With reconstructed rosters, men’s and women’s basketball will look to make the most of a season in rebuild mode as they attempt to contend in the A-10 once again.
On the women’s side, new Head Coach Caroline McCombs said she has prioritized finding experience in rebuilding the roster, leaning on the veterans of the roster but also adding graduate students to support the incoming players. On the men’s side, Head Coach Jamison Christian began to cobble together a roster right after the offseason, taking advantage of the NCAA rule change last season that allowed transfer students to play right away.
Four players transferred out of the women’s team in March and April following the firing of former Head Coach Jennifer Rizzotti March 15 after three straight losing seasons and early round exits in the A-10 tournament. Redshirt junior guard Gabby Nikitinaite, redshirt junior forward Neila Luma, freshman center Ali Brigham and freshman forward Caranda Perea all left the team.
With the departure of those players, McCombs said experience will be important moving forward. She said she hopes to find some of that in senior guard Maddie Loder.
“She’s been at GW, she knows the University, she knows the program, she knows the conference,” McCombs said. “So just her coming in, just with that understanding is really important. She’s worked really hard in the offseason, whether that’s being a shooter, knocking down shots, getting in the gym and knowing her role as a leader.”
Among the graduate additions to the roster, graduate student forward Ty Moore averaged 9.7 points per game with 6.0 rebounds and 0.9 assists during her senior season at Troy. In the Colonials’ home victory against American, she registered 18 points and 11 rebounds.
“She really gets after it,” McCombs said. “She can score 15 feet and in. So we’re really looking for her versatility, defensive presence. Again, she can score the ball as well and create some havoc out there.”
Graduate student Sierra Bell averaged 10.7 points during her senior season, recording a double-double against Cleveland State Feb. 12 where she had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Colonials.
“Kyara Frames and Sierra Bell are both experienced point guards that will be able to help run the team, lead the team,” McCombs said. “It’s important that they’re an extension of the coaches out on the floor. So just with that experience that they have and always they can score, they can shoot, and they can lead a team.”
Although the Colonials have gotten a makeover, McCombs said she expects the connections developed between the players to help them drive forward this season despite the short amount of time spent together.
“It’s been special because of the connection that we’ve built with our players,” McCombs said. “From just having six players and getting to know them, and spending time with them and doing spring workouts with them. And then as you’re able to bring in transfers and different players at different times, that just happened naturally.”
The NCAA one time transfer rule change in April proved key in allowing Christian to pick up valuable players who could play immediately for their new team without having to sit out an entire season first.
Christian added then Arizona senior forward Ira Lee, Virginia Tech freshman guard Joe Bamisile and Connecticut junior guard Brendan Adams in April. Though Lee suffered a season ending injury over the summer, Bamisile and Adams have proved vital to the Colonial offense, becoming the top two scorers on the squad through the first four games.
These additions came after the Colonials’ roster suffered attrition midseason and in the offseason. Eight players – senior guard Maceo Jack, senior forward Ace Stallings, sophomore guard Jameer Nelson Jr., sophomore forward Jamison Battle, sophomore forward Chase Paar, junior forward Sloan Seymour, freshman guard Lincoln Ball and freshman guard Tyler Brelsford – left the team.
“Our history, although rocky the last few years, I definitely believe that we’ve made a ton of strides,” Christian said. “Starting with the talent we’ve been able to put together on the roster, moving into our style of play, and just understanding a deeper, deeper belief of where we need to be at to be a top four team in this league.”
Christian said he has prioritized “toughness” and “versatility” in rebuilding the roster. But, he said given the strength and size of the new roster, he will modify his signature high press “mayhem” style defense he has implemented in the past two years.
“I like the way our bigs can play,” Christian said. “I don’t want to extend those guys too much. I want those guys to protect the paint for us and I love the guard play that we have. We have a lot of versatile pieces, so I think for us right now, we’re going to still pressure and that kind of stuff, but we won’t be kamikaze pressuring full court, taking too many risks.”
Though Christian may have to adjust some of his strategy, he said he is confident in the roster he has put together and expects the team to grow over the nonconference slate and contend in the A-10 conference this year.
“This isn’t GW of the last five years, this is a new edition,” Christian said. “It’s a new edition of guys who are hungry. Hungry, humble and smart. And that’s going to be scary to play against.”