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Season Preview: 2009-10 FGCU Women's Basketball
FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Florida Gulf Coast University women's basketball team had one of the most successful runs for a second year Division I program last season, finishing with a 26-5 overall record and an automatic bid to the 2009 Postseason WNIT. In the last five years, the Eagles have won 132 games, an average of almost 27 per season. Last year, the Eagles registered the best conference record (17-3, .850) in the A-Sun’s 24-year history of sponsoring women’s basketball.
Following an inspiring run to the WNIT second round that saw the Eagles post their fifth consecutive 20-win season, and with all five starters returning from a squad that won 26 games a year ago, optimism abounds for the Florida Gulf Coast University women's basketball team. With seniors Chelsea Lyles, Adrianne McNally and Brittany Brown back in the fold after solid junior seasons, and sophomore sharpshooter Kelsey Jacobson returning after winning the 2009 Freshman of the Year and earning a spot in the A-Sun record books for three-pointers in a single season, head coach Karl Smesko will have a solid core of veterans on the floor this year.
Brittany Brown, 5-8 Sr. Flint, Mich.
Shavonne Butler, 5-9 Jr. New Orleans, La.
Shannon Murphy, 5-7 Jr. Brighton, Mich.
Courtney Chihil, 5-8 So. Tipp City, Ohio
Eglah Griffin, 5-8 So. Fort Myers, Fla.
Kelsey Jacobson, 5-8 So. Barnesville, Minn.
Sarah Hansen, 5-10 Fr. Edinboro, Pa.
One of FGCU’s key returners for the coming year, Shannon Murphy is one of the most experienced of a deep corps of FGCU guards heading into the 2009-10 season. After leading the Eagles with 3.9 assists and a 1.82 assist-to-turnover ratio during the 08-09 season, she will look to continue to get her teammates involved while also limiting her turnovers this season.
“Shannon is a smart point guard,” said Smesko. “She can really shoot it, and her decisions with the ball have improved tremendously. She could be one of the leaders in the nation in assists-to-turnover ratio. We would like to see more defensive plays and rebounds from her.”
Brittany Brown appeared in 31 games and made 29 starts in 2008-09, averaging 8.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 25.6 minutes per game. Her biggest performance came in the first round of the Postseason WNIT when she scored 25 points in 33 minutes against George Washington. She provides good outside shooting and will be a viable option on the offensive end for the Eagles as she looks to have a great senior campaign.
“Brittany is a really good shooter who can also get to the rim,” said Smesko. “We are asking her for more defensive plays and more rebounding this year; both she is more than capable of producing.”
Sophomore Courtney Chihil returns after a solid freshman season, in which she averaged 7.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 25 games in a FGCU jersey. Chihil proved to be a solid defender last season as she led the team in steals (1.6 spg).
“Courtney is a very good all-around player who is poised to have a breakout season,” said Smesko. “Her shooting has really improved, and she makes the most defensive plays.”
Kelsey Jacobson, the reigning A-Sun Freshman of the Year, returns after a record setting rookie season. Jacobson, FGCU’s third leading scorer in 08-09 (11.4 ppg), shot .443 from behind the 3-point line and .440 from the field, to rank first and 13th, respectively, in the A-Sun.
“Kelsey is a tremendous shooter who is a smart all-around player,” stated Smesko. “I have never had a player make as many clutch shots as Kelsey made last year. She had a tremendous freshman season and we hope she has an even better sophomore year.”
Junior college transfers Shavonne Butler and Eglah Griffin and freshman Sarah Hansen are also expected to make immediate contributions in 2009-10. Butler was a WBCA All-American Honorable Mention, Conference Defensive Player of the Year, First team All-Conference, and First Team All-Region selection at Hill College.
“Shavonne is a three-point threat and a great defender and rebounder,” said Smekso. “She will be able to provide a spark for our team with her hustle plays.”
Griffin, a Fort Myers, Fla. native, comes to FGCU after playing one season at Seminole Community College. While at Seminole CC, Griffin averaged 17 points, 1.8 steals, shot 41 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range, which ranked her top-30 in the region.
“Eglah’s a guard who has a knack to score,” stated Smesko. “She will become a really good defender as well.”
Hansen was a three-year varsity starter and finished her high school career with 1,299 points and a school record 984 career rebounds at General McLane High School. She also broke General McLane’s single season rebounding record by grabbing 307 rebounds during her senior year. The Erie, Pa. native was a Times-News All-District 10 team selection, an All-Region first team selection, and a second-team All-State selection as a senior. She averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 3.5 steals while shooting 42 percent from the field for the General McLane Lancers, who went 26-2 and won their second straight district title last season.
“Sarah is a smart player and will be a good perimeter shooter,” said Smesko. “She has versatility, she has perimeter skills, she has toughness and strength and can play inside a little bit. She's a good rebounder; she makes a lot of plays.”
Chelsea Lyles, F 6-0 Sr. Colorado Springs, Col.
Adrianne McNally, F 5-11 Sr. Howell, Mich.
Samantha Gray, F 5-11 RS-Fr. Greenwood, Ark.
Kiara Bomben, F 5-11 Fr. Canberra, Austrailia
Marcey Burton, F 5-11 Fr. Bedford, Ind.
Christina Rivette, F 5-10 Fr. Fenton, Mich.
Adrianne McNally finished the 2008-09 season as the Eagles most versatile player, finishing the year with averages of 14.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest. She picked up A–Sun First Team honors and also became the second player in program history to amass 1,000 points in a career.
“Adrianne is a tough competitor and a great all-around basketball player,” said Smesko. “She can play any position on the floor.”
Chelsea Lyles, a First Team All- Atlantic Sun selection, appeared in 31 games and made 29 starts in 2008-09, averaging 14.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 29.3 minutes per game. She is a triple-threat for opposing defenses and will be a viable option on the offensive end for the Eagles again this season as she looks to have a successful senior campaign.
“Chelsea can do a little bit of everything,” said Smesko. “She is a great shooter who can also drive to the basket. Chelsea can also be a defensive presence when she puts her mind to it.”
Samantha Gray and walk-on Marcey Burton will see their first collegiate action this season. Gray utilized a redshirt as a freshman last season.
“Sam is a good-sized wing who has good skills,” said Smesko. “She could also play a little inside. Marcy is a smart player who gives good effort. She will provide depth for us this season.”
Smesko will also be looking for contributions from freshmen Kiara Bomben and Christina Rivette. Bomben was a foreign exchange student at Ankeny HS. During her senior year she averaged 12.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals. The Canberra, Australia native earned First Team CIML All-Central Conference, Second Team All-State CIML, and Third Team Iowa Class 4A All-State honors in her time at Ankeny.
“Kiara is an important addition for us,” said Smesko. “She is a very versatile player who will really be able to shoot the three and also drive to the basket. She will be a tough match up for opponents and is a great fit with our style of play.”
Rivette was a four-time All-State selection at Fenton High School. She finished her senior year ranked second in the state of Michigan in three-point percentage and set multiple school records (three-pointers made in a game; three-pointers made in a season; three-pointers made in a career; rebounds in a career) at Fenton HS.
“Chrissy is a great fit for our program,” said Smesko. “She is a skilled wing player who has the ability to score. She has the potential to be a really good player.”
FGCU’s regular season will get underway with the Eagles hosting UTEP on Nov. 13 in the first round of the Preseason WNIT. The event, which features a three-game guarantee format and could result in additional home games for FGCU, consists of a 16-team field and will conclude with the championship game on Nov. 22.
“We accomplished everything we wanted to do with our schedule this season,” said Smesko. “We received an invite to the preseason WNIT, scheduled a game at Michigan State for all of our Midwest players, and have very good non-conference competition to help prepare us for what should be an incredibly competitive Atlantic Sun Conference.”
The Eagles will then play a pair of contests in the FGCU Thanksgiving Classic. FGCU will open play against Tulsa on Nov. 27 before taking on Rider the following day.
A road date and conference opener with Stetson on Dec. 5 precedes a huge road contest at Michigan State in the Breslin Center a week later for the Eagles. The Spartans finished 22-11 overall and lost 69-68 to Iowa State in the “Sweet 16” last season.
The Blue and Green will then host conference foe USC Upstate (Dec. 19), before heading to Miami, Fla. to face Florida International at U.S. Century Bank Arena on Dec. 22. FGCU will then close out its non-conference slate with a home game as Bethune-Cookman will visit Alico Arena.
Road contests in Nashville, Tenn. against Belmont (Jan. 2) and Lipscomb (Jan. 4) will kick off the new year for the Eagles. After hitting the road for five straight games, FGCU returns to Alico Arena for the first time in 2010 with a matchup against North Florida on Thursday, Jan. 7. The Eagles take on Jacksonville two days later (Jan. 9) before hitting the road for games at Campbell (Jan. 14) and ultimate showdown against the reigning back-to-back A-Sun Tournament Champion, ETSU on Saturday, Jan. 16.
Five of the next seven outings for FGCU will come at home as games against Kennesaw State (Jan. 21), Mercer (Jan. 23), Stetson (Jan. 27), ETSU (Feb. 4) and Campbell (Feb. 6) will be sandwiched around Jan. 30 and Feb. 1 tilts at Kennesaw State and Mercer in Georgia.
The Eagles will then travel to Duval County for games at Jacksonville (Feb. 11) and North Florida (Feb. 13).
The Blue and Green closes out its home slate with games against Lipscomb on Feb 18 and Belmont on Feb. 20 (Senior Day).
FGCU will close out the Atlantic Sun regular season on Feb. 25 when it heads up to South Carolina to face USC Upstate in Spartanburg.
The Eagles wrap up the season by participating in the two-day Longwood Tournament on the campus of Longwood University in Farmville, Va. on March 6 and 7. The tournament field includes Longwood, Seattle and North Carolina Central.