When Spring Hill College Head Women's Basketball Coach Ray Fron discusses the 2010-11 season, he stresses one point above all others. "We have set high expectations for ourselves as a team," he says. "This year we are not lowering our standards, our work ethic, our level of play or anything else. (Assistant Coach) Keisha Forbes and I have talked to the team and the individual players a lot about this high standard and I think they are taking it to heart."
Entering his third year at the helm of the Badger program, Fron and his team suffered through a tough year of transition in 2008-09 only to see four important players drop from last year's active roster due to injuries before December was over. Fron, however, is not looking backward or making any excuses. "This is a new team," he says. "Everyone has bought into our system and they all come to play - and play hard - every day. This is a fun group to be around."
One of the weakest aspects of the Badger offense over the last few years has been depth at the point guard position, but this season Fron is confident that he has players who can handle the role. "We have taken a big step up this year," he says. "We're going to have not only consistency, but also depth and quality. We want to play an up-tempo style of play this year and the guards are the key to making that happen."
Senior Lynleigh Hughes of Hammond, La., and freshman Tempey Hamilton from Mobile's Murphy High School look to have laid claim to guard slots. Hughes, who has been a starter since her freshman season, was forced to play a variety of roles last year including once playing three different positions in the course of one game. Her experience at the off guard will be invaluable to the young Badger team while Hamilton is the true point guard that Spring Hill has needed and she is already playing like a veteran.
Sophomores Katie Martin of Montgomery, Ala., Christina Watson of Brighton, Ala., and freshman Bria Bohanon from Ponchatoula, La. will each see significant minutes at guard off the bench this season. "Katie is a deceptively good athlete and is ‘sneaky good' around the basket," Fron says. "She always seems to be involved in some way. Bria is absolutely wonderful with the ball. She's got the combination you look for in a player. She's quick, athletic and smart. Christina is a former walk-on who has proven to be more than a practice player. Late last year, we went to her a lot off the bench."
At the forwards, junior Erica Wright of Pace, Fla., was awarded a medical redshirt last season and has returned with a mission. "Erica brings a fantastic defensive presence," says Fron.
Sophomore Jackie Higgenbotham of Birmingham, Ala., transferred to SHC after the fall semester last season and immediately became a major factor in the Badger offense. This year, Fron is thrilled to have her 3-point shooting ability for the entire season.
Freshman Sha Sha Buchanan of Mobile's McGill-Toolen Catholic High School will be a late arrival to the team as she is currently a starter on the Badger volleyball team for Coach Peggy Martin. Fron is anxiously awaiting her pure athleticism to work its way into his system. Sophomore Kristen Rogers of Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., will also play a quality reserve role at either forward spot.
In the center position, Fron can take his pick from three players and feel comfortable. Senior Kimarie Bock of Dunedin, Fla., returns to the starting lineup after having to sit out the spring semester. Sophomore Alexis McPhail of West Frankfort, Ill., was pressed into service as a freshman and that experience should pay off for her and the Badgers this season.
Junior April Bradford of Pensacola, Fla., returns to the game having sat out the past few seasons getting married and beginning a family. "April brings a unique situation to our team, Fran says. "But her skills are an asset to this program and she brings a maturity to the locker room that most teams don't have."
Fron sees last year's adversity as a plus for this year. "The upside of last year was that people got to see minutes that they would not have normally seen if we had remained healthy," Fron says. "This year we have something to prove to ourselves and our competition. Teaching our student-athletes how to win has been a big part of the last two years and now we're starting to see it catch on. We're seeing them do the little things it takes and make that extra effort."
Spring Hill opens the season on Friday at the University of Mobile Port City Tip-Off Classic in H. Austill Pharr Gymnasium at 5 p.m. versus Selma University.