FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 05, 2010
2010-11 Women's basketball video outlook
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Review

Despite battling constant injuries and a grueling schedule, the JU women’s basketball team still managed to produce a solid 2009-10 season on the hardwood - missing an opportunity to play in the Atlantic Sun Conference title for the third straight year by just one game.

In 2009-10, the Dolphins hit double-digit wins for the fifth straight season, while also reaching the tournament for the fifth consecutive time under head coach Jill Dunn. JU also reached the conference semifinals for the fourth year in a row after the Dolphins downed Campbell in the first round. Along the way, the Dolphins also picked up their first sweep over Belmont and Lipscomb in Nashville in program history.

The Dolphins finished first in the A-Sun in blocks (140) and third in steals (288), while also setting a new school record in rebounds with 1,289 boards. JU continued its stingy defensive play by limiting five opponents to less than 50-points. In six total seasons, the Dolphins have held 23 opponents to less than 50 points, which only occurred five times in five total seasons before Dunn took over the program.

“Last season was a little bit of a down year for us,” said JU head coach Jill Dunn. “Obviously when you lose three key players like we did in Virginia Gregoire, Regina Omoite and DaVina Hamilton - it is hard shoes to fill. We ended up learning a lot through that season. We had a very tough non-conference schedule with nine of 10 games being away, but we were still able to make the conference semifinals. Despite our record, we grew up a lot in the end and that is what we are focusing on in making strides for this year.”

Freshman Drameka Griggs finished second in scoring with 8.2 points per game, while leading the squad in assists (59) and steals (50) en route to earning the Dolphins first Atlantic Sun Conference all-freshman selection since the 2000-01 season.

Senior forwards Desarae Johnson and Crystal Grable each produced quality seasons to have their names etched in the JU record books. Johnson produced 35 to finish second all-time in blocks with 127. She also took fifth in the career books in rebounds (524) and fielding percentage (.414). Grable had a block in nine of her final 10 games to take the third spot all-time with 94 rejections.

In 2010-11, the Dolphins return seven players to the mix and welcome seven new additions as JU tries to regain its top form in the A-Sun while battling for its first conference championship.

Among the newcomers, JU strengthened its front court by signing four new post players, including three bigs that are taller than six feet. They also added three new guards to help round out the backcourt.

“We are very excited about this year’s squad,” said Dunn. “We have three seniors that are doing a good job of leading us right now. They have three to four years of experience playing here at JU so we are really excited about them.

“Obviously with seven players, six of those being freshman, we have a lot of mixing and matching that we have to do but we are excited about where we are now. We are happy about the trend we have with the newcomers and the returners. Overall, we are looking forward to getting things going.”

The Dolphins are hoping for a good start this season by scheduling more contests at home to start the year. JU only leaves the state once in the first 11 games compared to the seven-game road trip they had last season. They will finish the season with six of their final 10 games at home as they work towards another A-Sun Tournament berth.

“We wanted to play more games at home to keep the kids in class, but our schedule is still very competitive,” Dunn said. “We still have a lot of tough games on the schedule even though they are going to be at home. We are looking forward to playing in front of our fans, but have tough challenges against Wake Forest, South Florida and UCF. We are looking forward to what is in store for us.”

Guards

This is the most experienced area for the Dolphins coming into the 2010-11 season as JU returns five players from last season’s squad led by senior GiGi Thomas.

As a junior, Thomas finished third on the team in steals (30) and fourth in scoring (7.4). She scored in double-digits in the final four games, including a season-best 23 points and two blocks in the A-Sun tourney win over Campbell. Thomas also had 14 points and a season-high five steals against the Camels (2/25).

“GiGi had a slow start last season because of injury, but was able to come on strong in the end,” said Dunn. “She is our go-to person and our leader. GiGi has really been working her tail off this summer to get better and we are really expecting a big year out of her.”

Ashanti Williams and Jessica George each will enter their junior seasons after being JU’s top two threats behind the arc last season.

Williams finished second on the team in free throw percentage (.765), three-point percentage (.268) and assists (56). She hit double-figures on seven occasions, including a career-best 17 points with the help of five three pointers in JU’s win over UNF at home.

“Ashanti is a scorer,” said Dunn. “We have to find a way to get the ball into her hands. We have to get her to come off some open screens for some shots. Ashanti can also create her own shot so we definitely look for her to be in double-digits for us to be successful.”

As a sophomore, George had a team-best .274 three-point average, while recording huge days against USC Upstate (15 pts) and Kennesaw State (13 pts).

“Jessica has really matured on and off the court,” said Dunn. “We are really pleased with her leadership by taking these young kids under her wing. She has a very good mind for the game and we want it to be one of her biggest strengths. Jessica will have to handle that No. 2 guard for us this year because of her maturity.”

Sophomore Maggie Wilson returns after recording 11 of her 25 assists in the final four games of the season, while redshirt-freshman Abril Peeples looks to work her way back in the lineup following a knee injury that cut her year short.

“I put Maggie up there to possibly break into the starting lineup,” said Dunn. “She is going to be expected to step up and be successful this year because she can’t look as herself as a sophomore, but as returning veteran. She has handled herself well and been a very versatile player for us so we are just working on her overall game.

“Abril got injured last year in December. She has not fully recovered, but we hope to have her back when conference play starts in January.”

Also in the mix will be freshman Ronisha Mitchell, freshman Ciara McLee and junior college transfer Crystal Bell.

Mitchell helped Wildwood High School to three straight district titles, including a 23-4 record in her final year. McLee (Judson High School) and Bell (Brevard Community College) each averaged more than 20 points per contest last season to earn first team all-conference honors.

“Ronisha and Ciara are two freshman that we are happy to have,” said Dunn. “Ro is playing the point guard position and becoming a leader everyday for us. She knows how to score and is very quick as well. Ciara is whatever body calls that ‘silent killer.’ She can definitely shoot it and do a lot of things, but Ciara is not a really vocal person that will be screaming or yelling. It is her nickname right now and she is being a ‘silent killer’ going right to the goal.

“Bell is explosive, explosive, explosive – that’s all I can say about her. She has that quick first step and really knows how to get to the basket. We are expecting her to take some people off the dribble but we are working on her jump shot and three-point range to extend her game so people won’t totally sag off of her. She is also very deceptive on the defensive end – very quick hands and can get out to create some steals for us.”

Posts (Forward/Center)

Seniors Lynsey Paschel and Taneskei Richardson will be counted on heavily in the post area this season as the Dolphins’ top two returners.

Richardson finished her junior season third in blocks (19) and rebounds (141), including pulling down five or more rebounds in nine of 10 games from Jan. 7-Feb. 11. She tallied a career-best 10 rebounds and 11 points at FGCU (1/9) for her first career double-double.

Paschal hit double figures in scoring on five occasions and recorded two double-double efforts. She tallied 10 points with a career-best 17 rebounds, four assists and three blocks against Florida Tech (11/20).

“Like the guards, we are looking for increased point production from Taneskei and Lynsey,” said Dunn. “We are going to count on them. They are definitely going to have to get the ball and score. Taneskei and Lynsey are seniors and we are expecting them to play like seniors. I think they are comfortable with that, ready to take the role and excited for this team.” Both returners will share their knowledge to the three towering newcomers in freshmen Jane’l Osborne (6-foot-1), Jenae Wilson (6-foot-2), and Madison Scott (6-foot-3). They will also be joined by freshman Jade Cargill. Scott and Wilson each averaged more than 13 points and 10 rebounds a contest as seniors at their respective schools. “Madison and Jenae are our 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3 kids that we call the ‘twin towers’,” said Dunn. “We are excited about their size. Madison is doing a real good job of running the floor and rebounding the ball. She has a great work ethic and just getting better each day. “Jenae is more of true center position. We are working with her to get more versatile in being able to step out and go at the tempo we want her at. When she gets past the transition of high school to college, she will be able to really step in and help us out.” As a senior at Vero Beach High School, Cargill was named Team MVP, conference “Player of the Year” and second team all-state after averaging 21.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 6.2 steals. Osborne helped her high school team to playoff berths during the last three seasons. “We have Jane’l and Jade playing that four face-up spot for us,” Dunn said. “Both (players) are extremely athletic and quick and can jump out of the gym. They are going to help us defensively by coming out for some traps and getting steals. Offensively, they both know have to score the ball as well. I’m extremely excited about all the newcomers as a whole and anxious to see what they develop into here.”