Staying strong on the inside – it’s a tactic the women’s basketball team has relied on heavily so far this season.
Senior forwards Shanea Cotton and Shenita Landry account for just about 40 percent of the Owls’ offense, averaging 25 points per game combined. Cotton leads the team in scoring, averaging 12.9 points per game. Landry is right behind her at 12.1.
“I feel as though in order for our team to be successful, I’m going to have to average double figures,” Cotton said. “I can’t continue to be just in the background. I have to step up and become more aggressive. So that’s my mindset now. If I don’t average double figures, I feel like if we lose it’s my fault.”
For Cotton, all the attention from opposing defenses is rather new.
Last year, she averaged only 6.3 points per game, starting slightly more than half of Temple’s games after transferring from Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Fla.
This year, she’s frequently seen double teams, especially with the way she’s picked up her game versus nationally ranked opponents, scoring 17 points against then-No. 21 Auburn and a career-high 18 against then-No. 15 Rutgers last Monday. Dartmouth even threw a triple team in her direction last Wednesday.
“I like to compete against top-ranked post players, and I feel as though if I can do it against top-ranked post players, then I should be able to do it against anybody,” Cotton said. “I get yelled at a lot because I don’t recognize the double team or triple team at first, but once I slow down and get composed, I can figure it out.”
And it’s to be expected that Cotton is still learning out there on the court. After all, she only started playing organized basketball in ninth grade.
“I had a 4-inch growth spurt my eighth-grade summer. I was a cheerleader before basketball,” Cotton said. “I had never played before, and I tried out, and I made it. I’ve stuck with it since then.”
Landry, on the other hand, might as well have been born with a basketball in her hands.
Her older brother, Carl, played power forward at Purdue University and earned All-Big Ten Conference honors his senior season. He’s now in his second year in the NBA with the Houston Rockets.
Another brother, Marcus, a senior forward at the University of Wisconsin, is the Badgers’ second leading scorer. His wife, Efueko Osagie-Landry, played basketball at Marquette University until she graduated in 2006.
“Basketball runs in my family,” Landry said. “Everybody plays basketball. One through five — my sister, my mom and my three brothers, but my mom taught us how to play. Many people don’t know that, but she’s the one who actually taught us how to play. She played in high school and got in a real bad accident when she was 21, and she really can’t play anymore, but she tells us she can beat us all, no matter who we are.”
That lengthy experience, along with Landry’s levelheadedness and composure on the court, led coach Tonya Cardoza to name her a captain before the season.
“I love Shenita’s leadership,” Cardoza said. “You know, sometimes it’s hard for a post player to be a leader and to get everybody together out there, but I think she’s been able to do it, and her teammates gravitate toward her. She’s just the hardest worker. She’ll go through a wall for you.”
Both Cotton and Landry will have to be hard workers as the new focal points of the Owls’ offense.
“Any challenge is good,” Landry said. “[It means] you’re somebody.”
But they aren’t just anybody to Cardoza.
“First-team All-A-10, that’s what I think they’re both capable of doing.”
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.