HOOVER, Ala. – Renee Ladner’s advice to her top returning post player was this: Don’t find an apartment. At least not yet.
That was the summertime discussion between Ladner, the Ole Miss women’s coach, and Byrd, a 6-foot-4 junior from Brookhaven.
Byrd appeared in 32 games last year, averaging 6.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in a backup role.
Ladner said she saw her big girl turn in “moments of brilliance” last year, but she would also take breaks on a given play or possession.
Lander is pushing Byrd and all her players to do more and try to build on last year’s 17-15, 7-9 SEC mark. The Rebels have posted back-to-back trips to the Women’s NIT.
“I called her in and asked her what school she wanted to go to. I said, ‘If you’re going to play at a lesser level, I want you to go somewhere and be successful. This is not the right school for you,’” said Lander.
She told Byrd she would check her progress in a month.
It was a good month for Byrd, who took the talk to heart and has responded with increased effort which has led to more production.
“She’s in the best shape of her life. Her struggle now is that sometimes she’s pressing and trying too hard,” Ladner said.
Too much effort beats the alternative as the Rebels try to replace guard Bianca Thomas, who led the SEC in scoring last year with 20.9 points a game.
The rebuilding effort includes moving last year’s SEC assists leader, Kayla Melson, to the two guard and putting true freshman Valencia McFarland at the point.
Ladner calls McFarland “game ready.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal