Carving her place on the court

Senior forward Megan Nipe’s role on the women’s basketball team isn’t clearly defined, and she has no problem with that.

As a Colonial, Nipe has both started and developed an identity as a solid off-the-bench player. She’s been an impact scorer in conference games but has struggled to find her shot in others.

Yet no matter what her role will be at the start of a season with a new coach, new plays and a new opportunity to make an impact in the Atlantic 10, Nipe insists that her best basketball is yet to be played. The only number that matters to her, she said, is the number of victories the Colonials tally this season.

“Last season, I would define my role as a sixth man. I’m used to playing in a starting five, so I feel like I brought an extra energy off of the bench. I know what it’s like to start, but I also know what it’s like to come off the bench,” Nipe said. “I’m making a point to be more encouraging and give a spark to the team. We want to win first and foremost.”

Head coach Jonathan Tsipis touts Nipe as an important figure in the huddle and in the locker room, but he also wants her to remain aggressive on the court and look for her own shots. In GW’s first outing, an exhibition game against Wingate Nov. 4, Nipe struggled to score from the wing, going 1-for-10 from the field. But in the Colonials’ next game, she recorded 12 points, nine rebounds and four steals.

Her scoring ability is vital to GW’s play. Nipe is one of the best outside shooters on the team, giving it versatility on offense and making the Colonials a more difficult team to defend.

“She’s a quiet leader for us. She’s been great working with our younger players,” Tsipis said. “Right now, our team is working on some things to be more fundamentally sound offensively. I tell her all the time that she can’t make a shot that she does not take. When she’s open, I expect her to take the shot.”

After stepping into the shoes of GW’s sixth-man role last year, Nipe foresees her role growing this season, finally shaking loose the nagging injuries that have hampered her play in years past.

While Tsipis agrees, adding that he’s been impressed with the performance Nipe has brought to the practice courts, the first-year head coach was also quick to mention that he has yet to view any Colonial as a season-long starter.

“Whatever her role was in the past is in the past. Megan has had a great summer and a great preseason. She’s healthy now, and she has shot the ball well,” Tsipis said. “But I want to make sure I have seven players right now who are ready to start. Sometimes, situations of whether it’s a team or an opportunity because of injury, a player will be ready to start. Looking at different opposing lineups, maybe another ball handler is needed. Who knows?”

While the senior’s greatest strength is her shooting ability, Tsipis also expects Nipe to showcase her wide-ranging skills once the season begins in earnest.

“We ask her to do a lot of things. She’s capable of making big shots and being a deadly outside shooter,” Tsipis said. “She is also a high basketball IQ player, and she understands what to do on offense. She knows not only where she is supposed to be defensively, but also where her teammates should be.”

Nipe is excited to play in Tsipis’ system, which she feels suits her strengths as a player. The Colonials struggled last season, posting an 11-18 record. Nipe averaged six points per game after returning from a sophomore season in which she missed the final 25 games after tearing a meniscus in her left knee.

The Colonials are embracing the new direction of their program, Nipe said, and she, along with the rest of GW’s roster, is eager for a new opportunity to develop an integral role on the team.

“There’s a new energy on the team that has been missing for a while. It is easy to fall into the trap of ‘here we go again, another season.’ Half the battle is your mindset and how you approach the game and all practices,” Nipe said. “No one likes to go through change, especially when you are used to the same thing for years. But as much as you might push against the change, I am happy and I am excited to see how the team’s changes work out.”

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