior guard Shandricka Sessom (15.6 ppg) and senior guard Erika Sisk (8.0 ppg). But, offensively, the key to success for Sessom and Sisk will be the effectiveness of the Ole Miss frontcourt.
Ole Miss added three post players to its 2016 class in freshmen forwards Shelby Gibson (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Kate Rodgers (Birmingham, Ala.), and senior forward Taylor Manuel (St. Louis, Mo.).
All three helped the Rebels build the No. 2 recruiting class in the Southeastern Conference and a consensus top 25 class.
Gibson and Rodgers were both ranked ninth in their position group and received a top 100 ranking by Prospects Nation.
Graduate transfer Taylor Manuel
Manuel, a graduate transfer from Loyola Chicago, played her freshman season at Purdue in the 2013-14 season, earning Big Ten All-Freshmen Team honors after averaging 8.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-4 forward later transferred to Loyola Chicago where she had additional success.
Manuel was a two-time All-Missouri Valley Conference first-team selection, the league’s newcomer of the year after averaging 15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in her redshirt sophomore season. She was also named to the conference’s all-defensive team as a redshirt junior.
In her final season with the Ramblers, Manuel led the team with 15.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Insell feels his frontcourt will be able to take a lot attention off the guard play, especially with Manuel in the paint.
“Takes a lot off of them because they don’t have to manufacture their own shots when you have a big player inside like Taylor Manuel and you can play around her. I talked about her at SEC Media Day, and she may be the best passing post player that I’ve ever coached and maybe ever seen.”
Matt Insell on Taylor Manuel
“She has great court vision and can really pass the ball,” Insell continued about Manuel, who averaged 3.1 assists per game last season with Loyola Chicago. “If we can get the ball to her, she’s going to draw double teams and she can get the ball back out to people that need it.”
Insell excited about Rebels’ “well-rounded team”
Insell is excited about the 2016-17 Rebels because of their depth and calls this year’s squad “a well-rounded team” with the additions of Manuel, Rodgers and Gibson filling up gaps in the post. Ole Miss was out-rebounded 1281-1166 last season.
“We don’t have a lot of issues,” Insell said. “I don’t have to raise my voice too much in practice and I don’t have to get them going. They just know what is expected and they come out each day and work extremely hard. This team has a huge chip on their shoulder.
“They think they are a lot better than where the media picked them and I feel we’re a lot better than where we’ve been picked,” Insell said regarding the team’s last place prediction as voted by a panel in the SEC and national media.
“We’re going to play with a chip on our shoulder all season and we’re excited about that.”
Sophomore guard Alissa Alston is currently out with a shoulder injury and Insell is hopeful the New Haven, Connecticut native will be back in time for the team’s home season-opener against Southeastern Louisiana on November 11. Alston played in 29 games – started in three – last season for the Rebels, averaging 4.1 points and 1.7 rebounds per game.
Junior guard Chrishae Rowe won’t be eligible to play until December due to the NCAA Transfer rule. She will be eligible to play in the Louisiana-Monroe game on December 10. Rowe, a Riverside, California native, has only played one full season of collegiate basketball. She earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and All-Pac 12 honors at Oregon, leading the Ducks in scoring with 21.6 points per game in 32 contests during the 2013-14 season.
Rowe’s 690 total points were the most by a freshman in Oregon history and the 12th most in Pac-12 single-season history.
Ole Miss will host Mississippi College on Friday, Nov. 4 in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. (CT) in The Pavilion. Admission is free! You can also watch the game live streaming at: SECN+Link.