Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Daily Press talks women's basketball

No one can accuse the Newport News Daily Press of not being on the ball when it comes to women's hoops. Award-winning columnist David Teel leads off the paper's season preview coverage with a look at the major transition facing area programs Old Dominion, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Division III national third-place finisher Christopher Newport:

The Captains, Lady Monarchs, Cavaliers and Hokies have new coaches. Two have never coached a women's game. The other two replaced icons who had been on the job for a combined 58 years. Suffice to say, Jon Waters, Karen Barefoot, Joanne Boyle and Dennis Wolff don't lack for challenges. 

Breakdowns of  the paper's coverage-area programs follow:

What is the team's greatest strength? All four of the team's top scorers from last season — senior guard Ariana Moorer, sophomore guard Ataira Franklin, senior forward Chelsea Shine and junior guard China Crosby — are back this season. U.Va. was good at getting to the free-throw line (led ACC with 826 attempts last season) and making them (70 percent; third in ACC).

What is the best-case scenario? Tech doesn't have any returning scorers that averaged double figures last season, but Fenyn (9.4 ppg) showed promise. If Evans and Montgomery can grow into full-time starting roles, and expanded minutes, they could develop into offensive threats in the low post. Getting easier looks at the basket could help Tech stay competitive in the ACC.

What's the best-case scenario? Lewis (12.1 ppg. 7.8 rpg) and Buchan anchor the middle, junior JoNiquia Guilford (4.7 ppg) and redshirt soph Becca Allison (2.5 ppg) improve, and the newcomers contribute at both ends of the floor. The most impressive recruit thus far has been 5-8 Michelle Brandao from Portugal, who has international experience, sees the floor and knows how to play. Scrappy freshman point guard Ashley Betz-White complements Brandao, and 5-11 freshman Tiffany Minor has all-court ability. Defensive hustle and energy compensate for offensive shortcomings, and ODU finishes top-four.

How far will the Lady Pirates go this year? As far as Jericka Jenkins takes them. Jenkins, HU's dynamo 5-foot-4 point guard, led Hampton with 13.4 points per game and ranked second in the nation with 7.2 assists per game. Jenkins is durable and determined but undersized against almost every opponent, and her pell-mell style of play leads to a lot of breath-holding for HU fans.

What's the conference outlook? Surprisingly positive. Though W&M was picked to finish ninth, an upper-half finish is possible. Though Delaware and Elena Delle Donne are favored, the conference appears to be more balanced and competitive, 1-thru-12. The Tribe has more pieces and versatility than Taylor has ever had, with the capability to play big, small and all phases in between.

Who's the next Chelsie Schweers? In short, no one. Schweers, who averaged 25.6 points per game, rewrote the CNU record books, graduating as both the school's all-time leading scorer and the second-leading scorer in Division III history. Two other seniors are also gone, leaving a cast — led by Kimmy Hopkins (6.4 ppg) and Lauren Gural (6.1 ppg) — who is optimistic about what they can do together.

THE BUZZ: An extremely balanced Lady Builders squad will take the floor after losing one of its top five scorers from a team that had seven players average from seven to almost 11 points per game last year.  Sophomore Courtney Collins is the leading scorer from last year as she earned USCAA Honorable Mention All-American honors averaging 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. 

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