The 2015-16 Jones County Junior College Lady Bobcats open the season in the Northeast Mississippi Tipoff Tournament at 3 p.m. on Nov. 2 vs. Northwest. Their home opener will be at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 9 vs. Holmes.
Photo/Teresa McCreery, JCJC Media Relations
Ellisville – It’s a whole new look for the Jones County Junior College Lady Bobcats heading into the 2015-16 basketball season.
Missy Bilderback enters her first year as head coach, replacing retired longtime coach Sandra Sumrall.
And 14 of the 15 players on the JCJC roster are new this year. The only returnee is Aliyah Bell.
It is a learning process for all, but Bilderback
“I think that’s the biggest thing we are focusing on right now,” she said. “We are trying to learn as we go along, take it one day at a time and try to focus on being the best we can be. We are trying to make as much progress as we can in one day and then move on to the next day.
“We have some talent. We have a lot of great pieces on the team, but we know we have to put it together.”
One of those talented players is Wendion Bibbins, a 6-foot-1 sophomore forward from Helen Cox High School in New Orleans, Louisiana. She originally signed with Temple University and played at Tallahassee Community College (Florida) last season before transferring to JCJC.
Bibbins will play at the 4 position.
“Wendion will have a huge impact on our team,” Bilderback said. “She has the ability to defend, run the floor and rebound the ball well. She can also score for us around the basket. She is a super athlete and a great competitor.”
Bell is a 5-foot-9 forward from Pass Christian. With Bell being the only returnee from last season’s team, Bilderback is depending on her quite a bit.
“She has done a great job setting the tone for us as far as leadership and work ethic,” Bilderback said. “She is a huge key for us. She can play inside or out and she can shoot the ball. She can finish around the basket and is very versatile.”
After Bibbins and Bell, it’s all freshmen for JCJC.
At the point guard spot, the Lady Bobcats will rely on 5-foot-6 Zan Ratcliffe of West Jones, 5-foot-7 Anna Wilks of Columbia Academy and 5-foot-7 Joy Powell of Prentiss.
“Zan is someone who had a great high school career locally,” Bilderback said. “We expect her to be a big key for us at our point position. Anna is someone we are depending on to play a lot of minutes. She sees the floor really well. She is a tough, gritty player and also had a great high school career locally. We think she will do well for us.
“Joy can step outside and shoot the ball. We will depend on her to stretch the defense.”
Bilderback believes the Lady Bobcats have their most depth at the ‘2’ and ‘3’ wing positions.
“We are kind of heavy at the ‘2’ and ‘3’ spots,” she said. “We have a lot of players there.”
Mixing in at those positions will be 5-foot-9 Tatyana Lofton of Madison-Ridgeland Academy, 5-foot-8 Hanah Lott of Petal, 5-foot-8 Ashailee Brailey of Vermillion Catholicin Abbeville, Louisiana, 5-foot-8 Hayle Lott of Petal and 5-foot-6 Dana Brown of Newton.
“Tatyana is someone that is incredibly explosive,” Bilderback said. “She is very quick and she is someone we are depending on to carry a load for us on offense. Hanah can really, really shoot the ball well. She can open up the floor for our team because of her ability to shoot it. She is a great leader with great intangibles.
“Ashailee is an extremely accurate shooter. She can really fill it up. She is a two-time All-State player in Louisiana and will have a huge impact on our team. Hayle is a good shooter and is a smart player. We will depend on her for her 3-point ability.
“Dana is a scrappy, hardnosed player. I guess you could call her a defensive specialist because she loves to play defense. She will guard you and rebound the ball and play as hard as anybody.”
Bibbins and Bell are at the ‘4’ position, along with 5-foot-11 Patrice Tate of Velma Jackson.
“Patrice is a really fast, long, athletic and scrappy player,” Bilderback said. “She has a knack for scoring and will get better as the year goes along.”
The Lady Bobcats have four players listed at the center position, including 6-foot-2 Myyah West of Prentiss, 6-foot LaDaria Moody of South Jones, 6-foot Kanisha Tharpe of Forest Park High School in Ellenwood, Georgia, and 5-foot-10 Carlie Kellems of Madison-Ridgeland Academy.
“Myyah is a long, athletic player,” Bilderback said. “She has the ability to put the ball in the hole. She gets better each week and her potential is unlimited. LaDaria finishes well around the basket. She is very smart, has a great motor and always plays hard. She’s not afraid to bang around inside.
“Kanisha is a big, strong, athletic kid. She is coming off a knee injury and I think she will have an impact as she recovers from her knee injury. Carlie is another hardnosed, physical kid who rebounds the ball well. She communicates well and will have an important role on our team because of her work ethic.”
Despite the extraordinary youth on the team, Bilderback has been impressed with the performance of her team leading up to the Nov. 2 season opener.
“I’ve been real, real pleased with our preseason and our girls and their work ethic,” she said. “I think we’ve got some really great pieces. We are young and inexperienced with 13 freshmen. But I think we have the pieces where if we can just focus on getting better every day and being the best we can be as a group, we have a chance to do some great things.”
The Lady Bobcats will open the season in the Northeast Mississippi Tipoff Tournament Nov. 2-3 in Booneville. They play Northwest on Nov. 2 and tourney host Northeast on Nov. 3.
JCJC’s home opener is Nov. 9 vs. Holmes. They will also have two games vs. defending Region 23 champion Itawamba, one of those being at home on Nov. 12, and a home game on Nov. 20 against Wallace State Community College (Alabama), another NJCAA Division I Tournament participant from last year.
“Early on, we have a lot of challenges on there,” Bilderback said of the schedule. “Wallace State and Itawamba both went to the national tournament last year. Northwest is always very good. We have Holmes at home, who is supposed to be pretty good this year.
“There are no cupcakes on there, for sure, and we have to be ready to compete. We have to focus on growing and just getting better.”
Bilderback will be assisted by first-year assistant coach Lauren Pittman, while graduate assistant coach Devin Cooper returns.