The Lady Bisons basketball team is going to surprise both fans and opponents this season with their new style of play.
Coach Frank Bennett admits his team won’t be the most athletic in the Atlantic Sun Conference, but they will be playing a more up tempo brand of basketball both offensively and defensively. As a result of the change in playing style Bennett opened practice of his 30th season at the helm of the Lady Bisons in a different way. Borrowing a page from football teams, he put his team through two practice sessions Saturday during fall break.
“We had a full day of basketball on Saturday,” said Bennett. “We got to a lot of work on our offense. And we have worked a lot on our base defense.
“Everybody is working hard. Everyone has a great attitude. Everyone is competing in practice.”
The players appear to like the faster pace of the offense and are responding to the challenge.
“They like to play fast and we want them to play fast,” said Bennett. “The challenge has been shifting gears when the shot is not there. We have been working a lot on how to seamlessly get into our offense after we have recognized on the break that the quick shot is not going to be there.
“We are doing things more aggressively on defense. We have changed some things there to make us different.”
Bennett would like to see his Lady Bisons get a great shot in the first 10 seconds of the possession. If the shot is not there he wants them to be patient and work for a quality shot.
“It’s a lot about awareness, recognition and making the appropriate moves,” said Bennett.
Bennett has found it easy to spread praise around the court. Junior guard Jenna Bartsokas, sophomore center Clair Waggener and sophomore center Brittany Duerk have been standouts. But junior wing Valerie Bronson has shown the most improvement among the veterans.
“Valerie has made a big jump from last season to where she is now,” said Bennett. “I think what we are doing offensively is a good fit for her. It opens up chances for her to post up some and drive to the basket.
“She is playing harder. She has a better attitude. She is making a difference.”
Bennett is also impressed with what he is seeing from sophomore guard Anna Bowers.
“Anna has been pretty aggressive offensively,” said Bennett. “One of her biggest things is being too hard on herself and letting mistakes get to her. She has to work on that. But I am pleased with how she is doing.”
Freshman wing Morgan Faulkner has been one of the better freshman players in practice.
“Our freshmen are trying to make the jump from the pace of a high school game and the things they have always done to things they have never done much,” said Bennett. “I see progress there.”
Bennett does like one problem the team has presented. With the quality of the depth on the roster this season he is going to have to make some difficult choices about the use of his personnel.
“We are going to have hard decisions to make about who is going to start and who is going to play,” said Bennett. “It’s not like there is a big drop off in a lot of places.”
Bennett and his team are motivated by the Atlantic Sun preseason poll. The coaches ranked the Lady Bisons 10th in the 11-team league.
“I don’t like to see us in that position,” said Bennett. “I think last year’s record is a big part of it. I believe we will have the chance to surprise a lot of people with our pace of play and style of play.”