Friday, November 13, 2015

Tech's Hicks, Mason's Bell among next wave of stars

A look at some of the newcomers poised to make significant contributions on Division I teams across the state:

It’s usually risky to hand Division I point guard duties to a true freshman, but as Old Dominion assistant – and Hicks’ former high school coach - Jermaine Woods pointed out – Virginia Tech's Chanette Hicks isn’t your typical freshman. The ex-Maury High star figures to inject pace and creativity into a Hokies offense that bogged down repeatedly a year ago, while also providing a more effective counter to the pressure defenses that tormented Tech throughout the 2014-15 campaign. That she’ll be surrounded by veterans should help Hicks’ development, as should the fact that she’ll be sharing the backcourt with sharpshooter/former point guard Vanessa Panousis. Now no one should expect Hicks to run the team flawlessly from the jump. But if she can adjust reasonably quickly, these Hokies could be a handful (finally, right?).  

By the way, from our “Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That” Department, Hicks is the only member of the Hokies’ projected starting five that was born in the United States. Panousis and Hannah Young are Australians, Taijah Campbell is Canadian and Regan Magarity hails from Sweden. No truth to the rumor that the Hokies warm up to the strains of “We Are The World.”

Hicks isn’t the only rookie point guard being handed the keys right away, as Old Dominion’s MaKayla Timmons and Radford’s Jen Falconer appear set to earn starts today, too. Timmons caught our eye during ODU’s exhibition game when she snapped off a three-quarters court pass that had us exchanging “Did you see that?” expressions with Lady Monarchs play-by-play voice Doug Ripley. This doesn’t make her the next Magic Johnson. But man, it was one heck of a pass.

Meanwhile, the Roanoke Times reports that the addition of Falconer, a pass-first point guard, will allow All-Big South performer Aisha Foy to slide over to off-guard after a succession of injuries left the Highlanders shorthanded at that position.

At George Mason, much of the preseason talk has centered on scoring machine Taylor Brown (understandably) and the bounty of talented transfers. But don’t sleep on rookie forward Chinyere Bell, who put up monster numbers in high school and a double-double in her lone college exhibition game.

We’re equally excited to check out Richmond’s Tuuli Menna, a 6-1 forward from Finland. Word is she’s a highly skilled performer, which makes her ideally suited to the way the Spiders play (at their best) under coach Michael Shafer. It may take a little while, but when Menna gets comfortable with the American college game, watch out.

Others to keep an eye on….

It was only an exhibition game, but Old Dominion first-timer Gianna Smith performed with such confidence and self-assuredness it was as though she’d been in the program for years…Longwood’s Eboni Gilliam, a junior college transfer, should give the guard-oriented Lancers the type of physical rebounding presence they haven’t had in years…Not sure where Virginia Tech’s Kelly Koshuta will fit in, but given that ESPN has her as a national Top-35 recruit, she should fit in somewhere….The same is true of Virginia’s Mone Jones, the most acclaimed of the Cavaliers’ much-needed frontcourt recruits…Hampton’s collection of newcomers includes two pint-sized guards in K’lynn Willis and Dejane “Snoop” James. Willis has drawn praise from coach David Six during the preseason, while James is already first-team All-Nickname…JMU rookie center Kayla Cooper-Williams grabbed 11 rebounds in the Dukes’ exhibition…Norfolk State forward Siobhan Beslow, a graduate transfer from La Salle, was a strong rebounder in the rugged Atlantic 10, so she figures to handle herself on the boards quite nicely in the MEAC.

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