Nov. 2, 2009
by Matt Winkeljohn, Managing Editor
OSR Sting EXTRA
ATLANTA — It’s not often that a team that has four “returning” starters figures to rely heavily upon freshmen. But that’s where Georgia Tech’s women’s basketball team will enter the season.
And it’s not a bad thing.
Generally, if this is the case, either those four returning starters are not so hot and the previous season wasn’t either, or the freshmen look to be superb.
The Yellow Jackets do not fall somewhere in the middle; their freshmen are supposed to be really good — if not all sure-fire projected future WNBA stars. More importantly, they play positions where the Jackets stand to benefit greatly from added depth. And they’re bringing height, too.
There’s a bit of a trick here. Tech’s preseason literature says the Jackets have four starters back. But Iasia Hemingway, who started 31 of 32 games, and Jacqua Williams, who started 24 games, are gone.
And Tech’s premier player, junior Alex Montgomery, will miss the first game Nov. 13 against Winthrop and probably several after that, as she continues to rehabilitate her surgically-repaired knee. She tore an anterior cruciate ligament in the ACC Tournament last spring.
So if you wanted to manipulate the numbers, not that it takes much manipulating, the Jackets will open the season with two returning starters – Sahsa Goodlet (29 starts) and Brigitte Ardossi (23).
Deja Foster will not exactly be a newbie, having started 14 games last season, but clearly the Jackets are going to need help from newcomers.
“It’s not a matter of if they have a chance; we are counting on it,” coach MaChelle Joseph said at her preseason media gathering. “They have to. Sharena Taylor is a point guard from Pontiac, Michigan. We’re definitely counting on her to be an impact player. We are expecting Sharena to get quality minutes early on because can play multiple positions.
“I look at Jasmine Blain, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard from North Cobb High… she’s been tremendous early on. She’s giving us another shooter on the perimeter, and that will add some depth there. With Alex’s injury, we’re going to take it slow bringing her back.”
Joseph suggested that Montgomery, although she’s been fairly impressive at times in practice, may not play until December, plenty of time to get a rotation in order before full-on ACC action.
So the fact the Jackets are going to have to juggle their lineup early may help later. They could build depth by virtue of not having much choice.
Joseph’s team was picked by those who supposedly have ACC knowledge to finish seventh in the conference. A few days later, they were ranked No. 19 in the Associated Press preseason national rankings.
Something doesn’t add up there. The ACC is good, but that is ridiculous, and the Jackets aim to show as much.
Montgomery is not the team, and that’s one of the biggest progressions in Joseph’s program. Tech won its first NCAA Tournament game last year without her, at Iowa. The Jackets don’t need their star player to blow up night after night to win more often than not. Solid recruiting will do that for a program.
This is a team, not a squad with a real good player or two.
It’s not exactly like the Jackets are starting from scratch, either.
“Deja went from averaging two points as a freshman to being our second leading scorer at the end of last season [as she became a regular starter],” Joseph said. “She is the hardest worker I have ever coached. She’s improved at least as much from her sophomore to her junior year as from her freshman to her sophomore year.
“When we played against Oklahoma in the NCAA tournament, Sasha Goodlett’s confidence went to a whole new level. I think as she continues to get her conditioning level to where it needs to be to compete at the highest level in the ACC, then the sky is the limit for her. She’s a special player. She’s definitely going to be asked to do a lot of things early.”
Still, there will be opportunities for freshmen… big freshmen.
“If everything works out with Danielle, then she’s going to be a huge asset to this program,” Joseph said. “She is one of the better players that we’ve had in the last couple of years.”