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11 Days of Atlantic Sun Women's Basketball: Lipscomb
Coach Frank Bennett
Coach Frank Bennett

Thursday, October 29, 2009
by Atlantic Sun

SEASON PREVIEW

The Lady Bisons basketball team is going to surprise both fans and opponents this season with their new style of play. Coach Frank Bennett, starting his 30th season as head coach of the Lady Bisons, admits his team won’t be the most athletic in the Atlantic Sun Conference, but they will be playing a more up tempo brand of basketball both offensively and defensively. The players appear to like the faster pace of the offense and are responding to the challenge.

“They like to play fast and we want them to play fast,” said Bennett. “The challenge has been shifting gears when the shot is not there. We have been working a lot on how to seamlessly get into our offense after we have recognized on the break that the quick shot is not going to be there.

“We are doing things more aggressively on defense. We have changed some things there to make us different.” Bennett would like to see his Lady Bisons get a great shot in the first 10 seconds of the possession. If the shot is not there he wants them to be patient and work for a quality shot.

“It’s a lot about awareness, recognition and making the appropriate moves,” said Bennett.

Bennett is counting on the leadership of junior point guard Jenna Bartsokas to anchor the team both offensively and defensively. Bartsokas is the only returning player who averaged in double figures in scoring last season. She averaged 11.5 points per game and 2.6 assists.

“Jenna is our hardest worker,” said Bennett. “She worked really hard over the summer. She is really playing solid with two years of starting experience.

“She is handling the ball and running the team well. She has more confidence as a three-point shooter. She is a solid defender.”

Also competing for time at point guard is junior Miaca Bowman. She averaged 19.4 minutes per game, but only attempted 49 field goals. In order to get playing time she is going to have to be willing to shoot more often.

“Miaca will play the point primarily,” said Bennett. “She is one of our top two or three athletes. We are trying to encourage her to take her shot more. We want her to play hard consistently.

“She has the ability to defend. She has some quickness. I am hoping she can realize what she can do and fulfill her potential.” Also playing a guard spot is Toia McGowan, the only senior on the team.

“Toia is a good penetrator and has a good pull-up jumper,” said Bennett.

ON THE PERIMETER

Junior forward Valerie Bronson might the person who benefits the most from the more aggressive playing style.

“Valerie has made a big jump from last season to where she is now,” said Bennett. “I think what we are doing offensively is a good fit for her. It opens up chances for her to post up some and drive to the basket.

“She is playing harder. She has a better attitude. She is making a difference.”

Bennett is also impressed with what he is seeing from sophomore guard Anna Bowers who averaged 5.8 points per game last season.

“Anna has been pretty aggressive offensively,” said Bennett. “One of her biggest things is being too hard on herself and letting mistakes get to her. She has to work on that. But I am pleased with how she is doing.”

Sophomore Chelsea Burroughs made an impression last season. Bennett is expecting her to be even more of a contributor on the wing this season.

“Chelsea has really been playing well,” said Bennett. “She is very aggressive defensively. She gets a lot of steals by knocking a lot of balls loose. She is on the floor instantly when there is a loose ball.

“She has very quick release on her three-point shot. She doesn’t need a lot of daylight to shoot that. She has also been taking the ball to the basket too.”

POSTING UP

Junior center Cree Nix averaged 7.9 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game last season. She is the leading returning rebounder.

“Cree has gotten a lot stronger,” said Bennett. “She is playing harder. She has the ability to be a great rebounder night-in and night-out.

“She is running the floor a little better. She is trying to get some baskets in transition. We are allowing her to do that. She is not taking the ball out of bounds on made baskets.”

Clair Waggener played in 28 games and started 19, averaging 15.1 minutes per game.

“Clair is a solid defensive player and post defender,” said Bennett. “That is why she was able to play last year. I think she is taking up where she left off.

“We are fronting the post now. She gives us a physical presence. She is good at moving her feet and getting into position. She is a good helper on drives. She is not afraid to take a charge.”

Waggener averaged 2.9 points per game, a figure Bennett expects her to improve on this season.

“She has worked a lot on her offensive game,” said Bennett. “I really expect her to be better finishing and more confident in looking to score.”

Sophomore Brittany Duerk is another player who made great strides as the result of her work over the summer. Bennett thought she was timid at times last season despite averaging 18.5 minutes per game.

“Brittany lacked confidence last season,” said Bennett. “She is going to be a better scorer. She is going to be more aggressive looking for her shot.

“She is stronger. She is not afraid to make a mistake.”

FINDING MOTIVATION

Bennett does like one problem the team has presented. With the quality of the depth on the roster this season he is going to have to make some difficult choices about the use of his personnel.

“We are going to have hard decisions to make about who is going to start and who is going to play,” said Bennett. “It’s not like there is a big drop off in a lot of places.”

Bennett and his team are motivated by the Atlantic Sun preseason poll. The coaches ranked the Lady Bisons 10th in the 11-team league.

“I don’t like to see us in that position,” said Bennett. “I think last year’s record was a big part of it. I believe we will have the chance to surprise a lot of people with our pace of play and style of play.”

THE FOUR FRESHMEN

Hannah Phillips, from Brentwood High School in Brentwood, Tenn.; Kaitie Fritts from Central Hardin High School in Cecilia, Ky.; Chelsea McMeans, from La Vernia High School in La Vernia, Texas; and Morgan Faulkner from Madison Academic Magnet in Jackson, Tenn., are expected to bring more athleticism and speed to the Lady Bisons.

Last year’s freshman class made a big impact on the team. Bennett thinks this season’s class will follow in their footsteps.

“The potential is there,” said Bennett. “I like a lot of things about this group. I think we filled some of our needs. All of them are going to have to adjust to playing on the NCAA Division I level.”

Phillips and Faulkner, both 5-foot-10, will play on the wing. Phillips was an All-Region selection in basketball in 2009. She was also an All-District 11-AAA in basketball in 2008 and 2009. She was All-Region in basketball in 2007. She lettered four years in basketball and three years in soccer.

“Hannah is a long wing player and good defender,” said Bennett. “She is developing into a good 3-point shooter. She is very mobile. She can run all day.”

Faulkner was a three-time All-State selection in 2006, 2007 and 2009. She was also All-Region in 2006, 2008 and 2009 and All-District in 2007, 2008 and 2009. She was also the Most Valuable Player in both the region and the district in 2008 and 2009. She is all-time leading scorer for Madison Academic with 2,440 points. She is also the leading rebounder (835) and shot blocker (260). She is a versatile athlete with four letters in basketball, three in volleyball and one each in track and field and cross country.

“Morgan had a really good state tournament,” said Bennett. “Her team was runner-up in Class A. She scored 70 points in three games in the tournament.

“She is used to being a scorer. She is good at slashing to the basket. She shoots the ball well. She can post up well. She also has good vision with the dribble.”

Fritts, 6-1, was the captain of her high school team her senior season. She was named All-State Honorable Mention. She was a member of the All-District Team her senior season and a member of the East-West All-Star team as both a junior and senior. “I think Kaitie gives us a chance to have a low post player who can score some,” Bennett said. “She could give us a low post threat which has been a weakness of our team in the past.”

McMeans was a standout athlete at La Vernia High School in La Vernia, Texas. She lettered in basketball, volleyball, track and tennis. She finished her senior season in basketball with 581 points (17.6 per game), 435 rebounds (13.2 per game) and 143 blocked shots (4.3 per game). She has also been active with TeamXpress, one of the top club teams in the state.

“Chelsea is a mobile player,” said Bennett. “She can play inside and out. She gives us some flexibility at the post.”

FINDING MOTIVATION

Bennett does like one problem the team has presented. With the quality of the depth on the roster this season he is going to have to make some difficult choices about the use of his personnel.

“We are going to have hard decisions to make about who is going to start and who is going to play,” said Bennett. “It’s not like there is a big drop off in a lot of places.”

Bennett and his team are motivated by the Atlantic Sun preseason poll. The coaches ranked the Lady Bisons 10th in the 11-team league.

“I don’t like to see us in that position,” said Bennett. “I think last year’s record was a big part of it. I believe we will have the chance to surprise a lot of people with our pace of play and style of play.”

11 Days of A-Sun Basketball Schedule
Oct. 28 - Campbell 
Oct. 39 - Lipscomb
Oct. 30 - UNF 
Nov.  2 - USC Upstate
Nov.  3 - Stetson 
Nov.  4 - Kennesaw State
Nov.  5 - Mercer
Nov.  6 - Jacksonville 
Nov.  9 - Belmont 
Nov. 10 - ETSU
Nov. 11 - FGCU