Midlick, who was in his first season with the program, guided them to a 21-10 record with a trip to the championship game of the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament losing to Nova Southeastern 78-56.
Last year was also the 30th consecutive winning season for a program that hasn’t finished below .500 since the 1982-83 season. With DSU’s history there has always been high expectations entering a basketball season and this year is no different. The Lady Statesmen are preseason picked by the Gulf South Conference Coaches to win the GSC. They are also preseason ranked eighth nationally in the Division II Bulletin National Poll and 12th in the USA Today Sports Division II Coaches Poll.
“We’re not taking it any different than we did last year,” Midlick said. “We want to get better each day. We’ve talked once or twice about expectations, and I don’t think it’s any different than how good they want to be or how good as a coaching staff we want them to be. We want to represent Delta State every day on the court, in the classroom and out in the community.”
Last year, the Lady Statesmen had a young team as they had to rely on some freshmen and sophomores to help put them over the top. This years those players have an extra year of experience as they enter the season as sophomores and juniors. On the roster this year, the Lady Statesmen are still fairly young as they have just three seniors. They also have four juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen.
Midlick said the experience the players returning last year got has shown up in practice.
“I do think that all the returners came back a little better skill wise and a little stronger,” Midlick said. “They’ve worked hard. On the other hand, I don’t think a whole lot of teams lost a whole lot. I’m sure they’ve improved as well to. We’ve just got to continue to work hard everyday.”
Three Lady Statesmen who will be ones to watch out for are junior forward Rhandi Ball, junior center Seneca Walton and sophomore guard Chelsey Rhodes. Last season, Walton scored 12.9 points and pulled down 8.2 rebounds per game to lead the Lady Statesmen in scoring and rebounding, followed by Ball with 11.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and Rhodes with 11.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. Rhodes led the Lady Statesmen in free throw shooting (.783 pct.) and 3-point shooting (.366 pct.), while Ball led the team in steals (82) and was tied for the team lead in assists per game (2.5 apg). Rhodes was also named GSC Freshman of the Year. All three of those players were named Preseason All-GSC by the league coaches.
“I think obviously with Seneca, Rhandi and Chelsey coming back, those three are going to be the focal point of our offense,” Midlick said. “I think there’s others that can put the ball in the basket. We want to have team structure, but it’s no secret to the other teams that we’re playing that those are our three returning scorers and we’re going to try to get them the basketball in positions where they can do something with it.”
Senior guards Chadisty Hickman (5-6) and Shanae Govan (5-3) will be counted on to provide some valuable playing time. Hickman averaged 5.4 points and 2.4 rebounds a game in 31 games, while Govan averaged 2.5 points and dished out 2.3 assists per game in 31 contests last year for Delta State.
Junior forward and Mississippi Delta Community College transfer Myiesha Stewart (6-1) has looked good in practice, while sophomore center Becca Ruckes has shown great improvement from last year to this year. Ruckes averaged 3.7 points and 3.3 rebounds a game in 30 games as a freshman last year for the Lady Statesmen.
“She’s done well in the post,” Midlick said about Ruckes. “She’s changed her body from being in the weightroom and working out. I expect better things from her in the post.”
Sophomore guard Mary Carol Davis, who is a transfer from Arkansas Tech University, will be a key player for DSU as well as freshmen Alexis Ross (5-6, guard, Charleston High School), Carley Keller (5-7, guard, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Madisonville, La.) and Anissa Jackson (5-6, guard, Forest Hill High School, Jackson).
“The three freshmen have all come from winning high school programs. They expect to win. They’re adjusting to the speed of the game,” Midlick said. “Mary Carol Davis is the transfer sophomore from Arkansas Tech. She can shoot it from three. She’s a really good passer and makes her teammates better. I’m looking from her to get some playing time for us.”
DSU will play an exhibition game on Monday against Mississippi Valley State University at the Walter Sillers Coliseum. The Lady Statesmen will officially open the basketball season on Saturday when the team travels to Pensacola, Fla. to play Tuskegee University in the West Florida Tournament.
After playing six non-conference games, the Lady Statesmen will open GSC play against Christian Brothers in Memphis, Tenn. on Dec. 14. Along with Delta State and Christian Brothers, the other teams in the conference are Lee, Shorter, Union, North Alabama, West Alabama, Valdosta State University, West Florida, West Georgia and Alabama-Huntsville.
Midlick feels the conference will be as tough as always.
“The conference is strong from top to bottom,” Midlick said. “There’s no off nights, and they’re a bunch of good teams and a bunch of good coaches in this conference.”