March 7, 2010
by Jon Cooper, Associate Editor
OSR Sting EXTRA
In fact, they haven’t cared for a while now — even after being removed from the starting lineup.
Both of them have admitted it and admit culpability for the sparks they’ve caused on the team since transitioning from starters to role players that time.
In fact, they’re proud of those sparks.
“We changed some things up and have me and Mo trying to provide that spark off the bench. It’s been working well for us,” said Walthour. “It’s not about the start or the finish. It’s about coming in and playing your role and doing what you have to do in order fot the team to be successful. If that means me coming off the bench, then hey, I’ll do that.”
“It’s all about the team,” agreed Bennett. “There’s no one person that’s bigger than the team. You have to put your ego aside. If it’s going to help us win more games, then so be it. We’re not selfish people. We have to do what’s best for the team. If coming off the bench and doing our part is what we have to do, then we’ll do it.”
They’ll do it all kinds of ways.
Take the win over North Carolina on Feb. 26 for example. While they combined for a grand total of one field goal on 1-for-10 shooting and eight points, Walthour (aka Me-Me) and Bennett also grabbed 10 rebounds, handed out eight assists to only four turnovers and committed three steals. Walthour also helped salt the game away by hitting three big free throws at the end of the game.
It’s not that they can’t star individually. Bennett has three double-digit rebounding games and two others in which she grabbed nine boards, while Walthour finished 11th in the ACC in steals (2.0 per game), had 17 multi-steal games and had a three-game stretch in conference play when she made 13 thefts (including a career-high seven in one game against Clemson). They’ve found it’s fun doing it as a tag team. Tech’s coaching staff has enjoyed that the luxury of being able to use the duo to give their starters a chance to rest.
“It’s a luxury,” said Head Coach MaChelle Joseph. “It’s nice to have two point guards that you trust. They care about the team, they care about winning.”
“Bringing Me-Me and Mo in gives Alex [Montgomery] and Deja [Foster] an opportunity to rest,” added Assistant Coach Teri Moren. “And we don’t lose a lot on the defensive end when those two kids come in because they’re tremendous athletes that anticipate in our press and play hard and do all the little things to help us get stops.”
Helping get stops is an example of the contributions that can’t be measured statistically. There are plenty of others, like the lift Walthour gave the team while running the attack when freshman Sharena Taylor struggled early.
“When I put Me-Me in I thought she ran the team really effectively,” said Joseph afterward. “The team seemed to settle down and got more comfortable and more confident.”
As impressive to Joseph was that Walthour never hung her head or carried any residual grudge from the previous game, when she played but five minutes in the win at Miami.
It’s all about the team. There’s no getting defensive about playing time.
Besides, getting defensive is Bennett’s job. Same game. Coach Jo had this to say about Bennett afterward.
“I’m really proud of Mo, because I’ve really challenged her,” said Joseph. “She got it done on the defensive end. At the end we went with four guards because we knew they were going to go with their on-ball screens. Instead of trying to switch [center Sasha Goodlett], we played Deja Foster at the four and we were able to switch effectively on their guards. We’re not able to do that if Mo hadn’t played as well as she had.”
While Me-Me and Mo have made it their personal mission to do what ever it takes, Moren insists that their move out of the starting lineup was more personnel, not personal.
“It happens on a lot of teams, you have to shake things up a little bit,” said Moren. “We were getting off to such slow starts and couldn’t pinpoint why. We were digging ourselves some early holes, so the staff, Coach Jo and the rest of us decided that shaking up the line-up might be a good thing and it’s paid off.”
To say the duo has bonded from their change in roles, however, wouldn’t exactly be accurate. They were buds long before their sophomore season. They played AAU ball together for the Peach State Elite (sophomore center LaQuananisha Adams also was on the team) and basically came to Tech as a set.
“Playing AAU was amazing,” Bennett recalled. “She was point guard and I was the wing. So it was great. We fed off each other, we played together a lot of years. That’s just the kind of relationship that we have. We love each other. When we found out that we were going to come to college together, it was just a great feeling.
“She committed first,” she continued. “I came to camp with Laquananisha and I met the coaches and it was a great environment. I thought why don’t I go to school with someone I already had a connection with. So, yes, I look at it as it played a role.”
Now they’re playing their roles together on a historic Georgia Tech team that is looking for more in the ACC Tournament and then the NCAAs. That is something the care about.
“Basically the whole year we’ve been preaching to get better as the season progresses,” said Walthour. “That seems to be what we’ve been doing and we’re on a roll right now.”