Women Picked Third
Posted: October 19, 2011
ARLINGTON — The James Madison women’s basketball team’s slogan for the 2009-10 season was “Now.” The Dukes won the Colonial Athletic Association title that year.
For 2010-11, the phrase changed to “Again.” The Dukes, again, won the title.
This year, coach Kenny Brooks is asking for an “Encore.”
“We want more,” Brooks said Tuesday at the CAA’s annual media day. “We want to do it again. We want a curtain call. We couldn’t do 3-peat because Pat Riley has that patented.”
Despite its recent dominance, JMU, which lost do-everything point guard Dawn Evans and two other starters, isn’t the favorite to win the CAA; it was picked to finish third in the league, behind Delaware and Virginia Commonwealth.
But that’s OK with Brooks, who said he was actually hoping his Dukes would be selected as low as sixth, so he could use it as motivation.
Brooks likes the fact that everyone is focused on Delaware and its CAA Preseason Player of the Year (and national POY contender) Elena Della Donne, a 6-foot-5 junior guard/forward who’s averaged 26.1 points per game in her first two seasons. The 10th-year JMU coach even tried to pass the proverbial bulls-eye onto the Blue Hens.
“You’ve still got the bulls-eye,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said, referencing Brooks and JMU. “He’s not passing it on to me yet. What an accomplishment by James Madison. He’s got a terrific team again.”
The Dukes will be led by junior guard Tarik Hislop, who averaged 10.8 points last season and was selected to this year’s preseason second team. Hislop will slide to the point guard position, but won’t have as much responsibility as Evans, who averaged 23.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists last year.
“I don’t know if we’re ever going to have another Dawn type,” Brooks said. “Tarik will definitely move to the ‘1’ and handle the majority of the ball-handling duties. … Everyone else around her is definitely going to have a more significant role.”
The Dukes also lose center Lauren Jimenez (14.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg last year), guard Courtney Hamner (8.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg), and forward Jalissa Taylor (3.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg). But Brooks thinks this year’s squad is just as deep.
Scrappy junior wing Nikki Newman returns to the starting lineup. Forwards Lauren Whitehurst, Kanita Shepherd (out until January with a knee injury) and Kiara Francisco have all seen big minutes in big games, too.
Jasmine Gill, a 6-1 guard who averaged 6.1 points for Boston College in 2009-10, becomes eligible after a transfer-year redshirt.
The Dukes also expect contributions from up to a handful of freshmen, including 6-foot forward Toia Giggetts, who was recently cleared to play after a respiratory illness put her status in doubt.
“A lot of people want to focus on what we lost,” Brooks said, “and not really focus on what we have.”