Nov. 7, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- A year ago, expectations were high and there was an excitement in the air for the 2010-11 LMU women's basketball team. But luck was not on the Lions' side as the injury bug bit the team multiple times throughout the year. Never able to put full squad on the floor, the Lions closed out the year with a disappointing 11-18 overall record and 5-9, sixth-place finish in the West Coast Conference.
Today, as the 2011-12 season gets underway, there is a renewed energy among the 14-member squad as they put the past behind them and look only to the future.
"Last year's team will never exist again and this year's team will only be this year and it will never exist again," said head coach Julie Wilhoit. "But what the players from last year bring into this season is maturity. Additionally, I can't think of another group of freshmen who have transformed themselves and stepped up the way last year's freshman class has."
Seven letterwinners, including three starters, return in 2011-12. They are joined by a pair of redshirts in junior guard/forward Alex Cowling
(medical redshirt) and junior guard Dani LeNoir
(transter), while five freshmen round out the squad.
Cowling, a three-time preseason All-WCC selection and 2009-10 first team All-WCC pick, will once again be the Lions' go-to offensive threat. Averaging 22.5 ppg at the time, she was sorely missed last season after suffering a season-ending foot injury just six games in.
"Alex is a player who can do it all," said Wilhoit. "She has post moves, can score with her back to the bucket, face up, handle the ball. And this team really compliments her style. They can score when she's not scoring, that can handle the ball, and she has confidence in feeding the ball to them as well as they feeding the ball to her."
Senior guard Candice Nichols was one of many to step up following the loss of Cowling last season, and she will once again be key for the Lions, both offensively and defensively. Nichols averaged 14.6 ppg , 4.7 rpg and 45 steals through 22 games last season before missing the final seven games with an ACL injury.
Two additional starters return in the form of sophomore point guard Hazel Ramirez (8.6 ppg, 2.2 apg) and senior guard Courtney Collishaw (5.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg). Ramirez gained valuable experience the as a freshman and is expected to lead the Lions' backcourt once again in 2011-12.
"Hazel has gained strength, stamina and confidence," Wilhoit said. "She knows her role, she knows how to play the game better and I really see her emerging as a college point guard."
Adding depth at the point guard position is LeNoir, who sat out last season after transferring to the program from Washington State.
"She is a fantastic spark plug," Wilhoit said of LeNoir. "She is someone who can come in and bring continued speed, quickness, tenacity on defense and ability to push the ball."
In the shooting guard positions, Wilhoit has a number of options beginning with Collishaw, junior Monica DeAngelis (15 games, 4.1 ppg) and sophomore Melinda Gomez (18 games, 1.3 pg). Added to that mix are freshmen Danielle Pruitt (Los Angeles/View Park Prep HS), Taylor Anderson (La Verne, Calif./Bonita HS) and Taylor Sansbury (Lomita, Calif./Bishop Montgomery HS).
Returning in the post are sophomores Mackenzie Kerins (16 games, 1.4 ppg, 1.1 rpg) and Alexis Love (26 games, 1.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg). They will be joined by freshmen Emily Ben-Jumbo (Tualatin, Ore./Tualatin HS) and Ashley Lovett (Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta HS), but of whom are expected to provide valuable minutes this season.
"This team is very focused on winning a championship," said Wilhoit. "They feel that our program has a history, has a reputation and they want their legacy to be about bringing that back to our program.
"It's also important for us to not get to far ahead of ourselves. How we practice, how we present our selves, how hard we run drills, how well we execute games - those are the moments that will build together and lead us to the opportunity to be competitive and to win championships."
- GO LIONS -