Things can only get better for Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball coach Tory Verdi as last season’s 8-22 overall record and a 6-10 mark in the Mid-American Conference hope to be things of the past.
Verdi returns five players from last season’s team and brought in the 65th best class in the nation according to the Dan Olson Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, which boasts five newcomers.
“Whenever you bring in a bunch of new kids, it is always going to take time,” Verdi said at the MAC Preseason Teleconference last Tuesday. “There are going to be peaks and valleys with them, but it has been fun watching them go through the daily practices.”
Verdi expects some of the freshman class to make an immediate impact this season.
“They are all different and will all contribute,” Verdi said. “Janay Morton, who is from Brooklyn Park, MN has been very consistent for us. She can space the floor, knock down the three and has been very productive offensively. Defensively, Cha’Ron Sweeney is very instrumental as well because I don’t think too many players can stay in front of her.”
In the MAC Preseason Poll, the Eagles were picked to finish fourth in the West Division.
The women will look to stay healthy as redshirt junior forward Olivia Fouty returns after a season-ending knee injury last year during a practice session before the South Dakota State University game and senior guard/forward Natachia Watkins back at full strength after playing all 30 games despite nagging injuries.
Senior point guard Desyree Thomas returned as she averaged 7.1 points per game and dished out 4.5 assists per game in 30 games.
“The fact is that they are all a part of a MAC Championship from two years ago, so they have experience,” Verdi said. “With that comes the leadership and they understand my expectations. That is something that goes a long way and can teach the young players in the program.”
Also, three players who transferred from other schools will look to make an impact this season: junior guard Crystal Fulton (Adrian College), junior guard/forward Sashana Bucknor (ASA College) and sophomore Shannise Heady (Seton Hall University).
The non-conference slate will be much lighter as they will play teams such as Butler University, the University of Michigan and the University of Detroit-Mercy.
“Whenever you go 8-22 and struggle, you have to water down the schedule a little bit,” Verdi said. “You have to show your [players] how to win again and give them that confidence.”
The Eagles begin their 2013-14 campaign with a home exhibition game on Tue. Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. against the Wayne State University Warriors.
Their regular season home opener will be on Fri. Nov. 8 when they take on the Madonna University Crusaders at 2:30 p.m.
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