Former Charger Sisk adjusting to life in SEC
Erika Sisk does not get frustrated very easily, especially in the heat of competition. One of the most even keeled performers in both track and basketball during her time at Oxford High School, Sisk had to experience a period of adjustment this past spring in her first year being an Ole Miss two-sport athlete.
Sisk, who started her college career playing basketball at Murray State, is a member of the track & field team as a triple jumper. She is also a point guard on the women’s basketball team. While sitting out in basketball, Sisk decided to regain her standout form as a track athlete. According to her, the season’s results weren’t great, simply because she was still getting back in the swing of things.
“I think I will progress more and more each year. I think it’s a starting point because I feel like I had to take a year off. I have to continue to try and work hard, on the track, off the track, and then during the summer, in and out of the season,” Sisk said. “I want to get back to the feel of track and how I used to do it. I got to remember, things like that. I lost everything.”
The fact that Sisk, who set a state meet record in the triple jump her senior season at OHS, had lost everything was very surprising to her.
“Once we finished basketball in high school, we had two, three weeks and then we were back in track mode and then we were in district, regionals and state,” Sisk said. “The whole year I was at Murray State I was strictly basketball. Then I came back here and all my mechanics were on track. I have to remember that when you play basketball, it’s this way. And when I’m at track, it’s this way. And now I’m at the SEC level where in high school I could get by with just natural talent. Everybody that’s out there now is good.”
Ole Miss coach Brian O’Neal saw that Sisk was being hard on herself and understood her frustration since everything didn’t just come so easy.
“She was really close this year, but it just never worked out for her in terms of finding her rhythm. It’s a funny thing what confidence does, and I think when in you’re in this league, and you have your confidence shaken a little bit, it’s humbling,” O’Neal said. “To her credit, she came every day and worked, day in and day out. She really wanted to capture it back and she can get it back. What she went through is typical of what some freshmen go through. I definitely believe that Erika Sisk is talented. She is motivated. She works extremely hard, and there is no reason she can’t be successful here.”
Fortunately for Sisk, her technique wasn’t so rusty that she couldn’t compete at least in some meets this year. The technique she was shown at Oxford helped as a base, and with additional coaching this year, Sisk did gain confidence, pushing her to work harder for the coming years.
“I can’t stop, can’t get down just because I didn’t do well this year,” Sisk said. “I want to improve more and more. I realized that I had to learn track all over again. Coach O’Neal thought I would get it back, that if I continued to work, I would get it back. It’s like I’m starting back over doing baby steps.”
Back to hoops
As the track season has faded into the summer, basketball has taken over Sisk’s life. She officially signed with coach Matt Insell back in April and she is now on full scholarship. While at Murray State, Sisk set an Ohio Valley Conference record for honors in a week for freshmen with nine. She was also named to the All-Newcomer team after averaging 13.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game during the 2012-13 campaign.
Ole Miss has always been close to Sisk’s heart, because she is local and had a great relationship with the previous coaching staff. Insell was familiar with Sisk because he was an assistant at Kentucky, and Sisk said he was impressed with her initial season on the hardwood.
“I did want to do basketball and track, but at the same time, Peggie Gillom was here and she was helping me out, too. I couldn’t talk to (Insell) because it was against the rules. As far as coming back, I knew more than likely I would be able to play basketball here,” Sisk said. “I started getting looked at by Ole Miss when I was a freshman at Oxford by Coach (Renee) Ladner. The only reason I went to Murray State was because they offered (Sisk’s sister) Amber. Murray State was awesome, I had a great year there. Being a leader as a freshman, all of that was good. But coming back feels good, and of course it’s good to be in the SEC. My year at Murray State allowed me to go somewhere.”
There are a lot of new players – seven to be exact – that have been added to the Lady Rebels’ roster for the coming season. Sisk is expected to compete for the starting spot at point guard. Insell has told her in order to do that, her leadership would have to be the best.
“You have to be a leader. You have to be there for the team. That’s a big thing,” Sisk said. “We need to be close and I feel like we can do that. Thursday through Sunday each week, I know we eat at The Grill as a team. It’s mandatory. We have to be together, so we might as well get along. I think this season, we’re going to shock a lot of people because of all the players he’s got coming in. There a lot of my former teammates from AAU on this team. It’s a good feeling to be playing with them again.”
Another former Oxford Charger, Sam Kendricks, was named a USTFCCCA All-American for the 2014 outdoor track season. He was one of three Ole Miss athletes named to the list. Kendricks, who won his second straight NCAA championship in the pole vault, was joined by Robert Semien and Phillip Young, who were both named to the second team. Semien finished 16th in the 110-meter hurdles, while Young was 10th in the triple jump. The Ole Miss men finished No. 24 in the nation at this year’s NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.