Thursday, April 14, 2011

Reflection: George Mason

Scoring and assist leader Taleia Moton returns.
2010-11 season: 13-17, 7-11 in CAA; Lost in first round of the CAA Tournament to Georgia State
Who's leaving: Angelee LaTouche (4.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg), Brittany Poindexter (11.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Ashleigh Braxton (5 ppg), Brittany Eley (5 ppg)

Who's coming: Talisha Watts (6-2 F/C, Brooksville (Va.) High): Seminole District Player of the Year whose team achieved the top ranking in Group AA and finished with a 20-3 record and loss in the region to Spotswood. VHSCA AA honorable mention. Annie Lawler (6-0 F South Kingston (RI) High): Scored her 1,000th career point as a junior, Lawler was the stud player on a South Kingstown team depleted by graduation. South Kingstown was defeated by Woonsocket in the first round of the playoffs despite 26 from Lawler.; Rachel McNair (6-0 F, Nyack (NY) High): Became a 1,000-point scorer after only three years of varsity experience; NYSSWA All-State Fourth Team (10 teams are picked in Class A)

High point: Defeating Delaware 67-56 on Feb. 17, limiting Elena Delle Donne to 14 points in 40 minutes.

Low point: Beaten at home on Nov. 26 by Radford, former team of Jeri Porter and Taleia Moton. Patriots were outscored 31-9 in the final 10 minutes.

Program stock:  Trickling upward

The record isn't gaudy, but the progress is there. When Jeri Porter took over at George Mason three years ago, the Patriots were 4-26. Last year they improved to 10-20. This year's 13-17 mark included a series sweep of Delaware (Elena Delle Donne played in one of those games) and wins over Hofstra, Drexel and a four-point loss at Old Dominion.

A winnable first-round game in the CAA Tournament turned into a 68-64 loss and Porter said at the time that her teams needs to develop a maturity and consistency lacking for much of this season.

Three starters will depart, but the Patriots return scoring and assist leader Taleia Moton. Ninth in the CAA in scoring offense last season, George Mason needs production, and the trio coming in put up big numbers during acclaimed high school careers. Talisha Watts looks to be the most impressive of the bunch behind her all-arms, all-legs build that gives her a sizable wing span despite her slight frame. She led Lynchburg's Brookville High to a 20-3 mark and was recognized as Seminole District Player of the Year.

Porter describes Annie Lawler of South Kingtown (R.I.) High as "shooting the ball as well as any post player I've seen all summer." Rachel McNair also comes in as a 1,000-point scorer from high school.

We don't doubt that given the youth, the Patriots will still struggle offensively, at least at the start of next season. We'd like to see a banner senior year from Evelyn Lewis, a Hampton High star who transferred in from Penn State and scored 17 in her George Mason debut. The 6-3 center averaged just 4 ppg last year despite shooting a team-best 51 percent from the field. We like the way freshman Christine Weithman finished the season -- her 21 points against Northeastern in the regular-season finale was a career high -- and look for her to become a more consistent offensive threat as a sophomore. Weithman, the top free-throw shooter on the team, completed her career at Blake High in Silver Spring, Md., as the all-time leading scorer there.

The Patriots could also get a lift from Janaa Pickard, a 6-1 forward who led the team in blocks two years ago before missing last season with a knee injury.

We don't see the Patriots challenging for the league title as early as next season. We do see them challenging other teams in the CAA and moving in the right direction under a coach intent on rebuilding a program that was once in the upper half of the conference.

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