With only 11 scholarship players on this year’s team out of a possible 15 that are allowed, women’s basketball will have its smallest roster in seven years.
Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said the shorter bench would not limit her substitutions, but instead she would count on each player up and down the lineup to contribute, including the Colonials’ first-year players.
“We have three freshmen in the program that will all probably have to play quite a bit this year and they have all shown flashes of really good stuff,” Rizzotti said. “It’s hard to pick just one of them.”
Freshman guard Lexus Levy and freshmen forwards Chyna Latimer and Neila Luma join GW after successful high school careers that finished with each of them winning a state championship in their senior year.
GW’s young core highlighted their desire to be scrappy and energetic on the defensive end, aligning with a core tenet of Rizzotti’s coaching style.
“I definitely think we can be at the top of the A-10 if we do everything that we need to do, rebound, go after steals and go after the ball,” Luma said. “Just really focus on our defense.”
This “all in” approach on defense was echoed by Rizzotti, who noted that it will be crucial for the freshmen to buy into the collective effort this season.
“We don’t have as many good one-on-one defenders as we have had in the past,” Rizzotti said. “So we just kind of need to make sure we are thinking about defense as a whole team.”
On the offensive end, Rizzotti said she is pushing a faster, more fluid style of play than last year’s strategy.
Luma, a product of Bethlehem Catholic in Pennsylvania, could bring toughness to the four spot after averaging a near double-double of 10.3 points and 9.4 points as a senior. At 6-feet, she may be a major contributor early on in the year, Rizzotti said.
Also in the frontcourt, Latimer brings an athletic background to the position, having won a championship in the triple jump in track and field as a senior in high school. She said her athletic gifts can be a boon to this year’s team on both ends of the floor.
“I think I have a natural ability to just jump higher and run faster,” Latimer said. “So if I can bring that to the team, that would be great – being able to outrun people and be athletic all the time defensively and just get stops.”
Levy, a Binghamton, N.Y. native, is the only guard joining Rizzotti’s first full recruiting class this year. She should be able to serve a similar role to that of 2017 graduate Shannon Cranshaw: a combo guard who can gun it from beyond the arc and show grit on the defensive end. Levy said her biggest goal for the season was to take at least 10 charges – a high total for any player, let alone a 5-foot-6 guard.
Despite the group’s success before coming to GW, Levy said they understand the speed and physicality of the college game is a whole new animal. Sophomore forward Kendall Bresee said the trio will adapt quickly because the more experienced players are willing to help.
“They have been doing well,” she said. “As the season goes on they will start to understand their role more and be able to step outside their comfort zone and be helpful to the team this year, which they’re going to have to be.”
If they are going to get into the action early like Rizzotti said, then the group will need to keep up with the Colonials’ fast-paced offense this year, a challenge they said they are up for.
“For us, we just want to go in and show everyone that even though we are a young team and we have less experience, we are still a competitive team and they can’t count us out,” Latimer said.