Nov. 6, 2012
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LOS ANGELES - A blank slate. Simple words that first year head coach Charity Elliott has used to describe the state of the LMU women's basketball team as the 2012-13 season gets underway.
"I've come in and just said everybody has a blank slate, everybody is getting to start over," said Elliott. "So really, you gotta come in and I want to see you work and see you earn it. And the good news is that our players have understood what it takes and what our expectations are."
This year's squad features 10 returning letter winners, including a trio of starters in redshirt senior Alex Cowling
, junior point guard Hazel Ramirez
and sophomore guard Danielle Pruitt
. New faces include a quartet of true freshmen along with a quartet of coaches who are excited to begin a new era with the Lions' program.
"What I hope people will see is a team that is playing as hard as it possibly can and really enjoys playing the game of basketball," Elliott said. "A lot of high energy, high intensity, very aggressive play both offensively and defensively."
Cowling, a Preseason All-WCC selection for the fourth time, is the clear leader of the squad once again. The guard/forward combo led her team and the league last year with 22.2 ppg and 8.7 rpg. Ramirez (10.2 ppg, 2.9 apt) is also back to direct the Lions' offense for the third season.
What Elliott expects to see this season, however, is a much greater number of players contributing and stepping up on both ends of the court.
Along with Ramirez at the "one," the Lions will also look to get quality minutes from redshirt senior Dani LeNoir and freshman Deanna Johnson.
Cowling, who has been transitioned into more of a guard/wing player this season, will be joined by sophomore Pruitt and Taylor Anderson and freshmen Chelsea Barnes and Sophie Taylor. Pruitt started 27 of 30 games last season as a true freshman, averaging 3.4 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. Anderson's game developed all throughout her rookie season as she moved into a starting role in the final seven outings.
The forward and center positions is where Elliott anticipates the most change beginning with juniors Melinda Gomez and Alexis Love. Gomez has been moved from a wing to the forward position and the athleticism she brings to the position fits perfectly into Elliott's fast-paced style. Love, who played sparingly a year ago, earned the starting cents reposition in the Lions' exhibition game and has shown great decision-making from inside the key.
Junior Mackenzie Kerins, sophomores Emily Ben-Jumbo and Ashley Lovett and freshman Brianna Taylor also all figure into the mix at the forward and center positions.
"We want the team to meet its potential and to be playing their best basketball when it really matters, and that's when we get to conference play," said Elliott. "So we're laying the ground work, laying the foundation. These kids are working harder than maybe they've ever worked, they're buying into it and they're also smiling a lot, which I think is a big part of it."