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Ladner lays solid foundation for successful season

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Lion athletics welcomed Jay Ladner, the new head basketball coach, in early April. With a coaching staff behind him and several additions to the roster, the men’s basketball program hit the ground running with plans to bring a big change to Lion Basketball. The team entered the offseason with emphasis on strength, conditioning, weight training and plans to develop a national championship program. 


The Lion’s Roar: What do you hope to accomplish during your first season? 

Jay Ladner: What we really want to do is lay the groundwork and foundation for greater success. We want to change the culture of the men’s basketball program here. We want to think big, and our goal is to win the national championship. We’re realistic and realize that there’s some steps and some hurdles before we can get to that point, but that’s what we’re shooting for, and that’s what we want to establish. What we want to do is first of all change the mindset, not to be satisfied with being a middle of the road Southland Conference team. We have to establish the process. Everybody would say, ‘Oh yeah, we want to do that,’ but there’s a process involved. The process is certainly taking the players and developing the players that we have at hand to the best players they can be, and then certainly recruiting better players, players that can help us achieve those goals. So [we’re] developing what we have and also [placing] emphasis on recruiting high quality student athletes. 


TLR: What challenges do you foresee and how do you plan to overcome them? 

JL: The biggest challenge that I’ve seen is changing the mindset. There’s a mindset that I’ve come across that seems to be associated with the men’s basketball program that there’s not a very high expectation. So changing that is certainly one of the biggest obstacle[s] I see, and that’s going to permeate everything else. 


TLR: Can you tell us about the new additions to the roster and what we can expect from them? 

JL: Derrick Millinghaus has started on and off for Ole Miss in the last couple of years, so he’s an SEC-caliber guard, and the fact that we can get someone of that caliber to transfer, that’s a big thing for us. He’s a better quality player than maybe we’re used to having. Now the downside of that is he’s got to sit out a year because of transfer rules, so we won’t have Derrick this year. 

Cedric Jenkins played right down here at Riverside Academy. It’s important for us to get local players, if we can, and he fits that mold. He comes from an outstanding high school program, which we hope to tap into in the future. He’s a great shooter, and he had a really good career at Southern Mississippi. Cedric will be able to play immediately. We have some other guys that y’all will be hearing from very soon that we’re very excited about. 


TLR: How important is it to not only recruit for this season, but have a solid program for the years and seasons to come? 

JL: We’re recruiting to try to win now, but we’re also recruiting for the future. It’s going to be a mixed bag of guys that are eligible to play right now and signing a culmination of transfers and high school players that will be in here where we can really build our program where we have players that have been in the program and returning every year. It’s a mixed bag. We want to win and we want to win now, but we also have to lay the foundation for the future. 


TLR: What are your expectations of your current team? 

JL: We’ve come up with a term called the Lion Legion. That’s what we’re going to encourage and refer to our students as. We will continue to touch base with every student organization that we have here on campus because in basketball, more than any other sport the home court advantage, because of the proximity of the fans to the court and the uniqueness of the different basketball facilities, it has the biggest impact on the game. It’s part of the student experience that for whatever reason has been missing. That’s a big thing to us to reach out to the student body and encourage them to become active vocal leaders of the Lion Legion, and we’re going to have all kind of promotions going on to encourage our student body; we really need our student body to get behind them. We’re going to ask each student to attend a single game. If you don’t like what you’ve seen out there, and it’s not a fun experience, don’t worry about coming back [because] you’ve done what we’ve asked you to do. We feel by doing that we’ll encourage that culture and that excitement. 

TLR: Speaking on your current talent and the players you plan to recruit, what do you see as the biggest areas of potential? 

JL: Onochie Ochie is one of the great names in college basketball, double O. I think he’s got an opportunity to be a really good player, and JaMichael Hawkins, who’s going to be a senior. He can really shoot the ball and Josh Filmore, our returning point guard, has a lot of potential. There’s certainly a nucleus of players, and I’m certainly not leaving any of the other guys out. 


TLR: What has impressed you the most about Southeastern and being on campus? 

JL: So far just what’s impressed me the most is there’s two things. One is the hospitable, attitude and the graciousness of everybody has just been to make us feel at home has been overwhelming. It’s just like people had already knew us, and they have gone out of their way to welcome us here as a staff and our families. That has meant the world. The other thing is the attitude of wanting to have a good program. We’ve had great support from Coach Artigues and Dr. Crain. Obviously, there’s support in wanting to have a high quality program, and that’s exciting. We get an opportunity to try to build something, and they’ve given us the support that we need to try to do that, from facilities, which is already under renovation and the ability financially to hire a coaching staff worthy of the university; we’re excited about that. So those two things, the hospitality shown to us then just the commitment on the part of the school to have a high quality basketball program.

Jay Ladner

Courtesy of Public Information
New head men’s basketball coach Jay Ladner (above) spoke to The Lion’s Roar about the potential of returning players Onochie Ochie, JaMichael Hawkins and Josh Filmore, as well as promising transfers and incoming freshmen. 


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