March 4, 2009
Mississippi State women''s basketball coach Sharon Fanning smiles as she flips through her players'' goal sheets.
The pages bring back memories of what players have listed as their team and individual goals and how they want to realize those dreams.
Going back nearly three years, Fanning comes to a sheet for then freshman Alexis Rack dated Sept. 11, 2006.
Rack wrote that she wanted to be freshman of the year and that she wanted to be the most improved defensive player.
On her next two sheets, Rack wrote she wanted to work harder at being more consistent and that she wanted to get better every day.
Rack''s ability to do those things helped her realize an unwritten dream Tuesday when she was one of eight players chosen first-team All-Southeastern Conference.
The 5-foot-7 junior guard from Franklin, La., is only the sixth player in program history to earn first-team All-SEC honors. The last was guard Tan White in 2005.
The Lady Bulldogs also made history.
Junior college transfers Chanel Mokango and Armelie Lumanu were named to the SEC''s All-Defensive team, marking the first time MSU has had three players honored on all-league teams in its history.
For Rack, the honor is extremely special because there have been so many people, coaches, and family members who have helped her get to this point.
"I never thought about it," said Rack, who was named to the SEC''s All-Freshman team in the 2006-07 season. "I hoped for it after my freshman year, but all I was thinking about was that I had to keep improving and keep getting better. This year, I really didn''t think about it."
Rack has played a key role in helping MSU (21-8, 8-6 SEC) earn the No. 6 seed for this week''s SEC tournament in North Little Rock, Ark. MSU faces No. 11 seed South Carolina at 9 p.m. Thursday (Fox Sports South).
Rack leads the team and ranks fifth in the SEC in scoring at 14.7 points a game. She also leads the team and ranks fifth in the league in assists, (4.4).
Rack led the SEC in the regular season in three-point field goals made per game (2.8) and ranks third in free-throw percentage (83 percent).
Earlier this season, Rack became the 15th member of MSU''s 1,000-point club and the school''s all-time leader in made 3-pointer. She is 13th on MSU''s scoring list with 1,095 points.
Fanning said Rack never wrote earning first-team All-SEC honors as one of her individual goals, but she said she remembers talking to Rack about what she would need to do to be recognized. She said Rack continues to do the little things that put her in elite company.
"I think you see her getting tougher and smarter," Fanning said. "To be named to first-team All-SEC is quite an honor for any individual. I am very, very happy for her and proud of her accomplishments."
Rack said she only was familiar with LaToya Thomas, a four-time All-SEC performer, and White. Tonnette Allen (1983), Kunshinge Sorrell (1987, ''88), and Sharon Thompson (1998) are the other MSU players who have earned first-team All-SEC honors.
When asked why she thought the SEC coaches had selected her to be on the first team, Rack said she hoped they saw she has been a consistent leader.
As a junior, she said she knew she had to step into that role this season. Her maturation became even more important after the team learned senior guard Marneshia Richard wouldn''t return this season after having knee surgery in the offseason.
"I think I am more of a vocal leader than I was last year," Rack said.
As a result, Rack has split time at the point guard and off guard positions. She feels playing both positions has given her a better feel for the team''s system and for the game.
Rack never imagined she would be in position to make history this season.
"It means a lot to me, especially since I come from a small town in Louisiana," Rack said. "It is something special to share with all of the people who have helped me get here."
Fanning referenced MSU''s victory against Alabama on Sunday to highlight how Rack has improved. She said Rack and sophomore guard Mary Kathryn Govero tweaked a half-court set, which allowed the team to set an extra screen and to make an extra pass to get Rack a better shot.
Fanning said Rack understands that she will reap the benefits when she works harder individually and works harder for the team.
"I am very, very proud of her progress and hope she continues to work and to lead in a way that you want any player in position for first-team All-SEC to lead your team," Fanning said. "I also want to let her know there is a heck of a lot ahead for her individually and for this basketball team."
Joining Rack on the first team are: Auburn''s DeWanna Bonner (SEC Player of the Year) and Whitney Boddie, Florida''s Sha Brooks and Marshae Dotson, LSU''s Allison Hightower, Vanderbilt''s Christina Wirth, and Ole Miss'' Bianca Thomas.
Thomas, a junior guard, is the 11th Rebel in school history to earn All-SEC first-team plaudits, and is the first since former Ole Miss All-American Armintie Price earned the distinction in 2007.
Thomas enters this week''s SEC Tournament tied for third in the SEC with 15.4 points per game. She has scored in double figures in 24 of Ole Miss'' 29 games this season.
"I am extremely happy for Bianca because she is most deserving of this award," Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner said. "Through hard work and dedication, she has emerged as one of our best offensive players. She carried us on her back all season and was without question one of the best players in the SEC this year."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.