Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A big year for Jazmon, who's not back and JMU schedule details, all from Coach Kenny Brooks

While Kirby and Nikki have moved on, there's still plenty of reason to be optimistic about the 2014-15 version of James Madison. We caught up with Kenny Brooks, who's in the middle of a move to a new house, and he shared some thoughts.

First, we asked about the move and Brooks admitted he's an HGTV junkie (all this time we thought he was watching hoops . . .). He's lived in Harrisonburg 17 years, and this is his fourth move with a fifth to follow shortly. The old house sold in two days and the Brooks family is in temporary housing, looking to build with an eye toward downsizing. "As long as I have my man cave, I'm OK," he said. Remember, in addition to wife Chrissy, Kenny shares his digs with daughters Kendyl, Chloe and Gabby.

As for the the Duke women, we asked who's had the best summer, and of course, he's impressed by all, offering these specifics on a few.  "At the top it has to be (Jazmon) Gwathmey," he said. "Her work ethic is on par with the Nikkis and the Kirbys and the Dawns and the Tameras."

JMU fans will love to hear about her developing three-point shooting prowess (she was 10-of-33
from behind the arc last season). "If Dawn and Kirby are 1 and 1A, she's probably B," Brooks said. "We had a workout this spring, which was probably one of the most impressive showcase performances I've ever seen."

Brooks had her attempt 25 treys after a workout.

"She made 23 of them," he said. "She's gotten stronger. She's put on some weight. She probably weighs 168, 170. I'm really excited about what's she's going to be able to do this year."

On Precious Hall: "She's has been tremendous, taking more of a leadership role. I think she's going to be a little bit more off the ball this year because of (Angela) Mickens' role. I think she's going to have a fantastic year as well."

On Toia Giggetts: "She has really blossomed as a player here so much so that we've gone out recruiting based on Toia's performance. As she's an undersized post player, normally, I would have been hesitant to take them, but now we compare them to Toia, and if they compare relatively, we think they can do it. She's probably going to be more of a go-to player than last year."

Look for 6-2 sophomore forward Da'Lishia Griffin to gain minutes. "She came on tremendously in February. She actually broke the rotation a little bit and played over a couple of kids. We went with her because she's got a high basketball IQ, tremendous hands, soft touch around the basket and rebounds well. She needed to get in shape, and it took her a while. It was very reminiscent of Toia's freshman year."

They have newbies -- freshmen 6-foot forward Carley Brew, 5-10 guard Hailee Barron and 5-7 guard Candice Williams -- but they are likely to play behind a pretty experienced group, even with the loss of Burkholder and Newman.

On a side note, 6-2 Beverly Ogunrinde (who averaged a double-double for Pallotti High in Laurel, Md., is not on the roster, going the junior college route in New York instead, a mutual decision, Brooks said. Senior Crystal Ross is also not back, focusing on academics with plans to graduate in May. (We noted in an earlier post that Amani Tatum has transferred to Manhattan College and incoming transfer Allysia Rohlehr has opted not to play college ball due to number of concussions.)

All this talk of players makes us anticipate the season and Brooks gave us a peek at the schedule, which includes a home opener against UCLA, St. Bonaventure, American, Pitt, Maryland (in Puerto Rico where they'll have Houston, too), Richmond, Ohio, Hampton and Vandy before the CAA slate.

Closing it off, we asked about Kirby and Nikki, kids Brooks has known since they were 10. The future looks fun for both. Kirby is set to play in Italy for Italian A1 League based in Orvieto (she'll love the shopping), and Nikki, on the JMU staff as assistant director of operations, is going to sit alongside David Taylor for Dukes broadcasts. Nikki will be doing color, a good fit for her zany personality. (Also look or rather, hear her voice for "Inside the Huddle" on the JMU website.)

One more question, Coach? Is it time to tip off the season yet? Can't wait to see these Dukes!

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