By most college basketball standards, sophomores Tara Booker and Tiana Myers might be considered young. The two are, after all, only entering their second season of basketball at the collegiate level.
But on a GW women’s basketball team that enters this season with 10 underclassmen among its 11-player roster, the Colonials will turn to Booker and Myers as two unusually young sources of leadership on the court.
With the team’s lone upperclassman, redshirt junior Ivy Abiona, sidelined until at least January after undergoing surgery on her ACL this summer, Myers and Booker are now thrust into the role of the team’s most experienced veterans. As freshmen last season, the pair saw extensive time on the court, playing just shy of 700 minutes each.
Bozeman said he is proud of the way Myers and Booker have embraced the responsibility put on their shoulders, given that they are only sophomores.
“Not knowing how they were going to respond because they’re only sophomores, I’d have to commend them with the highest of honors because they have really stepped up in leadership,” he said.
Myers and Booker acknowledge their role on the team and say it motivates them to raise the level of their game, given that there are six freshmen watching and emulating their every move.
“It makes you want to be better, because you know that people are looking up to you,” said Booker, who averaged 8.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season.
“When you’re in a position like that, you’re always going to go as hard as you can in practice, because you always want to set the bar that high,” she added. “In games, when you’re playing, in sprints, in the classroom, in anything that you’re doing, you always want to set the bar high.”
Myers, who led all returning Colonials with 49 assists last year, said although her role in the spotlight means she is often looked to for direction while on the court, communication needs to be a two-way street.
“I can’t just yell at them and have them cooperate with me,” she said. “I have to communicate with them and direct them and also be able to listen to them and be mindful of what they’re saying as well.”
Freshman forward Nicole Shelton said it is beneficial having the team leaders be only one year older than their youngest teammates. She said Myers and Booker have made the transition to GW much easier, because she feels they are still adjusting alongside the freshmen.
With experience sparse among the Colonials, the team is relying on their leaders’ knowledge of game situations to guide them through the season.
“You can’t compare anything to experience,” Booker said. “That’s definitely what’s pushing us through into the season. The experience that we got as freshmen, getting as many minutes as we did, it definitely helps. It helps mature your game. You know what it takes in game situations.”
The confidence and work ethic the experienced ones have as a result of their familiarity with the college game will help tremendously, especially as the team attempts to maximize their potential this season, head coach Mike Bozeman said.
Despite not knowing exactly what to anticipate because of all the new faces, Myers said the coaches have set the bar high, and the team is exceeding those expectations. She said the youth factor has not deterred the team from working towards their goal of winning an Atlantic 10 championship.
“You always have to continue to compete,” Myers said. “All the time, you have to work hard nonstop, because when you’re not working hard, there are others that are trying to get better.”