PONTOTOC – Nastiness doesn’t come easily for Rhandi Ball, but she’s trying.
“She’s an A student, she’s in all the honors classes, and all the kids like her,” said her coach, Bill Russell.
Still, a mean streak would be helpful as the Pontotoc star tries to take her game to a higher level.
Speed and athleticism are her greatest assets right now, Russell says. They’re what helped her average a double-double as a junior and ultimately earn a spot in Saturday’s Mississippi Association of Coaches all-star basketball game in Jackson.
A second-team selection on the Daily Journal’s all-area team, Ball is a two-time state champion in the 100 meters.
“For a post player, she can really run,” Russell said. “She beats the other bigs down the floor.”
Quickness also helps in the halfcourt, but that’s where Ball hopes to develop a mean streak.
“I need to be more aggressive. That will help me become more of a scorer,” she said.
Ball, 5-foot-11, became more of a scorer her junior year, overcoming a habit of passing up good shots and instead looking to score when she got the ball in the lane.
She averaged 13.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.7 steals.
“Her athleticism puts her in scoring opportunities,” Russell said. “She’s 5-11, but she plays bigger than that. She can really jump. She has to play the post for me, but at the next level she’ll probably be a 3 or 4.”
Moving to small forward or power forward would help Ball face the basket more and take advantage of her quickness.
But she’s intent on becoming more aggressive, too, in order to present a complete package to college recruiters. Right now she’s drawing interest from some Division II and lower-level Division I programs.
“If you want to play at the next level, you can’t stay the way you are. You have to get better,” Ball said.
Aiming for state tournament
Getting better is not only an individual goal but a team goal as well.
The Lady Warriors were within a whisker of the state tournament last year, falling short in an upset bid against undefeated New Albany in the North Half.
“That was very disappointing. We wanted to win that game so bad,” Ball said, “but that showed us how mental it is. You have to be in shape. You have to run, run, run.”
The quest for improvement, both individually and collectively, is going well in the offseason. Ball said she feels confident in the play of her team in summer games against Oxford, Houston, Columbus and others.
“Everybody wants to go to state,” she said. “We didn’t lose anybody, so hopefully we’ll be much better and bring more to the plate.”
And if Ball has her way, she’ll bring it more aggressively and with a little bit of nasty.
“I’m starting to take a few more chances than I would normally take,” she said. “It gets easier. When you do it one time and see nothing bad came out of it, it boosts your confidence. Then you think, ‘It’s not a problem. I can do this.’”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal