Last season, the GW women’s basketball team did not have a single freshman. Loaded with sophomores and juniors, there were only two seniors on a roster of 12 players.
This year, five highly regarded recruits join the team as the next generation of GW stars begins its career. Head Coach Joe McKeown said rookies Amanda LoCascio, Corrine Turner, Kenan Cole, Kristina Gineitis and Whitney Allen each bring something different to the table.
“All five of them are impressing me in different stages,” he said. “They don’t realize that they are. They think they’re doing terribly. For now, it’s not one (sticking out) more than another.”
When McKeown first started his search for a new class, he said his eyes were set on LoCascio, a McDonald’s All-American and product of Christ the King High School in New York City, one of the best basketball programs in the country. McKeown said he thought she would be a good fit for the Colonials.
“We’re excited about her ability to run a team,” he said. “They’re used to winning (at Christ the King) and they understand the traditions. She’s stepped in and is doing a terrific job for us (in practice).”
Coming from a high school basketball team that sent seven seniors to Division I basketball, LoCascio said she feels prepared to play at the collegiate level. She was recruited by many other top-ranked programs but said the coach, team, reputation and location of GW appealed to her most.
“(Christ the King) definitely prepared me to come here, workout-wise and with decisions on the court,” she said. “I definitely didn’t want to leave a big program to come to a small school. This is definitely a huge program. They’ve been very successful over the last 20 years.”
And LoCascio didn’t come alone. Her best friend and teammate of eight years, Corrine Turner, also decided to play for GW. Turner said she watched two GW games last year and liked what she saw. Coming from a close-knit high school team, she said it was important to have the same atmosphere in college.
“When I saw them play, I really enjoyed the team,” she said. “I met them and I saw how they came together and how they were close with one another. I think that’s really important in being part of a team.”
McKeown also nabbed Philadelphia’s Player of the Year, Kristina Gineitis, a 6-foot-3-inch power forward. He compared her three-point shooting ability to that of senior Cathy Joens and her inside talent to that of senior Ugo Oha.
“She gives us a presence inside and out,” he said. “You have to guard her all over the floor. She’s a unique match-up. She’s real smart and I’m very impressed with her.”
Local standout Whitney Allen, who comes from Woodbridge, Va., is one of the greatest athletes McKeown said he has ever seen. Allen said she thinks her biggest adjustment will be the heightened level of play in college.
“College basketball is a lot more learning,” she said. “Everybody’s good, it’s not just one person. So you have to learn the game more from a new perspective and be smarter, faster and stronger than your opponents.”
Rounding out the freshman class is Kenan Cole, who comes from Rocky Ridge, Md. Cole said she is looking forward to college basketball because it is more competitive and serious than high school.
“It makes it easier to work with people who are focused because you don’t have to worry about people coming in who are just doing it for fun,” she said. “These people are doing it to actually get somewhere, to get better. They’re going to work hard every practice.”
Cole and her classmates will be joined by a new player, red-shirt junior Jessica Simmonds, a transfer from Providence College. Due to NCAA Division I rules, this member of the 2002 Big East All-Rookie team will have to sit out for the year.
When these players signed to play for GW, they were all aware veterans like Joens and Oha were going to graduate and that they would have to step in to fill prominent roles in their sophomore seasons.
“We understand that we are the future,” Turner said. “So we need to come together and do a lot of work.”
When McKeown looked at his team with the new freshmen, he said they already had a lot of chemistry, which was one of the strengths of last year’s team. He gave the older players credit for helping the younger ones adjust to their new environment.
Junior Liz Dancause said that while it is still strange at times to see new faces, she likes playing with the freshmen.
“I think last year, we were thinking we were going to miss having the seniors and that it was going to be weird,” she said. “But it’s fun having new people and having to teach them the ropes. It’s nice to have the coaches focusing on them a little in practices, and they fit in well.”
“It’s weird, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It brings new blood, new excitement. You see them on the court, and you go back to teaching the fundamentals a lot. It’s great.”
After every practice, these new players join the veterans and yell, “A-10 NC” because they are aiming for another Atlantic 10 Championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. McKeown said he believes those goals will be the same for years to come with the talent of this freshman class.
“That’s our future,” he said. “You’re looking at it.”