Guard-heavy Colonials prepare for fast-paced year with versatile frontcourt

Media Credit: Ethan Stoler | Contributing Photo Editor

Women's basketball head coach Jennifer Rizzotti talks to her team during a practice last week.

The average women’s basketball team in the Atlantic 10 has more than three players over the height of 6-foot-1, but GW has only one – tied for the fewest in the league – and they do not seem to mind.

Rather than worrying about size, head coach Jennifer Rizzotti decided that the Colonials will switch to an entirely new offense this year and double down on their athleticism and ability to run the break, players said.

“Rizzotti’s huge on having a fast tempo and getting up and down the floor, fast breaks,” the 5-foot-6 junior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista said. “Our last option would be to set up a play. She just wants to go, set a screen, boom, quick hit. I think that’s fun.”

The new system starkly contrasts with GW teams of recent years. Although Rizzotti encouraged upbeat play last year, the team largely ran its actions through its most dominant offensive players Caira Washington and Lexi Martins – who were both forwards over 6 feet fall.

Now as the season approaches, players said that the 2017-18 Colonials will rely on guards like Bautista and 5-foot-10 senior Brianna Cummings to control the momentum.

“Last year’s game was very post-oriented, get the ball inside, let Caira, Lexi do the work,” Bautista said. “And this year’s a very, more guard-oriented game, five-out, and that opens the lane a lot.”

Senior forward Kelli Prange – GW’s tallest player by four inches at 6-foot-5 – said her preparation for the year, along with fellow forward junior Kelsi Mahoney, has also adapted to Rizzotti’s direction into a less post-centric game plan.

“We’re completely changing our offense to more so of a five out,” she said. “I think that she wanted to take advantage of me and Kelsi Mahoney shooting just because we are very versatile post players and we’re able to step out.”

Rizzotti said the Colonials would start to run more lineups with only one forward on the floor to increase the speed the game is played at and run the offense around the perimeter, instead of relying on post players inside the paint.

“There will probably be quite a few lineups out there where you will see four guards and we really try and spread people out,” Rizzotti said. “For them it is probably a little bit more fun to think about the way we can play with less post players out there.”

When it comes to the personnel filling the stretch four role, Rizzotti said sophomore forward Kendall Bresee, who stands at 5-foot-11, will likely be the coaching staff’s pick.

“Last year, I would have been very timid because any time my name came up in the same sentence as a post player I ran the other direction,” Bresee said. “This year I have taken it in much more and have been coachable to where if I do need to play post or if I do need to cover a post, I will be ready.”

Bresee said her goal for the year was to overcome any comfort issues or size disadvantages to become one of the team’s leading rebounders. GW lost more than half of its rebounding production after the departures of its top three rebounders in Washington, Martins and guard Hannah Schaible.

“Hannah Schaible last year was one of our leading rebounders, which I know the coaches expect me to do this year,” Bresee said. “Hopefully I can come through and be a big rebounder, help out the team.”

Aside from the returning players, the Colonials will look for 6-foot freshman forward Neila Luma to get some more minutes inside the paint than she may have with a more standard roster, Rizzotti said.

Luma said she is ready for the challenge regardless of where on the court she plays or who she matches up with.

“Coaches have been preparing me on smaller post to just post up on the block and on the bigger ones take them out and use my strengths outside of the paint to score and drive and use my quickness.”

Any size concerns that GW has this year would be greatly neutralized if 6-foot-1 sophomore transfer forward Olivia Gumbs is given a waiver to play. As of last week, the team had not heard back from the NCAA regarding her eligibility.

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