Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dribbles and bits on Richmond, VCU, George Mason and more from A10 media day

Atlantic 10 media day was earlier this week, giving LadySwish a chance to sit down with the league's coaches including our own -- Michael Shafer, Marlene Stolling and Nyla Milleson. Before we share some updates from them, we stray to give a special shout out to first-year Duquesne coach Dan Burt, who confessed he's a regular reader of LadySwish. Now that's pretty cool given that the word "Duquesne" is rarely used in this blog (he is a good buddy of Kenny Brooks and wishes the Dukes well this season), as do we, by the way.

Also nice to meet Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley, also a LadySwish reader who takes pride in her Richmond roots.

Gen Okoro
Now onto some business:

A healthy Okoro? Richmond's Genevieve Okoro is getting there but not there, Shafer said. It was almost a year ago
when the springy forward suffered a season-ending ACL injury against Wichita State six games into the season. Prior to the injury, Okoro averaged 10.3 ppg and 11 rpg with four double-doubles. . Okoro has only just been cleared for full contact and wears a brace that rides up her left leg.

"I don't think today Gen is 100 percent, but there's nothing of concern that is going to prevent her from getting there," Shafer said. "The biggest thing is confidence. Gen needs to fall down to realize she can get back up."

Okoro is 26 rebounds shy of the 500 mark.

Also from the Spiders: No word yet whether senior starter and leading rebounder Becca Wann will return. Picked as a third-team A10 preseason selection, Wann saw her soccer career end prematurely due to a concussion sustained Aug. 23. The multitude of concussions forced the Richmond medical staff to decide it was unsafe for her to continue playing that sport. Shafer is awaiting word about the future of her basketball career.

Speaking of Wann, quite the compliment goes to freshman Olivia Healy, the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year, who led her Reading High School team to 48 straight wins and a state title her junior year. Shafer calls "Liv" a combination of Wann and Abby Oliver, among the program's most decorated players. The 5-11 Healy "can score in a variety of ways," Shafer said. "She can rebound, and she doesn't mind being physical, which can be hard at times for a freshman."

Can't wait to see her!

Over at the Siegel Center: Big things expected from Robyn Parks, the leading scorer in the A10 (18.7 ppg), who is 131 points shy of a career 1,000. Parks is a first-team preseason A10 selection.

"She still has a lot to prove," said Stollings, in her second year coaching the Rams. "We talk a lot about legacy; she wants to leave one at VCU. I think this has gone beyond her wildest dreams about how good she can be, but that's a credit to her and her work ethic."

As for the newcomers ...: The Rams have plenty -- eight of them (Auburn transfer Chadarryl Clay won't be eligible until the 2014-15 season). Stollings is expecting many to contribute early, including 4-star recruit Camile Calhoun, a 6-foot guard from Bowie, Md.

"Camille has potential to be really good in this conference," Stollings said, who added that freshman guard Monnazjea Finney-Smith has been solid, while freshmen Keira Robinson and Ashlee Mitchell could see significant minutes at point.

Among those not back: Kaneisha Atwater, who committed to Old Dominion initially and sat out a year before playing last season at VCU. Atwater initially announced she was going to a Florida junior college in July only to be signed by Florida Gulf Coast three weeks later. Atwater petitioned the NCAA to avoid sitting out the 2013-14 season, but was denied on Oct. 15, according to a story in the Naples News. The school is appealing again on behalf of Atwater, who transferred to be closer to her 19-month-old son, Andarious.

Kind of cool: Stollings' love affair with high scoring offense dates back a ways. She holds the state's high school scoring  record in Ohio with 3,514 points. That would be 857 more than LeBron James amassed during his high school career.

A new George Mason: It will be a Patriots team with a new look under first-year coach Milleson, whose team will benefit immensely from Georgetown transfer guard Taylor Brown, who earned multiple player-of-the-year honors coming out of Bishop McNamara in 2011, and Georgia Tech transfer Sandra Ngoie, a 6-1 forward from Sweden with international playing experience.

"Those two are our glue," Milleson said, calling Brown a quiet leader and Ngoie a potential mismatch.

Two additional transfers, Jasmine Jackson (Georgetown) and Kristi Mokube (Florida State) will be eligible to play during the 2014-15 season.

Sidelined: Milleson said redshirt junior guard Christine Weithman will not play the 2013-14 season due to injury. Weithman also missed the 2012-13 season but will remain on the roster. Milleson said Weithman's future with the team is uncertain given her health. ... Annie Lawler of South Kingstown, R.I., is no longer with the team, declared medically unable to play, Milleson said. Lawler, who redshirted as a freshman and appeared in four games before injury as a sophomore, remains at George Mason and will study abroad in Australia for the spring semester.

Home sweet home: Milleson said Fairfax has become home after so many years of living in the Midwest. The Kansas State graduate who coached six years at Missouri State noted, "We just bought some Wizards season tickets and I went to several Mystics games this season. My kids are going to a Redskins game in a couple of weeks, and we're become Metro experienced!

Speaking of ...: George Mason and the Mystics, former George Mason coach Jim Lewis, also a former Mystics assistant, is the interim head coach at Georgetown.

I know your mom! Fordham's  Gaitley (who compiled a 116-63 record coaching at Richmond from 1985-91) has a kid on her roster named Briana Jordan, a 5-6 junior guard eligible this season after transferring from Tennessee Tech in 2012. Crazy thing is Gaitley coached Briana's mom, Pam, a Hall-of-Famer at Richmond. Pam Jordan is second on the Spiders' all-time scoring list and a two-time CAA Player of the Year (1989, 1990). BTW, Briana's dad is Brian Jordan, who played football with the Atlanta Falcons and baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves.

Another Stipanovich: She's Steve's daughter (yep, Indiana Pacers Steve) and Sadie Stipanovich is also a 6-3 freshman center at St. Louis.  Coach Lisa Stone said Sadie, who excels at volleyball, didn't decide she wanted to play basketball at the collegiate level until her junior year at Westminster Christian High. Initially, Stone was recruiting Sadie's cousin Sydney, now at Penn. "Sadie ended up being someone we fell in love with because we see her upside," said Stone, who said the freshman is battling for a starting position.

Foreign tour: When asked if his team's trip to Italy in August had an impact, Dayton coach Jim Jabir quipped, "It helped me figure out where I'm going to retire."

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