The 2011-12 basketball season is a year of new beginnings for the Spring Hill College women's team. The Badgers welcome first-year head coach Karen McConico to the team who comes to SHC after a successful tenure as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at High Point University in North Carolina and she is already making her mark.
"We're going to be an up-tempo team," McConico says. "We're going to get up and down the court in a hurry. The players have all been excited about the change of pace. They realize the amount of work it takes to run a high-speed system and the conditioning it takes to be successful in that style."
On offense, Spring Hill will look to a pair of fresh faces to run the new-look game plan with freshman Bethany Collins from Apex, N.C., stepping into the point guard position and junior transfer LaSheena Nation of Hanceville, Ala., taking over at shooting guard.
When Collins and Nation are not managing the show, McConico will turn to freshman Elissa VandeWaa of Spanish Fort, Ala., at point guard and experienced veteran players sophomore Bria Bahanon (10.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg) of Hammond, La., juniors Kristin Rogers (3.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg) of Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., and Christina Watson of Brighton, Ala., at the other guard slot.
Junior April Bradford from Pensacola, Fla., will move into the center position after sitting out 2010-11 to establish her eligibility following her transfer from Georgia Perimeter College.
Sophomore Tempey Hamilton of Mobile's Murphy High School, who started as a guard in every game of 2010-11 with an average of 5.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, will test her skills at wing this year and McConico has been impressed with her tenacity. "Right now, Tempey is our best finisher," she says. "She is best at going to the basket and scoring and that's what we'll need."
The forward spots will be shared by junior Jackie Higgenbotham of Birmingham, Ala., who scored 7.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last season, and freshman Cassandra Mitchell of Apex.
Sophomore Sha Sha Buchanan from Mobile's McGill-Toolen Catholic High School and junior transfer Destiny Rentas of Jacksonville, Fla., will also see significant time in the forward positions. Buchanan, who also starts on the Badger volleyball team, averaged 8.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last year.
McConico stresses that the starting line up will be a game-to-game decision. "We have good depth on our bench this year," she says. "We are at least 10 players deep and that's important in our system because everyone must be able to step in and replace whoever is on the floor and not miss a beat."
Defensively, McConico won't commit to just one philosophy. "We'll use four or five defensive schemes this year. While we may primarily use a man-to-man style, we must be able to counter whatever the other team is doing with the ball. You can't be one-dimensional. You need to get the other team off balance and keep them rattled on the floor."
The schedule this season will be difficult on a young team with 15 of the first 19 contests being on the road, but the challenge should be beneficial when the calendar changes to 2012 and a more balanced conference slate.
McConico's first edition team enters the season with no seniors on the roster, but that doesn't mean her team is inexperienced. Her six juniors and three sophomores have all seen significant playing time in their collegiate careers while her three freshman players are talented athletes from successful prep programs.
The upcoming season will be an exciting adventure as the Spring Hill College players grow into their new roles, the team finds its identity and McConico puts her stamp on the Badger program.
The Badgers open the 2011-12 year with an exhibition game versus Selma University at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center.