by Tyler Peck, sports information graduate assistant
MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga.- While an open competition for starting roles is common for any women's basketball team, the 2008-09 version of the Georgia College & State University squad will thrive on competition this season. A competitive balance will be crucial for a team coming off a disappointing 13-15 season that saw a ninth-place finish in the Peach Belt Conference (PBC). It was just the second losing season in the past 13 for the Lady Bobcats, the most decorated conference tournament championship team in program history, with four tournament titles.
"The story for our preseason thus far is depth," said head coach John Carrick. "I love our players at the 1-2-and-3 spots, and combining that with our adequate post play, we're going to be a lot more athletic this season."
The Lady Bobcats have the potential to be a devastating defensive unit, according to Carrick, due to increased intensity. He perceives there won't be a drop off in that intensity when bringing in the second-stringers.
"Shandrea Moore (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) could be the best point guard we've had in a long, long time," said Carrick, high praise coming from the 26-year head coach of Georgia College women's basketball. Especially daunting considering one of last year's seniors, Lindsey Smith had set the school records in single-season and career assists.
Moore transfers from Division I University of North Florida, where she served as a starting point guard.
Another transfer, Daniela Nopuente (Daly City, Calif.) comes to Georgia College by way of Tallahassee Community College. The 1-and-2 guard has a dynamic style that will fit well into Carrick's offense.
Sophomore Jessica Baker (Snellville, Ga.) has a season with GCSU basketball under her belt, including a buzzer-beating shot in the 75-73 win over then-No. 20 North Georgia. She averaged 4.5 points per contest, and was second on the team with 63 assists.
Freshman Amanda Irwin (Hiawassee, Ga.) is "one of the hardest workers on the team" according to Carrick. She's a "hard-nosed and intense young lady, I keep trying to get her to smile a bit".
Sophomore Dominique Huffin (Tucker, Ga.) became the first PBC Freshman of the Year in program history last season, also picking up D2 Bulletin National All-Freshman Team honors. She averaged 13.9 points for all games, inflating to a 15.2 average in PBC games. The rookie set the Bobcat Centennial Center record with 41 points against Lander, and hit 32 percent from long range.
Also filling the 2-and-3 guard spots will be a mix of veterans and newcomers. Sophomore Mandi Dudish (Snellville, Ga.) has the best shot, evidenced by her .33 percent from behind the line. Junior Candice Clark(Cochran, Ga.) comes from Middle Georgia College, and brings an extra level of athleticism and hustle to the perimeter. Clark is a quick slasher-type player, and a hard worker.
Senior Emily Bixler (Lawrenceville, Ga.) can play either the 3-or-4 spots. After being pushed into a post role last season due to general inexperience inside, Bixler responded well, averaging 9.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest. Bixler's rebounding total jumped 4.5 per game from her career average. Already having finished her undergraduate degree in the marketing program, Bixler returns to pursue her Masters in Business Administration.
Much in the same role on the court is fellow senior Tiauna Brantley(Woodstock, Ga.). Brantley is a lengthy player who has played all five positions on the floor in her three years thus far, bringing a unique blend of athleticism and versatility. She was sixth on the team at 7.6 points per game a year ago, also pulling down 4.6 boards per contest. Both numbers have steadily increased during her three seasons.
The post-only players are four-deep, featuring a couple of veterans, another talented transfer and a freshman.
Junior Antoinette Reames (Orlando, Fla.) also comes from Division I North Florida, bringing a long 6-foot-1 frame. A player who prides herself on her shot-blocking ability, Reames has good "hustle and attitude" according to Carrick.
Senior Tonishia Wimbish (Ellenwood, Ga.) transferred last season from Georgia Perimeter College. She saw action in 23 of the team's 28 games. "Toe has been playing better in practice," said Carrick. "If I can get her to relax and have fun in the game, she'll have a stronger influence on the outcome."
"Katie Herndon (Hoschton, Ga.) is playing the best ball of her career," said Carrick of the junior. "She's hitting the 6-to-10 foot jumpers and rebounding well, giving her a stronger sense of confidence." Herndon played in 21 games last year, pulling down 46 rebounds.
Rookie Tammeshia Law (Athens, Ga.) comes from a strong program at Cedar Shoals High. An "extremely hard worker who is very coachable", Law will work best in the post once she has more experience in the college game.
The competition for spots is sure to parlay into the games, giving coach Carrick plenty of options to choose from, and different match-ups both offensively and defensively by bringing in fresh bodies from the bench.
The GCSU Department of Athletics sponsors 10 varsity athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. As a Division II program, GCSU prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the Bobcats' multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement. Follow the Bobcats and their positive impact on the Milledgeville community at www.gcsu.edu/bobcats.