Experienced Lady Bulldogs focus on postseason
When Gardner-Webb’s women’s basketball coach Rick Reeves looks at his roster for the 2013-14 season, he sees two things every coach loves, depth and experience. The Lady Bulldogs did not lose anyone to graduation after last season and as a result, return five starters as well as an experienced bench to Boiling Springs.
“Last year we had depth, but this year we have experienced depth,” Reeves said. “That makes a big difference. When we had an injury last year, we had to play a freshman in that spot and that hurt us. This year, they are sophomores which will only help over a long season.”
GWU’s depth and experience have failed to impress pundits, however, as the Bulldogs were tabbed fifth out of 11 teams in the preseason poll.
“That doesn’t bother me,” Reeves said of the preseason ranking. “I think we could have been picked a little higher, but honestly all that matters is those three or four games in the conference tournament. This team has their priorities and we have a chance to be really good, no matter what the polls say.”
Of course, before the Lady Bulldogs can concentrate on the conference tournament, they must first navigate the regular season. Seniors Catrina Green, Jasmine Dale and Tabby Koerner hope to do just that.
“These three young ladies know what it’s like to win a conference championship,” Reeves said. “They won one their freshman year, and now they want to finish with one to end their careers. But they are also going to have to lead us in the regular season too and they are very capable of that. Catrina and Jasmine were both nominated for First Team All Conference honors for a reason. Tabby has been a utility player for us in the past, but I expect her to make significant contributions this season.”
The duo of Green and Dale fit perfectly into Reeves’ inside-out approach to basketball. Green was a force inside last year, averaging a near double double at 10.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Dale was the perfect complement from beyond the arc, connecting on 46.2 percent of her chances from distance.
“I think you have to play the game of basketball inside out,” Reeves said. “You can’t win on a consistent basis by just running to the 3-point line and shooting. I think the team understands our system. I’m really excited about the possibilities this season.”
The Lady Bulldogs also hope that team speed will lead to increased transition opportunities.
“I always like to get up and down the floor. We recruit speed,” Reeves said. “Again, depth is going to play a huge role in our transition game this year. The starting five is fast, but we have some speed on the bench too and they are all going to play.”
Most of that speed is at the point guard position, as GWU boasts a trio of players in the backcourt that can quickly turn the game into a track meet.
“Mayhanna Dunovant, Lana Doran and Doreen Richardson all have exceptional speed,” Reeves said. “Mayhanna is our starter right now, but Lana and Doreen started games, too. If one gets tired running up and down the floor, we can bring in someone else with starting experience. That’s a huge luxury. That also gives you confidence as a coach to pressure on defense because you know you can bring in fresh legs off the bench without any drop off. So you are going to see more pressure this year.”
The Lady Bulldogs will need all these factors to come together to compete in the tough Big South Conference.
“The Big South is one of the best conferences in the nation for women’s basketball,” Reeves said. “I think the RPI is 14th out of 31 conferences. Liberty and Winthrop are going to be very good and everybody else has a lot of kids back so it’s going to be a tough league.”
Even so, Reeves expects the Lady Bulldogs to excel both on and off the court.
“My goals are to have these young ladies and I make a positive impact on the community with our Christian testimony by using basketball as the platform,” Reeves said. “Basketball wise, we want to start with a winning season, then win the conference and conference tournament so we can represent Gardner-Webb in the NCAA tournament. We want to be playing in the postseason this year.”
GWU will take their first step toward that goal as they host Montreat Nov. 8. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.