Oct. 31, 2007
There have been expectations about past Lady Bisons basketball teams, but seldom, if ever, has there been so much anticipation.
The 2007-2008 team features a potentially potent mix of talent and experience. Back this season are seven players that averaged 10 or more minutes a game. Lady Bisons coach Frank Bennett is also welcoming what could prove to be his most athletic freshman class. But most intriguing is the return of three players who sat on the bench for either all or most of last season.
"Our intensity and speed in practice is so much better," said Bennett who is starting his 28th season as the Lady Bisons coach. "They are playing hard. They like each other. If we stay healthy we are looking for good things."
Bennett's team offers a great deal of depth with 14 players who can be counted on in game situations.
"We have depth and competition at all positions,' Bennett said. "This should be the most athletic team we have had in terms of speed and quickness. We have made a huge jump in t hat area.
"They pick up things fast. You introduce something to them and they get it pretty quickly."
Backcourt has depth
The Lady Bisons return one of the most experience backcourts in the Atlantic Sun Conference with senior point guard Catie Woods and senior No. 2 guard Dana Carrigan. Both played and started all 29 games last season with Woods leading the team with 32.9 minutes per game.
"Catie is a really good 3-point shooter," Bennett said. "She has been starting since she has been here so she has the experience. He can handle the ball. She is a good defender. We may even mix it up and use her as a two-guard sometimes. She is a solid guard.
"Dana is in her fifth-year with the program so she also has a lot of experience. She is more of a shooter. But she makes a lot of steals defensively. Hopefully, she is ready to play her best basketball."
"Toia is playing with a little more confidence and she is playing harder," Bennett said. "I think she is more comfortable with the system and what she can."
With those additions Bennett is hoping to cut down on the wear and tear on Woods and Carrigan.
"Catie and Dana have played 30-plus minutes per game the past couple of years which is more than we really wanted to do," Bennett said. "We have five guards who are playing well. Any of those five can play the No. 1 or No. 2 guard, though Dana is more of a No. 2. We feel really good about the guard spots."
Bartoskas is the second fastest player on the team behind Cree Nix,
"Jenna has good lateral quickness so she can do a lot of things defensively," Bennett said. "She is a very good shooter. She handles the ball well and has good vision. I think she can score from the guard spot and also run things.
Bowman was a late addition to the team, but she has been a pleasant surprise.
"Miaca has played against great competition at Mount Juliet High School that has been ranked at the top of the state in Class AAA. She plays hard and steady. She is solid defensively. She handles the ball very well. And she can knock down the open shot, too."
One of the players expected to be a big contributor on the wing is Tiffany Arnold, who played five games last season before having to set out as a medical red shirt. She started four of those games, averaging 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
"Tiffany is getting in shape and progressing," Bennett said. "She started out the season practicing full-scale, but she needs to get her speed back.
"She was in double figures in scoring in her last couple of games last season. She is real strong. She has some quickness. She is a good rebounder."
Junior Jillian Partin started the last 19 games last season, working her way into the starting five through relentless hard work and determination.
"She goes to boards hard and that helped her break into the lineup," Bennett said. "She is strong and tough. She is not afraid to mix it up in there.
"She is very good driver. I think she is getting better with her 3-point shot and she is using her left hand better."
Nix, the daughter of former University of Tennessee and NBA standout Dyron Nix, will play at either the No. 3 or No. 4 spot.
"She is our fastest player," Bennett said. "She has the best vertical jump on the team. She can really rebound. We expect her to be a very good rebounder and a very good shut-down defender.
"She has really been working a lot of on her shooting on her own. We are working on getting her lower so she can explode and drive to the basket. We think she can get a step and elevate and really cause some problems going to the basket."
Freshman Valerie Bronson is expected to play at the No. 3 spot this season.
"Valerie is a better 3-pointer shooter than we expected," Bennett said. "She is also good at driving the ball. She needs to work on her defense and passing, but she has a chance to be a good player this season."
The inside game
The inside positions are going to be the deepest for the Lady Bisons. Kaleigh Gossman, who sat out the entire season, and Miriam McAlister, who had double-doubles in points and rebounds in the only two games she played in, are both back.
"Having Kaleigh and Miriam back gives us some athletic taller players to go with our athletic smaller players from the freshman class and those we had coming back," Bennett said. "Kaleigh is a mobile 6-footer. She has tons of experience. She can shoot the medium jumper and can also move well around the basket.
McAlister played in two games last season, recording two double-doubles, an average of 11.5 points and 10 rebounds per game..
"Miriam is very versatile and can play a lot of places," Bennett said. `She is probably is the best post up player that we have. She is a really quick jumper. She can be a good rebounder for us.
"She will have a quickness advantage against most the players she is going to face at the No. 5 position. She will be littler under-sized at the post. We aren't going to station her in there all of the time. She can post, but she also can slash and she has also improved her 3-point shot."
Rollins is a threat offensively both inside and from 3-point range.
"Rollins is playing harder," Bennett said. "She has really worked on positioning and protecting the ball first. We have been trying to simplify her moves. We would rather she be better with a few moves instead of having a lot of moves.
"She has been good defensive rebounder in practice. She has shot a very good percentage from the 3-point line."
Davis made strides last season in a number of areas. She is expected to contribute off the bench in a number of areas.
Bennett is also working with Viehmann to simplify her game.
"Viehmann is playing stronger," Bennett said. "We are trying to develop her jump hook with a little more consistency."