Spacers and distributors, women’s basketball guards as much of a threat as post players

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Graduate student point guard Lauren Chase and junior combo guard Shannon Cranshaw aren't the preseason All-Americans on women's basketball's roster, but they are critical in helping the team win.

With Batman, there was Robin. Sherlock Holmes had Watson. But Lauren Chase, Shannon Cranshaw and Hannah Schaible aren’t sidekicks.

They are GW’s backcourt, a trio of guards who have risen with the program as it has gotten back to the postseason, made the NCAA tournament and climbed into the nation’s top 25 over the last three years. The dominance of preseason All-Americans Jonquel Jones and Caira Washington gets much of the recognition for the team’s success, but the spacing and ball distribution that has been key to creating it starts with Chase, Cranshaw and Schaible.

“I think our guards have really taken that chip on their shoulder to say, ‘You know what, the GW guards are every bit as important as these post players,’” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “And I think they take pride in getting the post players the ball in the right spots. But they also take pride in making sure that they are a threat.”

It all starts with Chase, the team’s starting point guard. This is Chase’s third year at GW but only second on the court after sitting out her entire sophomore year for medical reasons. She transferred after her second year at UMBC at the same time that her former high school teammate Jonquel Jones came over from Clemson.

As a player, Chase has a pass-first, team-first kind of attitude. Her 4.1 assists per game helped the Colonials rank second in the A-10 in that category last season.

“I just want to do the best I can for my teammates, just making everybody else on the team better,” Chase said.

Although she only started nine games last year, Chase still played the fifth-most minutes on the squad and scored 7.4 points per game. Now starting, Chase will have even more control over the offense and also plays a pivotal leadership role as the starter who has been with the team the longest.

Chase joins an experienced lineup that includes sharpshooter Cranshaw. After making 51 threes on 35 percent shooting from beyond the arc last season, Cranshaw is going to draw out perimeter defense all year long. The Colonials led the nation in rebounding due to the stellar play of Jones and Washington, but neither player could have been as strong off the boards without the spacing Cranshaw helped create. Her presence as a shooter has already helped the team, but Cranshaw said she’s ready to be even more of a threat this season.

“Last year, I always looked to pass first,” Cranshaw said. “This year, I think they need me to shoot in order for us to rebound. I believe that my shot is going to go in, but we led the nation in rebounding margin last year. So if I don’t shoot those shots, I’m ridding us of the opportunity to rebound and do what we do best.”

The stat-sheet-stuffing Schaible rounds out the starting lineup around the perimeter. She doesn’t lead the team in any major statistical categories, but she still does a bit of everything. Schaible did not lead the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks or shooting percentage last season, but finished last year with 9.2 points per game, 5.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.1 steals and a 43.7 shooting percentage. Tsipis said that her full effect can’t even be quantified.

“She’s just one of those players that has a nose for the ball. There are stats that they don’t even keep that I know she would be a leader in, not only in the A-10 but in the country,” Tsipis said. “She forces more jump balls, she has more floor burns and is willing to give up herself and her body for the success of the team.”

Schaible emulates the team’s will to win at any cost. The 5-foot-9-inch guard won’t ever be the most physically intimidating person on the floor, but the former flag football player is tougher than she looks. Tsipis has also highlighted her determination, summing up Schaible’s response to guarding a post player five inches taller than her as “let me at her.”

They are not the preseason All-Americans, but GW’s starting corps of guards has been right there with the posts as the Colonials have elevated their game. As the team sets out to make a deep NCAA tournament run, Chase, Cranshaw and Schaible are set to quietly continue to influence each game.

“Everybody has their given roles and I just focus on doing what I can to make sure that we can be successful, whether that game is to score or whether that game is to assist or defend,” Cranshaw said. “It’s not about me. It’s about what I need to do to so that we can be successful.”

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