As Spring Hill College women's basketball head coach Karen C. McConico enters her second year, her team will feature a mix of experienced veterans and talented young newcomers. "I am excited about the season," McConico says. "We will keep our up-tempo style of play, but this year we have added some highly skilled players who should make us more competitive."
McConico is especially happy with the hard work put in over the summer by her returning players. "Junior guard Tempey Hamilton from Mobile's Murphy High School and senior center April Bradford from Pensacola, Fla., both worked hard on their strength, conditioning and skills over the summer," says McConico. "Last year, April had to play too many minutes in every game and it hurt us at the time, but it will benefit her this year."
Senior forward Kristin Rogers of Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., and sophomore point guard Elissa VandeWaa of Spanish Fort, Ala., also return after productive years on opposite sides of the court in 2011-12. Rogers used her defensive skills to pull down 92 rebounds, block 15 shots and collect 22 steals while VandeWaa led the Badgers with 86 assists and shot 40.3% (50-124) from the field.
Joining the four returning starters will be junior forward Twarner Witherspoon of Thomasville, Ala., who transferred from Bishop State Community College. "Twarner is the type of player every team needs to be successful," says McConico. "She is a good all-around player, but she's also a hard-nosed player who gets the job done."
McConico also has confidence in her bench this year. "We are much deeper in talent this year," she says. "In fact, our first five might not be our most skilled players. Our squad is very balanced as far as skills, but our starters are simply our most experienced players. When we have to go to the bench this season, I won't have any concerns."
Five-foot-11-inch freshman center Leah Washington of Houma, La., will be one of the first players McConico puts into the game from the bench. "Leah is a very smart player who understands the game and that will be a big help to her and our team as she develops," says McConico. Next, McConico describes freshman guard Armanee' Broussard from Lafayette, La., as "a player from a good high school program who will see a lot of minutes." Freshman guard Arielle Harris from High Point, N.C., will also play a major role this season. "Arielle does the little things right," says McConico. "I've told her that I don't care if she scores a single point. That's not her job. She's there to get rebounds, make passes and set picks."
The Spring Hill reserves are also loaded with veteran talent. Junior guard Bria Bohanon of Ponchatoula, La., junior forward Sha Sha Buchanan from Mobile's McGill-Toolen Catholic High School, senior guard LaSheena Nation from Hanceville, Ala., as well as Apex, N.C., sophomores Bethany Collins at point guard and Cassandra Mitchell at forward each started in multiple games last year.
Four new faces will join the Spring Hill sidelines in 2012-2013 as junior guard Jamesha Watkins of York, Ala., a transfer from Faulkner State Community College, will see valuable playing time along with three freshmen - guard Chyna Terrell of Fayetteville, N.C., guard Natalie Harper of Greensboro, N.C., and center Baylie Lee of Lake Charles, La.
"The biggest difference between this year's team and last year's team is the desire to win," says McConico. "Our players this year all come from winning programs and bring winning attitudes. They understand that nobody hands wins to you. You have to earn them."
McConico also sees a new fire within her team. "In the conference game that we won last year our players had a certain fire in their eyes," she says. "We rarely had that fire in other games. We've talked to them a lot this year about how every game has to be played like with that intensity. If we play with that effort this year, we'll beat more teams."
Spring Hill College will open 2012-2013 by hosting Fisk University (1-0) on Friday in a 5:30 p.m. non-conference contest at the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center.