Special to GoBarryBucs.com by Max Ramos-Paez
Looking to improve off their 2012-13 campaign, Barry women’s basketball enters the 2013-14 season with plenty of encouragement and belief. With six returning players and a talented corps of newcomers, head coach Bill Sullivan is hopeful for the upcoming season.
“I feel like we have more depth this year than we did last year, especially in the ability to score,” Sullivan said. “Training camp went well. We have eight newcomers, and they are coming along pretty well.”
This year, Barry has a batch of talented new players that Sullivan is rather keen on.
“We have junior guard Ines Kerin from Slovenia, who’s played very well so far,” the Bucs coach said. Kerin is a hardworking player, who spends time in the gym on her own, and is a skilled perimeter shooter. She averaged 7.6 points, shot 81.8 percent from the free throw line and 32.1 percent from beyond the three-point arc, helping Murray State College (Okla.) put together a 20-7 record. Kerin was a National Junior College Athletic Association All-Tournament Team at the region championships.
Sullivan also spoke highly of senior forward Sharnese Neal, whom he said has really “stepped in for us.” He’s also high on Nyjah Porcher. Neal, who graduated cum laude from Bethune-Cookman, was a three-year post and perimeter player with the Division I Wildcats. Porcher averaged 14.6 points, shooting 47.8 percent from the field, while ripping down 10.7 rebounds per game at Community College of Rhode Island as a sophomore last season. She led her team to the NJCAA Elite Eight, a 10th straight region title, while capturing a district championship during a season the Knights went 25-7.
Junior transfer Kaylia Richardson led the nation in scoring (24.1 ppg), while playing for Ancilla College, a junior college Division III team, last season. She was 10th in the country in rebounding at 13.3 boards per game. She shot 55.8 percent from the floor, which ranked 11th in the country. Richardson earned NJCAA all-region honors and First-Team All-Western Conference honors. Lynae Richardson, a Miami product and junior transfer from St. Petersburg College where her team went 24-8 to win the Southern Conference title, and Ashley Lutz, a junior transfer from Labette Community College and Topeka, Kan., native, are both skilled perimeter shooters.
The newcomers on the team can rely on experienced returning players whom their coach believes will work well with the newcomers to create a competitive squad.
“They have the experience,” Sullivan said, adding the leadership of Colette Eule and Tyler Hardy, two of team’s top scorers last year, offer great experience. Eule averaged a team-best 13.4 points per game as a junior. Hardy scored 11.9 points per game, joining her fellow senior Buccaneer as the lone two double figure scorers last season. Hardy led the team in rebounds, grabbing 6.8 per game. Eule averaged 4.8 boards per contest.
Senior forward Alesha Jenkins, who played in 26 games last year, proved to be an effective high post option with adept moves and scoring capability before her minutes tapered off as the season wore on. Sophomore forward Emily Schahczinski is expected to contribute more in her second year after shooting 53.6 percent from the field on limited touches around the glass, and junior forward Danika Pisconeri, is also back after leading the team in blocked shots last year with 24. Pisconeri was one of the main reasons the Buccaneers won their opening round Sunshine State Conference tournament game after scoring seven points and pulling down nine rebounds.
But this team will be missing a player that was a vital component last season, and was looking to continue her central role this year. Junior guard Jackie Perez was injured during preseason training, creating a big blow to the team. Perez led the team last year in three-pointers with 56, was set to be the leading returner in steals with 45, and scored in double figures in 15 games. But to Sullivan her loss is about more than just stats.
“It’s hard to put her loss into words because she was one of our leaders vocally, and she was selected as a team captain,” Sullivan said of the impact of her injury.
He also lamented the change in the lineup that would have to occur now with Perez out.
“With her not in there, we have to rely on a less experienced player in that role and the whole dynamic of the team has changed just a bit,” Sullivan said. “She was a point guard, returning player, and she could play the one or the two guard.”
Also adding to the team’s injury problems, newcomer point guard Monique Plummer, who averaged 6.7 points at Community College of Rhode Island in her second season with the Knights last year, also is injured. The junior transfer from Fairfield, Conn., who played on teams that went a combined 43-20, including a 25-7 mark and appearance in the NJCAA National Tournament a season ago, was expected to contribute significantly this season and mix well with her new teammates.
But Sullivan believes that the team can move past these setbacks and succeed this season.
“We just have to move on and adjust, and hopefully others will step up,” he said.
Sullivan thinks the team has already started the process towards their goals this season.
“The returners will mesh well with the newcomers, which they seem to be doing so far, and we should be good this year,” the coach said.
One thing that will change for this team is the game plan. Sullivan admits that this change is due to injuries.
“We pretty much have the same game plan as last year, but have to take important pieces out of that mix,” Sullivan said. “If you take one of the better players off of any team, they’re not going to be as good.”
However, he admits his team will have to get past the early-season setbacks if they want to succeed this year.
“You know, a lot of teams suffer injuries,” Sullivan said. “We’ll just have to overcome it, and others will need to step up.”