Women's Basketball Opens Season at Home Friday
VIDEO: Preview interview with Coach Chris Vozab
STATESBORO, Ga. - A new chapter in the Georgia Southern women's basketball program has begun, and the 2012-13 edition of the Eagles hopes to make its own tradition, aspiring to equal the great teams of the storied past.
The 40th season of women's basketball at Georgia Southern opens Friday, Nov. 9, when the Eagles host Florida Atlantic in Hanner Fieldhouse. It will be the debut of head coach Chris Vozab and her coaching staff and the first chance for fans to watch the new-look team.
Many of the faces are the same as Georgia Southern returns 11 letterwinners and three of their top four scorers from last season. Though attrition is often the case in college athletics when a coaching change is made, Vozab began working with the returners on campus the day after she was hired. She and her staff, Lisa Jackson, Justin Phoenix and Carolyn Riley worked hard to re-recruit the current student-athletes as well as the incoming freshman signed by the previous staff.
"Our entire roster has demonstrated through spring workouts, summer conditioning and the preseason their commitment to the program and a will and desire to be successful," said Vozab. "Now, we have to channel that will and desire into competing with pride and executing on each play every time we step between the lines."
The new staff added one recruit to the roster in Briana Jones, a 6-foot-2 forward/center who transferred from James Madison and will sit out this season in accordance with NCAA rules. She will suit up next season as a sophomore in terms of eligibility.
The Eagles will run a motion offense with emphasis on being able to score inside and out and will play hard-nosed man-to-man defense stressing ball pressure, energy and finishing plays. Having to learn new schemes, new offensive and defensive philosophies and new terminology on both ends of the floor means the Eagles will be a work in progress.
"I'm encouraged with our progress so far," said Vozab. "Our goal is to improve each and every day so that we will be playing our best basketball in February and March, and there is no group I'd rather be with during this journey and process of elevating our program to where we want it to go."
A strength of the Eagles should be their versatility across the board but especially at the guard position. Returning senior Meredyth Frye is a good example of that and returns as the Eagles' leading scorer and rebounder, a distinction she has held for the last two seasons. She averaged 10.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 steals last year.
"Meredyth can do it all and has the potential to be an all-league player this season," said Vozab. "She is crafty with a high basketball IQ and always under control and balanced."
MiMi DuBose, GSU's second-leading scorer, returns as well. The junior averaged 8.9 points an outing and shot 34 percent from 3-point range, canning 44 triples.
"We knew MiMi could shoot," said Vozab, "but I've been impressed with her ability to defend and handle the ball as well. She is beginning to understand that she can help us in a variety of ways, even if her shot isn't falling on a given night."
Anna Claire Knight came in last season as a heralded recruit, who scored over 3,000 points in high school. She went through the ups and downs a lot of college freshman experience and was named to the SoCon All-Freshman team. She will look to improve on her scoring (5.8/gm) and rebounding averages (3.0/gm) in her sophomore campaign.
"Anna Claire has all the tools to be an all-league player," said Vozab. "As she gets more reps and becomes more comfortable in our offense, she will gain a better understanding of how and when her shots will come in our system. Our hope is that she will gain confidence and become one of our consistent scorers."
Ronnesha Smith provides speed, quickness and athleticism to the backcourt. The senior played in 28 of 30 games and averaged two points and 1.4 rebounds a contest.
"Ronnesha is long and athletic and a very good defender, especially on the ball," said Vozab. "She continues to work on improving her ball skills to increase her aggressiveness on the offensive end."
A trio of juniors, Lacie Dowling, Jordi Cook and Adrienne DeFilippis, also return for the Eagles. Dowling averaged 7.3 minutes in 28 games.
"Lacie has the potential to see major minutes at point guard," said Vozab. "She can handle the ball and is a very good shooter."
Cook played scored 2.7 points in 10 minutes of action in 27 contests. DeFilippis saw action in four contests.
"Jordi is a skilled shooter and has a very high basketball IQ. She is almost always in the right place on both ends of the floor," said Vozab. "Adrienne is a very good shooter, who has grown more aggressive throughout the preseason."
Georgia Southern is a little thinner at the post position in terms of returning veterans. The Eagles suffered a blow when injuries forced Briana Scott to end her playing career in the offseason. The senior will contribute to the team as a student assistant coach.
"As disappointed as we are for Briana and the team that she will not be able to be on the court this season, we are thrilled that she will continue to be a part of our program in a new role," said Vozab.
Juniors Aishya Wofford, Danielle Spencer and Brittney Benzio return for the Eagles. Wofford played in 20 games and averaged 2.9 points and 3.7 rebounds in 13 minutes a game.
"Aishya plays bigger than her height and certainly has the physical talent to help us in the post," said Vozab. "She is concentrating on developing more tools offensively as well as learning to play under control consistently."
Spencer played in all 30 games and made 12 starts a season ago. She averaged 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds a game.
"Danielle has demonstrated the ability to score around the basket," said Vozab. "She has a good shooting touch and feel around the basket and can also step out and knock down jump shots."
Benzio played 7.1 minutes in 23 contests and averaged 1.2 points and 1.4 rebounds a game.
"Brittney has a high basketball acumen and is a crafty player," said Vozab. "She has the ability to earn more playing time as she becomes more comfortable in our system."
NCAA rules permit Jones to practice with the team, which will help her learn the new system as well push her teammates to get better each day in workouts.
"Briana's biggest role this season will be pushing our post players in practice and playing the part of our opponents' best post player on the scout team," said Vozab. "She is long and athletic with excellent touch around the rim, and playing against her on a daily basis will make our post players better."
The freshman class contains two guards and two forwards. Kiki Rawls and Alexis Sams are the guards, while Maggie Davis and Sierra Kirkland, a local product from Statesboro High School, are the forwards.
They are adjusting to the pace and speed of the collegiate game, an arduous process for almost all freshmen, and all four have the ability to make contributions this season.
Rawls was a two-time all-district and all-area selection at Shoemaker High School in Killeen, Texas, while Sams averaged 19 points, five assists and four steals as a junior at Lake Brantley High School in Orlando, Fla. She missed her senior campaign with an injury.
"Kiki is tough-minded and very good defensively on the ball," said Vozab. "Alexis is a good shooter, who can handle the ball well. Both will challenge for playing time at point guard."
Davis averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists at as a senior Viera High School in Indialantic, Fla., and Kirkland averaged 12 points, nine boards and four assists at Statesboro High.
"Maggie is very versatile with good ball-handling skills and court awareness," said Vozab. "Sierra is extremely athletic, brings competitive fire and has worked hard to add to her offensive arsenal."
Two holiday tournaments and seven games against teams that finished the 2011-12 season with RPIs in the top-100 highlight the Georgia Southern women's basketball schedule.
A total of seven squads on the schedule played in the NCAA Tournament or WNIT a season ago. Defending Southern Conference champion Samford played in the "Big Dance," while Florida Atlantic, Stetson and James Madison were in the WNIT along with SoCon members Chattanooga, Appalachian State and Davidson.
James Madison (29) and league opponents Chattanooga (62), Appalachian State (63) and Davidson (88) all finished with NCAA RPIs in the top-100.
"Our scheduling philosophy is to test ourselves throughout the course of the season to find out what we do well along with what we need to work on, and the best way to do that is to challenge ourselves in game environments," said Vozab.
Davidson was picked to win the Southern Conference in the league's preseason coaches' poll, followed closely by Appalachian State, Chattanooga and last year's tournament champion Samford. The Eagles were slotted ninth in both the media and coaches polls.
"We are more concerned with where we finish than where we start," said Vozab. "We are building an identity to define who we are as a program and what it means to play Georgia Southern basketball. We will compete with pride every play, get better every day and begin to make our own tradition."
- Category: Women's Basketball
- Published on Thursday, 08 November 2012 10:23