Women’s Basketball playing for tournament berth and more this season

By Ryan Gaydos

In her first year as Kean Women’s Basketball head coach, Mandy King came into a situation with the daunting task of keeping the team above water after the NCAA hit the basketball team with a postseason ban for the 2012-13 and four years of probation. The team also had to forfeit 24 wins in the 2011-12 season as part of the punishment stemming from student-athletes receiving extra benefits.

With all that in mind, King motivated her new team through it and coached the team to five wins.

“Last season was one of the most inspirational seasons I have ever been apart of,” King said. “What I’m hoping for is that we have the same heart, the same fight and the same togetherness that we had a year ago. I think that will be the same.”

Kean is bringing back much of its 2011-12 team with the exception of two players who graduated. There is a different aura about this team. The attitude of just getting through the season has changed to talk of competing with every team on the schedule and even winning a conference championship.

“Our goal this year is actually to win an NJAC title,” King said. “We really believe that we have the pieces and the character to make that jump. We believe in ourselves and we believe we have a chance to cut down the nets.”

The high-spirited Cougars are thanking a fruitful recruiting class coming into this season. Some of those players are expected to make an immediate impact on the team come the first game of the season.

“We have a large freshman class and we also have three transfers. All of them have contributed on so many different levels. Each has brought a great work ethic and a great spirit of togetherness and an incredible amount of passion for the game and for each other. In a lot of ways they have carried on the legacy of KU basketball with some great, youthful energy.”

Aside from starters Shay Collins and AnnaRose Pierre coming back. King said that newcomers Essence Casey, Jasmine Davis and Kenya Adams are going to be bringing a different element to the team that it did not have last season.

Casey is a 5’9” Long Island transer who can play the guard or forward spot. She has the ability to attack the basket and play in the post. With her quick first step, Casey can amplify scoring for Kean.

Davis is the sister of assistant coach Brittany Powell. She is very physical and provides a unique challenge for opponents on both sides of the ball. Davis’ teammate, Adams, is another newcomer King expects to play a big part in the Cougars’ offense.

Having more players to attack the basket definitely takes a huge load off of junior Pierre. Pierre was one of two players who averaged double-digits in scoring, but now Kean will not have to only rely on her for the points.

“Last year, I think we had great heart and great fight, but we weren’t as balanced as we needed to be on the offensive side of the ball,” King said. “One thing I have noticed this year is that with a number of out combinations, all five players on the floor can attack and score in double-digits. In our first scrimmage we had six players in double-digits. When you can share the ball like that, it inspires your team. It takes a lot of pressure off these players [and] in turn, it has made them even better.”

Kean will have to really battle conference opponents this season as Montclair State and William Paterson are already considered to be top teams in the nation, let alone the conference. The Red Hawks are preseason No. 1 and the Pioneers are No. 23, both polls compiled by Women’s D-III News.

However, King is keeping it simple. Taking it one practice at a time and with her energy and drive, it could lead Kean back to the top of women’s basketball.

“We would like to have a 20-win season and get back into the NCAA Tournament. From there, hopefully be playing our best when it matters the most and see how really far this team with great passion and great energy can go.”

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