Lady Eagles Officially Open 2007-2008 Basketball Season
“They’re out here working hard today,” said Cram. “They’re all excited and ready to play. I love their attitudes right now. Its fun, they’re working hard and I love the enthusiasm. As long as they’re working hard, things are going to go well.”
The Eagles focused primarily on fundamentals in the two-and-a-half hour practice, working on both sides of the ball.
“They’ve got to learn the team defense because we’ve got new people,” added Cram. “And then all the fundamental things from rebounding, taking care of the basketball, running the floor and timing.”
The Lady Eagles return 10 letterwinners from the 2006-2007 squad, including all five starters, while also welcoming three newcomers to the family.
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2007-2008 Georgia Southern Women’s Basketball Preview
Present is experienced leadership and charisma that continue to be a hallmark of the
Distinguished as Georgia Southern’s all-time winningest head coach and two-time Southern Conference “Coach of the Year”, head coach Rusty Cram embarks on his 12th season as the leader of the Lady Eagles, having already claimed a pair of SoCon regular season titles and several trips to the tournament finals.
Fresh talent combined with refined skill is standard.
The 2007-2008 team fields a skilled roster that returns ten letterwinners, including senior Tiffany Brown (Waxhaw, N.C.), who was named to the All-Southern Conference and the All-Tournament teams, and sophomore Carolyn Whitney (Duluth, Ga.), who earned “Freshman of the Year” honors.
A challenging schedule with tough competition is a given each season.
In the 2006-2007 season, the Southern Conference ranked 14th in the Ratings Percentage Index and saw three of its teams continue into post-season play in the NCAA and WNIT tournaments.
According to Cram, then, the thing that is so unique to the 2007-2008 Lady Eagles is its depth.
“I am more than ready for this team to settle into the success that they are capable of having,” said Cram. “We have been pushing hard for the past few years and we feel like for the first time in three or four years that we’re two-deep at every position, and that we’ve finally gotten back the depth going into the year. That’s what I’m excited about.”
The Lady Eagles return five starters, lose none from last year’s starting lineup, and welcome three newcomers to the family. Depth, as the underlying element, is something that Cram sees as a key toward bringing out the best in his team and reaching its full potential, both individually and collectively.
“Competition is the best thing in the world for these kids to practice everyday,” said Cram. “And when you’ve got somebody that’s pushing you and your job, it pushes you harder because you don’t want to give it up. You don’t want a day to go by that somebody else has a chance to excel and go by you. To be able to put two teams out on a court that on any given day in practice when I can flip a coin to see who can win, because I’m not going to be able to distinguish pretty much from day to day no matter what 10 we put out there, that’s exciting to me as a coach. It’s where we used to be and we’re finally back there. I’m just ready for some stability in that regard and I think from there we can pick up where we left off.”
Expected to bear a majority of the ballhandling duties will be sophomore Carolyn Whitney, who last year averaged 9.5 points (second on the team), 3.1 rebounds, and a team-best 3.4 assists per contest. She will also be looked upon for composure at the foul line as she led the league in free throw percentage at 84.5 percent (82-97) and was among the nation’s best in free-throw shooting, frequently ranking in the top 30 and topping off at No. 19.
“Carolyn will certainly be key and we feel very comfortable,” said Cram. “I can guarantee you that nobody else on the team has worked harder then she has. I’m very pleased and proud of what she has accomplished to this point.”
Senior Tiffany Brown, a key scorer for the Lady Eagles during her career is expected to be a top-scorer for the squad. Brown finished the 2006-2007 season first on the team in scoring average (15.1) and third in rebounds (4.6). Her scoring average was fourth best in the conference while shooting the league’s ninth best percentage from the free throw line.
“Shawnda Atwood (
Atwood returns for her final year after finishing the 2006-2007 season second on the team in rebounds (5.0) and third in scoring (8.7).
Adding depth to the guard position are juniors Ashley Melson (
“We have a blend of Ashley Rivens and Ashley Melson that can come in and fill in at point guard with some experience,” said Cram. “But we want to get them out there on that two and three wings and let them play into their games. That’s where they’re stronger, when they’re not having to run that point guard position.”
“Then we have Elise Whitney (
“We also have Nya Daley (
“Jamie is a point guard we brought in to give maybe Carolyn some relief time this year and we will expect her in the days ahead to push for more playing time,” said Cram. “We feel like
“You’ve also got some other swing players in there in Jessica Geiger (
“So the guards, we feel very comfortable and confident going in,” concluded Cram. “I definitely think it’s our strength that people are going to key right off the bat.”
From outside to the inside game, the Lady Eagles have four post players that will create balance in both the offensive and defensive game.
Seniors Chequilla Jessie (
“Chequilla really came around the last month of the season,” said Cram. “I think she had a good tournament run. So as long as we can keep her in her game, where she produces in certain range, then she’s going to be fine. We’re certainly going to look to draw some strength from her inside.”
“Christa is looking for another break out year, and we’re looking for some steady minutes from her.”
Sophomore J'Lisia Ogburn (
“We feel like by the second half of this season J’Lisia should really be turning a major corner,” said Cram. “She’s very athletic, kind of a throw-back-of-the-old-days type post player for us when we were successful in the past. So she has a chance to be pretty good.”
Burger, having earlier played a season at
“Ashley’s a very hard working young lady that we’re tickled to death to have on our ball club this year,” said Cram. “She is very steady. Whoever plays ahead of her, it’s going to be pretty tough because she works them pretty hard. So she’s a very, very good, solid all around player that will give us great practice minutes.”
Such is the depth of the Lady Eagle roster.
Unique also is Cram’s coaching staff that includes three assistant coaches who have sported the Lady Eagle Blue and White in each of the last three decades. Inducted into the GSU Hall of Fame in 1993, assistant coach Regina Days-Bryan ranks as one of the greatest basketball players in GSU history. After finishing her playing days on the hardwood (1984-88), Days-Bryan joined the coaching staff in 1997 a year after Cram was hired as head coach.
New this year to the Georgia Southern coaching staff, but no stranger to the coaching ranks, is Mary Perry, who was a four-year letterwinner for the Lady Eagles from 1995-1999. Prior to joining the GSU staff, Perry served as assistant coach at USC Aiken and Seton Hall, seeing much success in both programs.
Assistant coach Lee DuBose, who made it into the school record book in several shooting categories, played for the Lady Eagles from 2003-2006, and returns to the sidelines for her second season on the coaching staff.
With the unique blend of experience and youth in a deep roster, head coach Rusty Cram and the Lady Eagles have goals set in place.
“Our biggest goal is for us to come together as a team and for everybody to understand their role on this basketball team that they hold each other accountable for their role and that they all blend, come together as one with the same common purpose,” said Cram.
“That’s for our basketball team to be the best team in every sense of the word that it could possibly be on and off the court.”
“I want them to come out and play hard, set their expectations high, and then go try to reach those expectations and to work hard and good things will happen.”
- Category: Women's Basketball
- Published on Saturday, 13 October 2007 00:06