HARRISONBURG — There aren’t a whole lot of pressing questions for the James Madison women’s basketball team this offseason with the Dukes’ five leading scorers, four of them starters last season, all returning.
But one JMU coach Sean O’Regan plans to address as his team gets a jump start on the preseason with a trip to Europe for four games next month is how to handle the loss of point guard Logan Reynolds.
While Reynolds didn’t put up huge statistics, averaging 3.8 points per game, she helped make the offense click with 3.9 assists per game and was a tenacious defender. Looking ahead to next season, O’Regan has options how to replace her.
“We’ve got a little time to go before I have to make a decision, so that’s good,” O’Regan said with a laugh. “We’re trying to see what the best combination is and that won’t be an easy thing for me to decide on.”
One possibility is simply slipping Jackie Benitez into the starting lineup. Benitez, the 2018-19 Colonial Athletic Association Sixth Player of the Year, is certainly deserving and capable of becoming a starter after averaging 12.1 points as a redshirt junior, second on the team behind Kamiah Smalls.
But that scenario would likely mean more minutes at point guard for Smalls, who thrived as a junior in the shooting guard spot averaging 16 points per game in a first-team All-CAA season.
But JMU also brings back Madison Green, who served as Reynolds’ primary backup as a freshman and found herself playing well in critical minutes late game during March and April as Reynolds was somewhat limited by injuries.
Green, a Winchester product, averaged 3.5 points per game but displayed an ability to score in bunches at times. Moving her into the starting lineup would allow Smalls to continue to play at the two spot while Benitez remained an offensive game-changer off the bench.
“Maddie has had some great days where she’s looked really, really good,” O’Regan said. “I thought her game has expanded and her confidence has grown. But it’s interesting because she’s playing alongside Smalls, who looks like she’s getting a lot more comfortable with [playing the point], too. Either way, Maddie is in that top six with the five seniors and her.”
That doesn’t even begin to discuss Syracuse transfer Nikki Oppenheimer, who becomes eligible this season, or the possibility of spot minutes at the point for senior Lexie Barrier, who was set to play there in the CAA Tournament last season with Smalls and Green both injured before breaking her own hand in the opening minute of the tourney.
But beyond simply deciding who will start at the point guard spot, O’Regan will use the summer to begin getting an idea what his rotation might look like. Breyenne Bellerand made contributions late last season, but has been limited by injuries this summer. Rising sophomores Jaylin Carodine and Eleanore Marciszewki could push for more playing time while freshmen Kiki Jefferson and Rayne Tucker have also made strong first impressions.
“Watching what Jaylin and Eleanore have done, they’ve made strides,” O’Regan said. “You can see improvement and we’re trying to apply it to games, not just workouts. That’s where we can use all this.”