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Thursday, November 06, 2008Lipscomb Lady Bisons basketball coach Frank Bennett is hopeful that this season will reverse a couple of trends.
First, he wants to see his Lady Bisons put together a winning season. And second, he wants to win with a young team that features only two seniors and two juniors.
“It is going to be very competitive for playing time,” said Bennett. “We have 13 players and there is a not a bad player in the bunch.
“We have a lot of smart players. They have all played a lot of basketball. They have picked up things very quickly. We have some upper classmen with experience who can provide some leadership. I think we can overcome being young.”
The five freshmen, guard Anna Bowers, wing Chelsea Burroughs, post Clair Waggener, post Brittany Duerk and wing Leah McAlister, have generated a great deal of excitement with their potential.
“We have put two really good classes together with four sophomores and five freshmen,” said Bennett. “This summer most of them were in school at one point or the other and they had a chance to play a lot together. They are confident about the season coming up. That will make a difference.”
Bennett’s team will be his most athletic in many years. That overall athleticism should allow him more options on both offense and defense. This will also be his healthiest team in many seasons.
“In the past we had so many injuries that was was hard to have enough players who were able to play together in the summer,” said Bennett. “This is the first time in four or five seasons that we haven’t had residual injuries at the start of the season. Either they were still recovering or they weren’t going to be 100 percent for the season.
“Lord willing we won’t have the same kind of injures we have had for the last couple of years. In preseason it is looking good.”
Point guard Jenna Bartsokas, a member of the Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team last season, returns as the Lady Bisons assists leader.
“Jenna had an outstanding freshman year,” said Bennett. “She did a tremendous job defending the other team’s point guard and pressuring the point of attack. She has some good offensive games. She really worked hard on refining her shot this summer. “She is a very athletic guard. I think she could be one of the top perimeter players in the league this season.”
Sophomore Miaca Bowman also saw a great deal of playing time last season at the point.
“Miaca was very solid,” said Bennett. “She didn’t turn the ball over much. We would like to see her be a little more aggressive defensively and to look to shoot the ball more.”
Junior Toia McGowan returns this season after sitting out last year.
“She just needs to be more aggressive in her game,” said Bennett.
Bowers, the daughter of former Lipscomb men’s basketball guard Ricky Bowers, is expected to provide a boost in the backcourt. She played on Ensworth’s state championship team last season.
“Anna Bowers gives us some speed, quickness and athletic ability, said Bennett. “She was a top-notch sprinter in high school and a four-sport athlete.
“She can play the corner or play the No. 2 guard. She has a good shooting stroke. She is a good ball-handler. She will be able to defend quicker players on the perimeter. She is going to give us a boost in a lot of ways.”
Like Bowers, Burroughs brings a great deal of high school success, playing for the state championship team at Mount Juliet. She also has top-level AAU experience at the guard spot.
“She will probably be a shooting guard,” said Bennett. “She has a lot of experience. She shoots the ball well. She needs to get a little stronger, but she will be able to contribute.”
There is also depth at the forward spots with a great deal of experience.
Senior wing Jilian Partin is one of the top returners for the Lady Bisons, having started for two seasons. She led the Lady Bisons in both scoring, 10.1 points per game, and rebounding 6.6 per game, last season.
“Jilian had a really good second half of the season last year,” said Bennett. “In league play she was second in rebounding. She had several double-doubles in scoring and rebounding. She is working on improving in going to her left and gaining confidence in her 3-point shot.
“She is a strong, physical player. She really plays hard for us.”
Sophomore Valerie Bronson is also a top returner, showing flashes of talent as both a scorer and a rebounder last season.
“Valerie came on strong at the end of the year,” said Bennett. “Valerie is a good 3-point shooter. She can slash to the basket. She can finish in a crowd. She can create her own shot which is good when the shot clock is running down. She can shoot from the outside or off of penetration. And she can make free throws.
“She needs to continue to improve as a passer. As the year went on she improved defensively which gave her more of a chance to play.
Sophomore Cree Nix, who averaged 3.9 rebounds per game, dealt with an injury which cost her playing time late in the season.
“Cree was really playing well late in the season before she missed the last five games,” said Bennett. “She has the ability to defend people. She has the ability to rebound. She was a really good rebounder per minute played. She has improved as a shooter.
“She is a little bit undersized as a No. 4 player, but she is so athletic that she is a tough match up for our opponents. She has gotten more of a feel for the game and for our system. That year of experience made a big difference for her.”
A big shot in the arm for the Lady Bisons is the return of red-shirt junior Miriam McAlister. She has seen limited playing time the past two seasons, playing in only seven games last season.
“Miriam has been cleared to play for us,” said Bennett. “She is obviously a very talented player. She was a member of the A-Sun All-Freshman team. She has a chance to really help us.
Leah McAlister, the sister of Miriam, also brings a wealth of talent. She is pegged at a No. 3 forward spot.
“She is a very skilled offensive player,” said Bennett. “She is a good 3-point shooter. She also can post and score off of cuts to the basket.
Duerk is a mobile 6-foot player who will provide help inside this season at the No. 4 forward spot.
“Duerk has wiry strength,” said Bennett. “She can work inside and out.”
Underneath the basket senior post Katie Rollins, 6-2, returns for her second year as a starter. She averaged 10 points per game last season and also hauled down an average of 5.5 rebounds per game.
“Katie had a solid year,” said Bennett. “I think she is the position to take it up a notch with the experience she had last year. I would like to see her be a player who could average 15 points and eight rebounds.”
Waggener, 6-2, will provide depth at the post position, but she is having to work to make the transition from high school to Division I play.
“Waggener gives us some strength inside,” Bennett said. “She is a little bit raw. She will have the chance to improve and develop. But she plays hard. She can defend. She is a physical player around the basket.”