THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2005
Younger, Quicker, Faster

Oct. 27, 2005

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Younger, quicker and more athletic. These are the words to describe Jacksonville University women's basketball in 2005-06.

After leading JU to its most total number of wins in two seasons, despite the loss of the top two post players, second-year head coach Jill Dunn is in search of an extended season in her second term.





"Heading into the offseason, we knew we needed depth and athleticism at each position. Although we lost some returning depth, the added athleticism and versatility in our first class will be conducive to the up-tempo style of play that we want to implement."
JU head coach Jill Dunn


"Despite the injuries, last year went pretty well," Dunn said, who led the Dolphins to a 6-21 record and a 3-17 mark in Atlantic Sun play. "The players were very receptive and we improved with each game. We did the best we could with eight to nine players."

With the loss of leading scorer Yolisha Jackson, the coaching staff was forced to change the offensive strategy. Some positives emerged, one of those being the development of guard Sheena Carpenter.

Carpenter, now the squad's lone senior, led the Dolphins with an average of 14.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. Her points and assists per game ranked sixth in the Atlantic Sun Conference, while also finishing sixth with a 0.93 assists-to-turnover ratio.

A preseason first team all-conference selection in 2005-06, Dunn says Carpenter has the potential to be the conference player of the year.

"Sheena has a tremendous work ethic and loves the game of basketball," said Dunn. "Obviously, I think our team is going to go as Sheena does this year."

Also rounding out the returners for the Dolphins are junior guard Nakina Alford, junior center Talia Johnson and junior guard Jenaire Davis.

Leading the infusion of youth for the Dolphins this season will be five freshmen and two junior college transfers. During their prep career, the class combined to win three state titles, six regional championships and 16 district crowns, while also combining for a 305-57 overall record.

"Heading into the offseason, we knew we needed depth and athleticism at each position," Dunn said. "Although we lost some returning depth, the added athleticism and versatility in our first class will be conducive to the up-tempo style of play that we want to implement."

Forward Kelly Ford (University Christian), guard Virginia Gregoire (Deerfield), guards DaVina Hamilton and Regina Omoite (North Miami Beach) and center Precious Robinson (Orlando Christian) make up the incoming freshmen. Guard Crystal Ayers (Okaloosa Walton JC) and forward Ashley Williams (North Florida CC) will join the squad as transfers.

Ford, a 5-foot-11 post player, earned second-team All-First Coast honors as a senior after averaging of 15.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest and leading the Christians to a 29-5 record and their third district title. She also joined the 1,000-Point Club and was selected to the Jacksonville All-Star Game last year.

Gregoire, a 5-foot-8 shooting guard, earned first-team all-county honors as a senior after averaging 12.0 points, 6.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds and was named to the Florida 6A all-tournament team. The Bucks finished with a 27-4 record and finished second in the state.

Hamilton, a 5-foot-6 shooting guard, earned second team All-Dade County honors and was named to the Dade-Broward All-Star Team as a senior after averaging 9.5 points, 11.3 assists and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Omoite, a 5-foot-5 point guard, earned first team All-Dade County honors and was named to the Dade-Broward All-Star Team as a senior after averaging 19.5 points, 6.3 assists per game with 58 three-pointers.

Robinson, a 6-foot post player, led Orlando Christian to a 24-4 record and a district, regional and Class 1A state title as a senior after averaging 10.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest.

Ayers, a 5-foot-6 point guard, appeared in 10 games for Okaloosa Walton JC and will sit out the 2005-06 season with a knee injury.

In her prep career, she led Ridgewood High School to a 101-19 overall record and four consecutive district titles, averaging 18.4 points, 5.2 assists, 5.2 steals and 5.0 rebounds as a senior.

Williams, a 5-foot-11 post player, led all Florida junior colleges in scoring during the 2004-05 season and earned team MVP honors after averaging 22.0 points and 10.0 rebounds for the Sentinels.

In her prep career, she averaged 20.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game as a senior at Arlington Country Day High School.

Along with seven new members of the squad, Dee Pennix will join the Dolphin coaching staff after Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick took a similar position at Charlotte in the offseason.

Pennix comes to JU after two seasons as an assistant coach at Coastal Carolina, where she helped lead the squad to a pair of Big South Conference Tournament appearances and was responsible for restructuring the 2004-05 team after graduating their entire starting lineup the previous year. She will join returning assistant Andrea Williams.

"Dee brings experience in every aspect of the game and loves to recruit," said Dunn. "We already have three early commitments and she has done a good job working with our post players."

The Dolphin staff now has the challenge of teaching a young squad as the season progresses. Although not the most favorable decision, Dunn says the new players will have to be thrown in the fire this season. Even with the youthful squad, Dunn is hopeful to finish in the top six and make the A-Sun Tournament.

"I'd prefer for them to sit and learn but we don't have that option right now," said Dunn. "We have to learn game-by-game and have them clicking by the time we get to conference. Our goal is to finish in the top five in the conference and I think we can do that."

THE GUARDS

The Dolphins have their biggest questions at point guard, but there is plenty of firepower at the shooting and off-guard spots.

Freshmen DaVina Hamilton and Regina Omoite and senior Sheena Carpenter will rotate point guard duties due to the loss of freshman Crystal Ayers to a knee injury.

"Omoite is the only true point guard we have, but she is very young," said Dunn. "Hamilton played the two in high school and we are teaching her the position. Carpenter played point last season so we will use her if necessary."

Carpenter and junior Jenaire Davis will split time at shooting guard in 2005-06. Davis, a transfer from FCCJ, averaged 2.9 points in seven games last season before sitting out with a foot injury.

"Davis had a little set back with her injury and only got to go half the year," Dunn said. "She is still learning the game, but she is very athletic and applies good pressure on defense."

Junior Nakina Alford and freshman Virginia Gregoire will vie for the off-guard position.

Alford, a transfer from Iowa Western CC, provided an offensive spark from the perimeter to counter the play-making ability of Sheena Carpenter. Alford, who averaged 10.8 points and tied the program record with 27 points at Belmont, ranked fifth in the A-Sun with an average of 2.11 three-pointers per game.

Nakina Alford will see a lot of playing time at the off-guard positioin this season.


"Alford is amazing to me because she always finds a way to score, even though she's not the most talented player on the floor," said Dunn. "She's our best three-point threat and she is very deceiving on defense."

THE FORWARDS

A mix of youth and experience will provide the Dolphin coaching staff with an abundance of options at the forward position.

Sophomore Ashley Williams and freshman Kelly Ford will share the majority of minutes at power forward.

"AShley is a tremendous athlete that can playing the post and on the perimeter," Dunn said. "She has a great jump shot, good moves under the basket and runs the floor extremely well. She also averaged a double-double in junior college, so we are expecting a lot of good things from her.

"Kelly is a local kid who has a tremendous work ethic. She is consistent, runs the floor well and is always looking to get better. She has improved with each practice."

Junior Talia Johnson will also see time at power forward during the season.

Talia Johnson will be a force in the Dolphins' front court this season.


THE CENTERS

Junior Talia Johnson and freshman Precious Robinson will provide the Dolphins with their low post threat in 2005-06.

Johnson stepped in for the injured Yolisha Jackson last season and led the squad in field goal percentage (.419), while also averaging 5.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest. A proven shot blocker, she also ranked seventh in the A-Sun with 1.41 blocks per game and is second in the JU record book with 77 career blocks.

"Johnson is a huge key for us inside," Dunn said. "If we can get her scoring and confident, then it's going to give us a presence inside. She is a tremendous shot blocker and a very good rebounder.

"Robinson is our true center on the squad and we are going to focus on having her isolate one-on-one in the post. She has good post moves and the more she plays, the better she will develop."

ATLANTIC SUN CONFERENCE

The A-Sun will have a different look in 2005-06 with the departure of Georgia State, UCF and Troy. East Tennessee State, Kennesaw State and North Florida will be the newest additions as the conference looks for the change in power to develop.

"We lost three of the most successful programs and that can help us in the long run," said Dunn. "Florida Atlantic, Stetson, Lipscomb and Belmont are now the top powers, which makes the rest of the spots wide open. We have a legitimate chance to move into that fifth spot this year."

OUTLOOK

Despite the influx of new talent on the team, Dunn is expecting to see the improvement in the team continue this season.

"We came along nicely throughout last year, improving each time we went out," Dunn said. "We want to continue to improve each game out this year and if we do that, we'll get to reap the rewards."