Friday, November 06, 2009
2009-10 Jacksonville Dolphins
SEASON PREVIEW - (Courtesy Jacksonville Media Relations)
In 2008-09, the JU women’s basketball team was once again on the footsteps of securing its first NCAA Tournament bid, but fell just short. The Dolphins secured the No. 2 seed and reached the Atlantic Sun Championship for the second year in a row, but ended up just six points short of accomplishing their feat.
The Dolphins narrowly missed reaching the 20-win plateau for the third consecutive year by recording a 19-13 overall mark and finished with an 13-7 mark in A-Sun play to secure the No. 2 seed for the second consecutive season.
Along the way, JU also won the South Padre Island Shootout and swept cross-town rival North Florida, while head coach Jill Dunn picked her up 100th career victory with a win over Lipscomb on Feb 26th.
“We were in the position we wanted to be in at the end of the season and just came up short,” Dunn said.”
The defense continued to be a strong suit under Dunn as the Dolphins held a program-record seven opponents under 50-points. In her five seasons, the Dolphins have held 18 opponents under 50-points, which only occurred five times in five total seasons before Dunn took over the program. The Dolphins also managed to break the steals (328) and blocks (141) single-season marks for the second year in a row.
The Dolphins were once again led by the guard trio of Virginia Gregoire, Regina Omoite and DaVina Hamilton, who each finished their stellar careers in the top five of several career categories.
Gregoire finished second all-time in points with 1,345 and steals with 198. She also wrapped her career ranking third in rebounds (602), assists (332), three-pointers made (137) and minutes played (3,259).
Omoite set career records in assists (459) and minutes played (3,953), while finishing fifth in scoring with 1,027 points. She is also placed second in three-pointers made (172), third in steals (191) and fifth in free throws made (193).
Hamilton etched her name at the top of the JU career list in steals with 220 and ranks second all-time in assists with 361. She was just 73 points shy of becoming the seventh player to reach the 1,000-point plateau as she finished with 927.
In 2009-10, JU will count on several strong returners and a new core of guards as the Dolphins try to get over the hump to win their first conference title and receive an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
“We are trying to focus on getting better and getting tougher each time we step on the court,” said Dunn. “Our ultimate goal is to win the A-Sun regular season title and conference tournament.”
The Dolphins will feature a veteran laced squad as they return 10 players from last season, including two starters. Also mixing in with the returners will be junior transfer Gigi Thomas, who sat out last season as a redshirt, and three freshman guards.
“We have a lot of experience in our front court,” said Dunn. “They have helped us win many games and have been in every type of game situation.
“In the back court, we have the complete opposite. It will be important for our staff to get the guards as much playing time and game experience as we can before we enter conference play.”
Along with a new core of returning players, the Dolphins have a new “home facility” of sorts by playing the majority of its home games Downtown. JU will play eight of its 12 home contests at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Area this year after playing a total of four in the last two seasons and two during the 2006-07 campaign. The remaining four games will be played at Swisher Gymnasium.
“We are excited to be playing in one of the best facilities in the country” Dunn said. “It is a great experience for our team, our recruits and our fans.”
The Dolphins will have a ‘changing of the guard’ in the back court this season.
After the graduation of Omoite, Hamilton and Gregoire, the Dolphins will look to spread the ball around with a couple of veteran returners, a Division I transfer and three new talented freshmen.
The top veteran returner ready to step out of the shadows of the graduated trio is senior Courtney Jackson.
Last season, Jackson led the squad in 3-point percentage (.348) and finished third in scoring with 8.3 points per game. She also finished fifth in rebounds per game (3.8) and fourth in blocks with 10. Prior to this year, Jackson was named preseason all-conference by the A-Sun coaches.
“Courtney has been our sixth man over the past three years,” said Dunn. “She will have an opportunity to break into the starting lineup this year. We are excited for what she can do because she is definitely a scorer. Courtney can shoot the three, get to the hole and rebounds well so we are looking for her to do well in her senior year.”
Senior Jasmin Coleman is another veteran who looks to help the Dolphins will her experience this season. Coleman played in 16 games last season for JU and has championship experience after helping Walter State Community College to a pair of state titles before transferring to the Dolphins.
“Jasmin is a great shooter and has tremendous range,” said Dunn. “As a coaching staff, we have to get her in positions where she can score. We have the option of using her down low as well because she can post up some of the smaller guards with her size.”
Junior guard GiGi Thomas will get her first opportunity to suit up for the green and gold after sitting out last season as a transfer from Appalachian State. As a sophomore for the Mountaineers, she finished second on the team with 11.3 points per game while averaging 3.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.8 steals per contest.
“Gigi is a real explosive player,” said Dunn. “She likes to get to the rim. She is excited to be playing again and will bring a lot of energy and fire to the team. I think she can become one of our better scorers and better leaders.”
Sophomores Jessica George, Valerie Jones and Ashanti Williams each will look to have a larger role this season after getting accustomed to the college game last year.
George appeared in 24 games as a freshman and posted a season-high 11 points, four assists and two steals in a win at USC Upstate. She also saw significant minutes in road wins at North Florida and Kennesaw State, as well as, the win at home over George Mason.
“Jessica is very smart at the point guard position,” said Dunn. “She can outsmart the opponent and can read defenses really well. Jessica does a good job of getting the ball to the right person at the right times, which I think is the most important aspect of that position.”
Jones saw action in 15 games last season as a freshman and saw her minutes increase during the A-Sun Tournament. She posted a season-best seven points and five rebounds in the win over USC Upstate.
“Valerie is one of our most deceptive players on the defensive end,” said Dunn. “She has length, which helps her get into the passing lanes and get a lot of steals. Valerie can also get to the basket very well with a lot of strength.”
Williams played in 31-for-32 games last season and had 12 points at Lipscomb on the final road trip of the season. Williams also managed to record 16 steals during her freshman season.
“Ashanti is a great shooter,” said Dunn. “We need her to come off screens ready to score. Ashanti will have more confidence going into her sophomore year and I look for her to get us some key baskets from the outside.”
The Dolphins losing their best three guards in school history may be a tough pill to swallow, but the freshman trio of Drameka Griggs, Abril Peeples and Maggie Wilson looks to soften the blow for JU.
Griggs was a four-year starter at Jonesboro (Ga.) High School and received first team all-state honors as a senior. Griggs also helped the Cardinals to four consecutive regional playoff berths.
“Drameka is definitely going to help us at the point,” said Dunn. “She is going to bring a ton of quickness to the position. She will get the ball up and down the court quickly for our transition game. Her speed will also help us on the defensive end.”
Like Griggs, Peeples earned all-state honors as a senior at Americus (Ga.) Sumnter High School after averaging 16.3 points, 3.5 steals, and five assists per contest. She also averaged 15 points and five rebounds per game during her junior season to lead the Panthers to the second round of the playoffs with a 26-3 record.
“Bri is extremely talented,” said Dunn. “She is an all-around player that can play the combo spot for us - the one or the two. Bri can also shoot the three and has a good pull-up jumper so we are excited at her potential. Over her four years, I think she is going to become one of our best offensive players.”
Wilson eclipsed the 1,000-pt barrier at Lexington (Ky.) Catholic High School in her senior season en route to earning all-district and all-region accolades. She earned all-state honorable mention in her final year and helped Lexington Catholic win the state title in her freshman season.
“Maggie is very smart player,” said Dunn. “She is very strong and one of the most fundamental players we have. Maggie is versatile on the court and that is one of the reasons why we are so high on her.”
For the first time in the Dunn Era, the posts may be the strongest area on the court for the Dolphins during the season.
JU will look towards seniors Desarae Johnson and Crystal Grable to lead this group again after posting career years last season.
Johnson finished the 2008-09 campaign with a team-highs in rebounds (195), blocked shots (53) and field goal percentage (.489). She enters the season second on the career blocks list with 98 behind former teammate Ashley Williams (128, 2005-08).
“Desarae is one of our hardest workers,” said Dunn. “She can shoot the ball better than anybody facing up to the basket. She is our team captain and we expect her to lead us the most by example. She is also extremely competitive.”
Grable also looks to have a big impact this year after finishing second on the team in rebounds (144) and blocks (41) last season. She posted a career-high five blocks on two different occasions and pulled down a season-high 13 rebounds vs. USC Upstate. Grable enters the season fifth on the career blocks list with 68.
“Crystal is a tremendous athlete,” said Dunn. “She can be a phenom for us if she just runs the court and rebounds the basketball.”
Junior Taneski Richardson will look to have a breakout season after playing in 31 contests during her first year back in her hometown. After transferring from Santa Fe Community College, she had a season-high 15 points against Mercer and posted five or more rebounds on 10 occasions.
“Taneski is becoming a vital part of this program,” said Dunn. “She has worked on her range and is a very good face up post player, which can create mismatches because she can step out to shoot the three.”
Since the Dolphins are deep in the post, they can once again rotate five different players at the center position.
Senior Danielle Gray is back for another season in the middle after playing in 30 games last season. She scored a season-high seven points in the opener at Florida and had six points in consecutive wins at the South Padre Island Shootout. Gray also grabbed a season-best eight boards against East Tennessee State.
“Danielle is very experienced and knows what we are doing,” said Dunn. “She brings a lot of energy to our team and tries to make everyone around her better. I think this is going to be a great breakout season for Danielle because she has worked hard and has prepared really well for this year.”
Also returning down low for the Dolphins is junior Lynsey Paschal, who saw action in all 32 games as a sophomore. She posted a season-best 16 points twice and had five or more points in 12 games. Paschal also recorded a season-high 10 points against Kansas State, while also finishing with 20 steals on the year.
“Lynsey has done a good job this summer of getting into tremendous shape,” said Dunn. “Her job now is to get comfortable in her role as a scorer and one of our go to players this year.”
11 Days of A-Sun Basketball Schedule
Oct. 28 - Campbell
Oct. 39 - Lipscomb
Oct. 30 - UNF
Nov. 2 - USC Upstate
Nov. 3 - Stetson
Nov. 4 - Kennesaw State
Nov. 5 - Mercer
Nov. 6 - Jacksonville
Nov. 9 - Belmont
Nov. 10 - ETSU
Nov. 11 - FGCU
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