The Lady Statesmen have won 15 Gulf South Conference Championships and six national titles. Last year, Delta State had, by its standards, a subpar year going 22-7 and advancing to the second round of the NCAA South Region Tournament. The 22 wins were the fewest amount of wins DSU had in a season in seven years.
Midlick, who played in 80 games over a three-year career at Ole Miss, said he’s always heard about the tradition of the Lady Statesmen program and embraces the opportunity to coach the team and understands the expectations for success.
“I knew about the athletic program at Delta State, especially the women’s basketball program even when I was at Ole Miss and lived in Greenville,” Midlick said. “I think it’s great. They (the fans) want a good team. They want to follow our team, and players want to play here and realize the history and tradition. I’m just honored and humbled to be in charge of leading this program.
“I want our young ladies to be great representatives of the university, not just on the won-loss record but how we conduct ourselves off the court,” Midlick added.
Midlick said he has been well received by the community.
“The people here in Cleveland and the people that work here at Delta State that I have encountered have been great,” Midlick said. “They are first class people that have made the transition to come in here successful for me.”
Midlick will have a coaching staff that has a wealthy of basketball knowledge with Veronica Walker and Blessing Chekwa.
Walker had one of the greatest playing careers in the illustrious history of DSU. Walker, who played forward and center at Delta State from 2008-12, is second in school history in career rebounds (1,086) and third in scoring (2,188 points). She also won the GSC Player of the Year three times and the Gillom Trophy, which goes to Mississippi top collegiate player in a four-year institution, twice.
Chekwa was a two-year team captain on the Mississippi State University Basketball team. She most recently served as Director of Basketball Operations at Rice University under women’s basketball head coach Greg Williams.
“I couldn’t have asked for two better coaches to help me,” Midlick said. “I think those young ladies on the team are lucky to have two like that that are mentors to them that they can talk with about anything.”
The Lady Statesmen are preseason picked to finish No. 4 in the GSC in the preseason coaches poll. Delta State showed some promise in an exhibition game on Nov. 1 by defeating Mississippi Valley State University 58-52 at Itta Bena.
When Midlick took over as head basketball coach in July after previous coach Sandra Rushing took the women’s basketball coaching job at Central Arkansas, the players on the current team had already been recruited.
“They’ve had a great attitude,” Midlick said. “They’ve done everything that Blessing, Veronica and I have asked them to do on the court. They’ve done well in the classroom. There’s always room for improvement there, but they’ve done pretty well. The community involvement we’ve done, they’ve been willing to do that. The transition has been as smooth as can go.”
The Lady Statesmen will have a young team this year with just one senior — Brittany Roberts — on the team.
One player that will be expected to help lead the way is junior guard Brooke Rhodes, who was selected preseason All-GSC. Last season, Rhodes averaged 12.8 points and 4.3 rebounds a night. She also shot 35 percent (42-of-120) from 3-point range and 39.9 percent (125-of-313) from the floor. Sophomore forward Rhandi Ball and sophomore center Seneca Walton are two solid players that are returning from last season. Ball averaged 5.9 points and 5.4 rebounds a game last year, while Walton averaged 4.9 points and 3.6 rebounds a contest. Sophomore guard Kenisha Henry, who played in 14 games last year before suffering an injury to end her season, will also be back. Roberts, a guard, was also a good player last year as she averaged 6.2 points per game.
One of the new players that has looked good so far is freshman guard Chelsey Rhodes. Rhodes, who is from Monticello, Ark. and was a standout at Monticello High School, scored 12 points for the Lady Statesmen against MVSU.
Midlick said he wants a hardworking team on offense and defense.
“I want them to be confident and aggressive on offense,” Midlick said. “Fast break and we’ll hopefully define what a good shot is for our players. If they have an open look and it’s early in the shot clock, that’s their shot to take it.
“Defensively, a lot of man-to-man,” Midlick added. “We will play some zone, but most of the time we’ll play man. We want them to give great effort on the defensive end. You can have nights where your offense is not going well, but you are going to stay in the game defensively.”
The Lady Statesmen will begin the basketball season on Monday when they host Selma University on Monday at 7 p.m. Delta State will begin conference play on Jan. 3 when the team travels to Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
The GSC has always been a tough conference year-in-and-year-out. Alabama-Huntsville, Valdosta State, West Alabama, North Alabama, West Georgia, Christian Brothers, West Florida and Shorter make up the rest of the conference. Alabama-Huntsville is the favorite to win the GSC.
Midlick said he is looking forward to the challenge of coaching in the conference.
“I’m excited to go through the conference and see what it’s about,” Midlick said. “It’s a newness for me. I’m really looking forward to it, and I know the players are.”