Ishee goes solo in search of players

Monday, April 9, 2007

The lone coach on the women's staff eyes post players.

A glance at the Southeast Missouri State women's basketball roster on the university's Web site shows a lot of returning players but currently just one coach.

John Ishee -- head coach.

That has made the recruiting process interesting.

"I'm kind of like one man fighting the crowd," Ishee said Sunday night, three days before the start of the spring signing period.

The Redhawks expect to receive one letter of intent on Wednesday. Players may sign through May 16.

Two players from Ohio signed letters of intent in the early signing period of Nov. 8 and agreed to stick with those commitments after B.J. Smith resigned as head coach.

Another player, 6-foot-1 power forward Kaitlyn Peddie from Australia, is on campus this spring.

"She's establishing a year of residency, and she will be eligible after the fall semester is over," Ishee said.

Peddie will help fill some of the void of Southeast's only departing seniors -- 6-2 Lachelle Lyles, who led the nation in rebounding this year with 17 per game; and 6-5 Joiceline Thesing, who was the tallest player in the program's history -- but Ishee has placed a priority on the post position in his recruiting.

"You can't replace a kid like Lachelle Lyles," Ishee said. "I'm working like a mad man, trying to get some post players. We were a young team, and that's going to be our salvation, This is a very resilient group of players."

The Redhawks went through a lot in the 2006-07 season -- namely Smith's suspension and later his firing, while the program remains the subject of an NCAA investigation that began 14 months ago. But they closed the season as OVC champions for the second straight year and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament. A loss to Oklahoma concluded the program's winningest Division I season at 24-8.

The team is expected to return leading scorers Sonya Daugherty (14.2 points per game), Missy Whitney (13.2 ppg), Tarina Nixon (11.0 ppg) and Ashley Lovelady (10.1).

But the departures include assistant coaches Jenni Lingor, a former Southwest Missouri State player who was in her first season, and Lisa Pace, who had been on the staff at Southeast for seven seasons, going back to coach Ed Arnzen.

"Coach Pace, from my understanding, is going back to Eastern Kentucky, back where she played," Ishee said.

That leaves two full-time vacancies -- Pace's and the post Ishee had before his promotion -- and that part-time spot that had been occupied by Lingor.

"My plate is pretty full right now," Ishee said.

Among the new arrivals for the program will be Tori Fite, a point guard from Perry High School in Massillon, Ohio, and guard/forward Lauren Sharpe of Tippecanoe High School in Tipp City, Ohio. They signed in November.

After Wednesday, Ishee expects to have three scholarships remaining to get back to 15.

The program last year was limited to 12 by self-imposed sanctions based on findings of violations in a preliminary report for the OVC done by The Compliance Group.

Ishee doesn't expect future sanctions to affect the scholarship limits.

"Based on what I've seen with other cases at other schools, I can't think of how we'd be hit any harder than what we saw with the self-imposed sanctions, unless there's a major violation I don't have a clue about," Ishee said. "I don't know how we could possibly be hit any harder."

As for the status of the NCAA investigation, "I haven't heard anything," he said. "I'll be happy when it's over and behind us."

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