The Missouri State Lady Bears hosted media day on Tuesday in order to share their thoughts on the upcoming season.
Head coach Amaka “Mox” Agugua-Hamilton spoke about how she feels about her team, saying she is “very confident in where they can go.” This week, the Lady Bears were ranked 24th in the AP preseason polls released Nov. 9.
“It’s great to be ranked, no matter when it is… we celebrate all those small victories,” Mox said. “At the end of the day, the goal is to stay ranked.”
Alongside Mox, three seniors stepped to the podium including Brice Calip, Elle Ruffridge and Abby Hipp, along with junior Jasmine Franklin.
After listening to each member of the Lady Bears squad speak, here are the 5 biggest takeaways from the day:
1. Abi Jackson is going to play (sometime) this year
As the Abi Jackson saga continues to unfold, Mox confirmed Jackson will be eligible to play at some point during this season.
“Abi will be eligible at some point this year. So, she might be immediately eligible or she will join us (early in December),” Mox said.
Jackson transferred to Missouri State in December 2019 following a two year stint with Auburn. She is currently waiting to see if the NCAA will release her to play before the end of the fall semester.
2. A bigger target on their back is not a big deal
The Lady Bears are entering a season with expectations through the roof. The nationally ranked squad is picked to finish first in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“We're used to having a target on our back everywhere we go, so being ranked is just a bonus,” preseason all-MVC selection Jasmine Franklin said.
The Lady Bears will be tested early as they take on Florida Gulf Coast and No. 12 Maryland in their first two games.
3.The non-conference schedule is finalized, mostly
Officially, as of right now, the Lady Bears’ number of non-conference games totals three. That will not be the case as Mox said the non-conference schedule is 90% complete. Most likely, it will include between 4-6 games.
“Right now I see it as finalized, but we’re waiting on one more contract before we can release (the schedule),” Mox said.
According to Mox, the schedule will include multiple home games at JQH Arena where the university has set the “COVID-19 Capacity” at 4,000 fans. This will include a home game Dec. 7 against Lincoln, another Dec. 19 against South Dakota State, and potentially others.
4. The Lady Bears roster is DEEP
This is not really the biggest surprise on a reigning conference championship team that is returning 10 players, but all the players that spoke expressed the feeling that every player on the team had a substantial role.
“Managing playing time is going to be difficult because we have so many options,” Mox said. “We have a lot of players ready to step up at any time and have a lot of combinations of lineups we can play.”
Mox went on to say that she believes the depth and maturity has shown in the team’s second year under her system. Mox said she believes that will aid the Lady Bears in their early season challenges.
5. The Lady Bears are hungry
Perhaps the most used phrase from Tuesday’s press conference was “unfinished business.” That is the shared feeling of the Lady Bears’ squad after an abrupt end to last year's stellar season. The women’s season was cancelled just prior to the beginning of the postseason.
“We didn’t get a chance to finish our great season, but at the same time we didn’t dwell on it,” Calip said. “It was kind of a motivator, like oh, we have unfinished business here.”
Combine the abrupt end to last year's season with the extended time off campus and unorthodox summer for the Lady Bears, and it’s easy to see why the team is foaming at the mouth in anticipation for their first game.
Without question, hopes are high for the Missouri State Lady Bears. If media day showed one thing, it is that the locker room is full of players who are hungry to get back on the court. The Lady Bears will first be in action at the #BeachBubble Showcase at Florida Gulf Coast University beginning Nov. 27.