Women’s basketball has a new look for the season

Guilford College women’s basketball junior guard Essence Abraham and head coach Stephanie Flamini talk on Feb. 26, 2017.//Photo by Andrew Walker/The Guilfordian

Guilford College women’s basketball team has reloaded the team with first-years. Head coach Stephanie Flamini brought in nine first-years to join the six returners from an excellent campaign last season.

The team returns to action after an impressive season where they won the Old Dominion Athletic Conference tournament and hosted an National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament game. The team finished with a 24-4 record overall, 14-2 in ODAC play.

The team was led by forward Anais Weatherly ‘17, who scored 13.7 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game and 4.1 steals per game. Weatherly was the star of the team, but she had a surrounding cast of guard Kate Clark ‘17, guard Amy Steller ‘17 and forward Heaven Walters ‘17 that helped the team to success.

This year’s team only has three players returning that played significant minutes for the team last year.

“They were really well-rounded players and were a big part of our team and why we were so successful last year, so it’s definitely going to take some rebuilding this year to replace them,” said sophomore guard Miracle Walters. “But, I feel like losing them kind of gives us a determination to work really hard to try and fill their shoes because we have a reputation to keep, and we just really want to have a successful season.”

Senior guard Lauren Ramsey is the only returning starter for the team and only senior on the team.  Last year, Ramsey averaged 10.6 points per game, third-best on the team. Junior guard Essence Abraham and Walters played significant time of the bench last year but will look to start this season. Not only does the team only have six returners, sophomore forward Addy Lemons is redshirting this season because of an injury. Ramsey is also injured, but is projected to be healthy for the start of the season.

The team will need some help from the first-years and some returners who lack much college experience. Most first-years have a tough time adjusting to the college game.

“College basketball is a huge transition from high school,” said first-year post player Julie Carini. “I think one of the biggest differences was the intensity and the energy that’s brought to every practice no matter if we are just in preseason or regular season. You’ve always got to be working to improve your game.”

The first-year class brings in talent from Maryland, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina. With a lot of young players on the team that will play key roles during the season, they are working hard to understand both sides of the court.

“In practice, the returners help us a lot to get accustomed to the defense and offense and how they want to run things. We’re all working really hard to catch up and we’re improving everyday tremendously,” said first-year guard Sarah Radebaugh.

The young players can learn the playbook but the one thing they cannot get in practice is the experience of playing at a college basketball level as practices are mostly first-years competing amongst themselves.

“The thing that I don’t know is how they’re going to perform. I have never seen them in a college game before,” said Flamini. “Obviously, we’re going to improve as the year goes on, it’s a matter of how much improvement and how quickly we catch on to the things we have to teach them.”

Last year’s team was dominated by Weatherly and opposing teams had to set their game plans on how to stop her from scoring but this year’s team does not have some like Weatherly. Without a big scorer, the team will have to spread out its scoring.

“Last year we had a few big scorers that scored most of our points,” said Walters. “I feel like this year we are all good scorers and the points should be pretty spread out during the season. It also seems like we should have a pretty strong post game this season. We have some size and strength in the post that should help us out a lot.”

The team does not feel any pressure of being the reigning ODAC conference champions as they have an almost completely new team. The team will use a lot of first-years and that could make the team have a slow start to the season.

In the ODAC Women’s Basketball Preseason Poll released yesterday, the league’s head coaches ranked Guilford in a fifth place tie with Washington and Lee University.

The season will start at home with the Guilford College Classic Nov. 18 at 2:00 p.m. against Hardin-Simmons University, followed by La Roche College the next day.