Women's Basketball Looking To Make Some Waves During Its Second Season

Nov. 1, 2000

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Entering her second season as head coach at JU, Melissa Taketa can't help but smile.

When she was named the school's first head coach prior to the 1999-2000 season, Taketa had no players, no staff and no history to recruit with. So not only did the 11 players on JU's inaugural roster have to come in and learn how to be a team at the Division I level, they also had to get acclimated to college life.

But in just their first year on the hardwood, the Dolphins turned in a respectable 6-22 season, including five wins in the Trans America Athletic Conference. Six of the losses were by six points or less, including a five-point overtime loss at Jacksonville State.

JU ranked first in the TAAC in field goal percentage defense (.364) and blocked shots (4.46 bpg), second in 3-point field goal defense (.293) and defensive rebounds (26.39 rpg), and third in scoring defense (63.5 ppg) and 3-point field goals made (5.89).

With a full-year under of Division I experience under their collective belts, the Dolphin basketball team heads into the 2000-01 season looking to make some waves in the TAAC and build a tradition of winning women's basketball at JU.

"With nine returning players - including all five starters - we will be much more experienced this year," Taketa says. "They know what to expect, both on the court and in the classroom, and they understand what it takes to be competitive at this level on a consistent basis."

Headlining the list of returning players is third-team All-TAAC honoree Angela Walker. Walker, a senior forward, led the team in scoring (10.7 ppg), field goals made (102) free throws made (53) and steals (51), while tying for the team lead in rebounding average (6.0 rpg) as a junior.

"What makes Angela such a good player is her athleticism," Taketa says. "She has good speed, she can jump and she is a player that any coach would love to have on her team. We'll need another big year from Angela to improve from last season."

Joining Walker in the JU frontcourt are returning starters Kat Sungy and Milica Miljkovic.

Sungy led the Dolphins in field goal percentage (.529) last year, hitting 73-of-138 shots from the field. She hit 50 percent of her shots or better in 19 games, and provides a solid 1-2 punch with Miljkovic.

Miljkovic established herself as a premier shot blocker in the TAAC after leading the team and the conference with 61 rejections as a freshman. She also led the team in rebounds with 169 (6.0 rpg) while finishing third on the squad in scoring (7.3 ppg).

"With Mili and Kat at the post positions, we have a fairly tall and experienced frontcourt," Taketa says. "Mili is still learning how to play the game as a physical post player, and still led the league in blocks last season. If she can keep her fouls down this year, she will continue to develop into one of the better post players in the league. Kat, meanwhile, was our consistent scorer in the paint. She has good hands with a nice shooting touch. She will once again be counted on for those tough points down low."

Rounding out the returning starters are guards Lexie Richards and Shannon Wynn. Richards, who received TAAC All-Freshman Team honors in 1999-2000, enters the year as the most experienced Division I player on the JU roster after starting 27 of 28 games. She averaged 9.9 points a game during the season, and increased that total to 11.2 in conference contests. Richards led the team in assists (71) and free throw percentage (.857), and finished second on the squad in field goal percentage (.422).

"Lexie can flat out shoot the ball," Taketa says. "She can hit from anywhere on the court and had some really big games for us last season. She ranked second in the TAAC in 3-pointers made and third in 3-point field goal percentage, and she will have to do that once again this year as we strive for a winning season."

Wynn, meanwhile, averaged 4.9 points and 2.2 rebounds a game to go with 39 assists, 11 steals and two blocks. But her most valuable asset to the team will be her leadership ability.

Frontcourt players Kami Hatcher and Lana Labura, along with guards Jennifer Bergfield and Camealia Rush, will once again provide depth off the JU bench for the 2000-01 season. Labura saw the most extensive action last season off the bench, averaging 5.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in 15.5 minutes of action per game.

Bergfield added 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds a game while connecting on 80 percent of her free throws (24-of-30). Hatcher, who appeared in all 28 games as a freshman, and Rush combined to score 35 points and grab 64 rebounds.

Joining the nine returning letterwinners is a solid crop of freshmen who each had successful prep careers. Amber Hallman and Yolisha Jackson join the JU frontcourt, and Ehu Maha'a will provide depth in the Dolphin backcourt.

Hallman, a first-team All-Virginia selection as a senior, earned team MVP honors her final three prep seasons and was named first-team all-district all four years. Jackson earned team MVP and All-Mid Tennessee honors as a senior, and was named all-district her final two seasons. Maha'a, meanwhile, helped her prep squad win the district, conference and metro championships as a sophomore, junior and senior, including an appearance in the Florida Final Four last year.

"As a staff, we listed qualities we felt we needed to add to our program," Taketa says. "Ehu, Yolisha and Amber were the three players we really wanted and we are elated to have them join our program. They visited the campus together and helped recruit each other to JU."

In their second season, the Dolphins will take on several tough opponents around the Southeast region, including South Florida, College of Charleston and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, as well as a competitive nine-team, 18-game TAAC schedule that includes two post-season teams from a year ago - Campbell (NCAA Tournament) and Georgia State (WNIT). The Dolphins will play 14 games in the friendly confines of Swisher Gymnasium while taking to the road for 13 contests plus the TAAC Tournament in Orlando, Fla.

"We have a very competitive schedule this year," Taketa says. "We'll play games against teams that advanced to the postseason, and we should be competitive in all of our games."

So as Taketa and her staff of Melanee Atkinson and newcomers Ernest Rozier and Marlene Stollings look forward to the 2000-01 season, they see the opportunity to make waves in the TAAC and continue to lay the foundation for a bright future of women's hoops at JU.

"As a team, I think we now all understand what it takes to be successful at this level," Taketa says. "We all have one year together under our belts and we'll definitely build on the positives set in motion last year."