Friday, December 6, 2013

Preview: Rider Women Need Rebounds, Assists

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 10-8 in the MAAC, 15-15 overall.

KEY LOSSES: Guard Sironda Chambers (13.0 points, 3.9 rebounds), forward Caitlin Bopp (9.9, 9.1), forward Carleigh Brown (4.0, 3.4).

KEY NEWCOMERS: 5-9 freshman guard Stephanie Mason, 5-10 junior guard Lashay Banks, transfer from Cincinnati.

EARLY STARTERS: 6-0 senior swingperson MyNeshia McKenzie (14.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, last season's statistics), 5-8 sophomore guard Mikel Johnson (5.6, 1.6), 5-7 sophomore guard Manon Pellet (1.7, 0.7), 6-3 junior forward Marritt Gillcrease (0.7, 1.6), 5-10 junior guard Lashay Banks.

NOTABLE: The Broncs are off to a 2-5 start, but they also started 7-10 last year before an 8-5 finish that resulted in the 15-15 overall record. It was the program's first non-losing season since 1994-95 ... It might be hard to better that this year, though, after some key losses, particularly guard Sironda Chambers and forward Caitlin Bopp, the team's second and third-leading scorers from last season ... Still, though, there's much talent in place led by 6-0 senior swingperson MyNeshia McKenzie, who averages 17.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per game thus far. She was a first-team preseason all-MAAC selection by league coaches, and has been one of the league's top players for some time ...the loss of Chambers is offset by Cincinnati transfer Lashay Banks, who is averaging 12.6 points and 4.7 rebounds thus far. She played sparringly at Cincy (2.4 ppg. two seasons ago), but was a 1,000-point scorer on the high school level ... There's no replacement for Bopp, but 6-3 Gillcrease, who rarely played the past two seasons, has stepped up to help out inside, averaging 4.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game thus far ... Emily Fazzini, a 5-10 junior guard who was averaging 9.8 points through four games, is out of action right now with no timetable for her return ... It leaves Johnson as the best long-range shooting threat (37 treys last season and 14 so far this year) ... freshman guard Mason, though, has also exhibited a nice shooting touch (9 treys so far), and she had a career-high 15 points in a recent victory over UMBC. Gilcrease had 10 points and 8 rebounds in that contest ... Johnson had a career-high 20 points in the Broncs' last game, a loss to Navy ...What the program lacks for the second straight season is a prototypical point guard. Last year no player averaged more than 1.7 assists per game, and right now McKenzie and Konelij Valiskyte, a reserve guard, are the assist leaders at 1.6 per contest ... Shereen Lightbourne, a budding star early in her career, has returned after missing the last two seasons with knee injuries. Yet while her return as a graduate student is a feel-good story, she probably won't regain her early form and is playing lightly, just 17 total minutes through the first seven games.

STRENGTHS: The requisite star in McKenzie, and a strong second fiddle scorer in Banks. Depth at the guard position.

WEAKNESSES: While McKenzie will all but certainly lead the team in rebounding for the second straight year, there's no real second option on the boards. If Fazzini, who had been the team's third-leading scorer, is out for a length of time, that's a big loss. And, there's the lack of a true point guard.

REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: League coaches picked Rider to finish fifth, in their preseason poll, and there's no argument about that here. The likelihood is somewhere between fourth and seventh.

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