PREVIEW: Women’s Basketball ready to ‘compete’ in 2017-18

Photo by Gary Emeigh
Photo by Gary Emeigh

The Wesley College women's basketball team brings a mix of experience and youth to the court for the 2017-18 season.

Despite losing 1,000-point and 1,000-rebound player Brionna Johnson to graduation, Wesley will lean on returning upperclassmen senior guards Alexus Stroud, Tiyanna Gibbs and junior Monshea Newsome-Murray. Stroud ranked fifth in the CAC a season ago in points per game (13.7). Newsome-Murray led the team last season in assists (76), steals (58) and blocks (19). Gibbs notched 10.5 points per game and pulled down 6.5 rebounds per game a season ago.

"Those three have spent a lot of time in our program to get a handle on things at practice and during games," said 12th-year head coach James Wearden. "Alexus is a dynamic scorer on our team. Tiyanna is a coach on the court. Tiyanna is not very vocal but she works hard every day and does all the little things that keep the team together. Monshea has a military background and knows how to get things done on and off the court."

Senior forward Maura Binkley, junior guard Stacey O'Neale and sophomore guard Paige Hailstock are expected to have bigger roles on the team. Binkley, Hailstock and O'Neale each appeared in over 20 games last season. O'Neale collected 4.4 points per game while Hailstock totaled 3.6 points per game in 2016-17.

"Maura gives us a post presence that we don't normally have, and she will grab rebounds. In the preseason, Paige has stepped up her scoring a lot to open the court up more for us. Stacey is quick, confident in her ball-handling and works very hard on defense."

Freshmen forwards Megan Shacklock, Shelby Johnson and freshman guard Kylea Lankford will compete for contributing roles on the team.

"Both Megan and Shelby will bring some height and energy to our team. Kylea is a young guard that will learn a lot from the experience of the upperclassmen."

Before Wesley's enters the full conference schedule, they will take on a tough non-conference schedule including back-to-back games in December with Division I Maryland Eastern-Shore and Catholic, who made the NCAA Tournament last season.

"We want to go out a compete every day. Playing a Division I opponent brings an atmosphere that is competitive but it also slows the game down a bit when we go back to playing at the Division III level the next day. It gives you a taste of what our team is fighting for day in and day out."

Wesley was picked ninth in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Preseason Poll. Defending champion and national semi-finalist Christopher Newport were the favorites to win the CAC.

The Wolverines open the season Saturday, Nov. 18 at the Jean Edge Classic at North Carolina Wesleyan. They take on the host Battling Bishops starting at 7:30 p.m.