The team’s pre-season Media Day was today, and coach Danny O’Banion and her tri-captains were pretty optimistic. Highlights:
1. It’s O’Banion’s team and system now. She’s recruited everyone on the team except guard Mel Stubbs, who missed last season with an injury, and says she has the pieces in place to play the kind of up-tempo pressure defense she’s wanted to since the beginning.
2. She says the team has more depth and a more diverse skill set than it has had in her three years. Example: Nine of the 11 scholarship players played more than 15 minutes, seven more than 20 minutes. One of the other two, forward Janae Peterson, is still recovering from some off-season physical problems. The 11th is redshirt freshman forward McKenna Stephens, who transferred from Michigan State and will be eligible second semester.
3. Mikell Chinn, the starting point guard and one of three seniors, said the coach had “pushed us every day since we lost” in the MAC Tournanment last March, saying, “This is the year.” All of the players and O’Banion said the team was closer and, one player said, they “trust each other more — a big difference.” That was the most interesting thing I heard.
4. O’Banion said the team had spent “hours and hours” on footwork, which she said was key to shooting and scoring. (The team hasn’t averaged more than 60 points a game for three years – last in the MAC.) She said Chinn and freshman point guard Naddiyah Cross had spent hours watching film to improve ball handling. Kent had averaged more than 20 turnovers — sometimes over 30 — the last three years.
5. O’Banion said 6-4 center Cici Shannon had “simplified her game” and would be more of a scoring threat. (She’s always been a stronger rebounder and shot blocker.) One thing Shannon is doing, O’Banion said, is not dribbling when she gets the ball in the low post.
6. Lurken said she had spent a lot of time working on her three-point shot (she already was Kent’s leader last season), and she said she had developed a move to fake the three-pointer and drive for a pull-up jumper. Lurken had 22 points, including three three-pointers, in Friday’s 100-45 exhibition win against Ohio Christian. O’Banion said freshman guard Madison Ridout gives Kent a second three-point threat it didn’t have last season. Ridout scored 1,300 points in high school.
7. Stubbs said she was at 100 percent after missing all of last season with a knee injury. She started 10 games as a sophomore, O’Banion’s first year. O’Banion said the plan was to have her and guard Krista White get to the foul line more this year.
8. She said the upperclassmen had welcomed a strong freshman class, recognizing they were teammates ahead of competitors for playing time. She said the team needed major contributions from freshman Jordan Korinek, who led the team with 23 points and 10 rebounds Friday, and Cross, the back-up point guard.
9. Another freshman, Tyra James, injured her knee late in fall practice and will miss the season. So will Rachel Mendelsohn, the only freshman recruit from O’Banion’s first year. Mendelsohn played both guard positions as a sophomore reserve last year.