Sideline View by Dale McKee

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Jeremy McLain blasted a grand slam in his first official action as athletic director at Southern Mississippi. McLain, a former All-American pitcher at Delta State, reached out and hired Hattiesburg native Jay Ladner this past week to lead the Golden Eagles basketball program. The Ladner name is well known in Mississippi basketball circles. Jay Ladner has known his coaching calling since he was in elementary school. Ladner coached high school basketball for 21 years before taking the leap to junior college basketball. He moved to Jones County Junior College where in his second year he won the first and only national championship for a Mississippi JUCO in 2014. The next week he was hired as the head coach at Southeastern Louisiana and took a struggling program to the NIT basketball tournament and won a conference title during his five years in Hammond. Ladner is very familiar with USM as he was a player under M.K. Turk and played on the Golden Eagles 1987 NIT championship team. His father was a hall of fame high school basketball coach at Picayune High School before joining the USM faculty in the early 1970s. I have known for several years that one day Jay Ladner would be leading the USM program. Why? For one, Jay Ladner wins, and, second, he bleeds black and gold. It seems like a perfect fit for both parties.

The National Football League college draft is this weekend in Nashville. The first round will be held on Thursday. Several college players from MSU and Ole Miss could go very high in the draft. Montez Sweat of MSU is definitely a first round pick while another first round hopeful could be his Bulldog teammate Jonathan Abram. The best of the Mississippi class is State’s Jeffery Simmons. Unfortunately for him, he suffered an ACL injury, and the draft experts are not sure where Simmons will land. He was probably a top ten choice before the injury and will be a standout at the next level. Ole Miss could have two first round picks in D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown. Rebel Greg Little could go late in the second round while MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and Brandon native Gardner Minshew, who played quarterback at Washington State, both are considered late round selections.

The Saints went for it all last year in the 2018 draft trading 2019 picks to fill needs. It almost worked in a Super Bowl berth. The Saints have a second round pick and a fifth round pick to go along with two picks in the sixth and seventh rounds.

USM swept Charlotte to move into a first place tie with Florida Atlantic in conference USA standing. The Golden Eagles (24-13,14-4) will travel to Middle Tennessee this weekend before hosting Ole Miss on Wednesday, May 1. One year ago, Mississippi State baseball was hosting Super Bulldog Weekend and the baseball Dogs’ were only 5-10 in SEC play. They were welcoming a top ranked team in Arkansas to Starkville. MSU turned their season around with a sweep of the Razorbacks that weekend. Well, this past weekend home standing Arkansas turned the tables and swept the Bulldogs (32-9, 10-8). Ole Miss (27-14, 10-8) lost 2-of-3 at Auburn and now is tied with MSU and Auburn for fourth place in the SEC West.

Bay Springs native Hill Denson will be inducted into the Mississippi Community College Sports Hall of Fame this week. Denson, longtime baseball coach at USM and for the past two decades at Belhaven, is a member of seven halls of fame. His college coaching record prior to this season was 1,058-774-2.

Odds & Ends

Jackson State baseball enters the week on a 13-game winning streak.

Mississippi native Nell Fortner was named head basketball coach at Georgia Tech.

Contact Dale at ddmckee18@yahoo.com