It is time to have a look at the players for our 2016-2017 women's basketball team. I will start with the three projected starters at the guard positions.
Point Guard at the 1 Position:
True Sophomore, Height 5-7
A natural at the point guard position, Tiara Murphy will most likely get the nod at the starting point or 1 guard position. She will have some big shoes to fill, as departed April Wilson had a stellar season last year quarterbacking the team. Luckily Murphy had a year to get some decent playing time in and be an understudy of Wilson. Murphy was hampered by a few physical problems during her freshman campaign, notably a concussion, lower leg injury, and she had the flu for the NCAA first round game.
Murphy followed in the lofty footsteps of guard Skylar Diggins at Washington High School in South Bend, Indiana, where Murphy dominated play for her team. She is fast, has a very high basketball IQ, sees the floor well, and is literally fearless. She plays with a certain moxie that is needed to play the point. She is also an excellent shooter, especially from 3 point range.
Her biggest challenge will just be in trying to catch up in game experience. There is just no easy replacement for experience. Assuming she remains healthy, this will be Murphy's team, but she will have plenty of help. Ashley Morrissette has been playing the point at times all three years and will continue to share the duties. Morrissette also provides that Senior leadership ability which in a way will make it her team to lead. Andreona Keys is also quite proficient in helping to run the point, especially in trapping situations. There will also be 4 reserve guards to help out, which I will cover in the next article on the players.
Murphy is also a decent defender who can get in the grill of opposing guards and create steals and run-out opportunities. Hopefully she will have an assist to turnover ratio over 1.0, as her predecessor Wilson set the record for that I believe. Look for Tiara Murphy to have a steadying influence on the team and remain calm and not get rattled under pressure. She appears a bit smallish but the entire team has gone through a rigorous off-season in the weight room and in general conditioning. Expect her to run a very fast offense when the situation calls for it. This team plans to be able to run and run some more and tire opponents, as well as getting points before the opponents can set their defense. This player will only continue to develop, learn, and get better while playing major minutes.
Shooting Guard at the 2 Position:
Senior, Height 5-9
One thing for sure, this team needs a healthy Ashley Morrissette for the upcoming season. She is a true combo guard, being a natural 2 guard but with proficiency at running the point when called upon to do so. Morrissette will be the unquestioned vocal leader as a Senior and other players will look to her for direction as a floor general. She has a ton of experience and should be able to take advantage of it. She is also an excellent shooter, who at times can hit clutch shots like a shooter with ice in their veins. She made several key shots in game ending situations last year, and this year will be the same as the team will want her to take the last shot if at all possible. Other teams will probably scout this so Morrissette will be learning even more about recognizing double or triple teams and passing to an open player with a better shot. She can be a deadly shooter from anywhere on the floor, and is equally adept whether putting up a tre, shooting a mid-range jump shot, or taking it to the basket.
Unless something surprising happens, Morrissette should be expected to lead the team in scoring. However, she will make her presence felt in all aspects of the game, from passing to rebounding to moving without the basketball to playing stout defense. There is a reason she was voted Ohio Miss Basketball her Senior year in high school. She is simply an excellent all around player with a nice shooting stroke and good ball handling skills. Her knowledge of the game is unsurpassed on the team. Watching Ashley Morrissette garner major minutes at the 2 guard position should be a joy and pleasure this upcoming season.
3 Guard Position:
Junior, Height 5-10
Is there anything Andreona Keys doesn't do well? Maybe she can't dunk or rain down 3 pointers. However, she says that she has worked very hard on her 3 point shooting during the off-season and promises to make other teams pay for laying off of her beyond the arc this season. Keys is the consummate all-everything player. Her calling card is stout defense, as she is often called upon to guard the other team's best guard or forward. But she can also run the point, break the press, drain mid-range jump shots, take the ball to the basket, rebound, make crisp passes to an open teammate, and just about anything else you can think of. She also has a ton of experience for a Junior, as her versatility has earned her major minutes of playing time her first two seasons.
Every team needs at least one utility player and Keys fits the bill. She never seems to get tired, and always plays hard. It is not in her DNA to take a play off. She could come off of the bench if Coach V decides to start Bridget Perry at the 3 guard position, but that is not very likely. Coach likes to start upper class-men and bring under class-men off of the bench, in most cases. So I would expect Perry to start at the 4 position at forward, and at times slide back to the 3 guard position as situations may call for that.
One common theme for this team is depth. Coach Versyp will have a lot of options at all positions. She has already stated that she might even play Perry at the 2 guard position for a taller lineup at times. That is a luxury coach will have this season. So don't expect any of these three players to play all 40 minutes of a game. With this kind of depth, even if some of it is inexperienced, all three of these starting guards should be able to play around 30 minutes average, allowing them to remain relatively fresh with the excellent conditioning we can expect to see.
In my next article, I will cover the reserve guards, of which there are 3 freshmen, as well as the aforementioned Bridget Perry sliding into a guard role for periods of time. There will be a good combination of youth and experience at the guard position this upcoming season.