It’s normally a time when students are frantically trying to graduate on time, aimlessly searching for jobs and generally enjoying their last year on a college campus.
But for Lady Comfort, this year is her year.
It’s the year she looks to make the leap from secondary option to centerpiece of the women’s basketball team. This year she hopes to carry the Owls through March and deep into the NCAA Tournament; essentially, what many seniors dream of doing with their basketball team.
That dream seemed a fairly difficult one to have after Comfort’s freshman season.
Battling weight problems and playing less than 10 minutes per game, Comfort’s status on the team was in doubt, as her inconsistent performance didn’t impress coach Dawn Staley.
But Comfort worked hard over the off-season to lose weight and earned a starting job as a sophomore. Her points and rebounds per game more than doubled and her free throw percentage nearly tripled.
That progress continued last season, when Comfort was named the Atlantic Ten Conference Most Improved Player, averaging 12.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, both career-highs.
“Every year I just try to do something different,” Comfort said of her off-season regimen. “I just improve [everything], ball-handling, finishing strong, shooting short jumpers, working on my outside game.”
“When we were freshmen, I can just remember she struggled,” senior Ashley Morris said. “She was grasping plays, [having difficulty] making the adjustment from high school to college. Over these last three to four years, she’s really come along, and I think she’s one of the most dominant players in the country every time she steps on the floor.”
As Comfort improved on her game, she became more involved in the Owls’ offense. She enters her senior year as the undisputed leader of the team.
“I wouldn’t say she [is] one of the centerpieces of the team, I’d say she is the centerpiece of the team,” Morris said. “And she’s going to make this team go.”
To excel in that role, Comfort said, she’ll need a lot of confidence.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” she said. “But it’s OK, there’s nothing wrong with pressure. As long as my teammates have my back throughout the whole situation, everything’s good.”
Both her teammates and coaching staff expect Comfort to lead them to the top of the A-10.
“[Comfort’s] going to seize the moment,” Morris said. “She’s stepped up when we needed her to, and everyone looks to her. The other day in the huddle, my coach asked, ‘Who would you want to take the last shot?’ And mostly everyone said Lady. So, we all look to her.”
“I think Lady can handle the pressures of being a focal point of our offense,” Staley said. “I think she understands that role and she’s going to relish in it. I think she’ll do well in it, I really do. I think she must, though, start off as she finished last season against Duke.”
In that NCAA Tournament game, Comfort grabbed nine rebounds and chipped in with 12 points as the Owls almost upset the top-ranked Blue Devils. However, that game came while Comfort was still in the shadows of seniors like Kamesha Hairston and Fatima Maddox.
Now, this is her team – on and off the court.
“Now it’s more [that my teammates] come to me,” Comfort said on being a leader. “Like, have a question? Come to me. Have a question on the play? Come to me. What should I do, should I work on this? It’s more [that] they come to me and I tell them my experience. [I] try to communicate with everyone and try to improve their game as well as mine.”
Still, Staley said, Lady is going to be Lady. She’s going to talk a lot, have a smile on her face and maintain a positive attitude.
“She’s a social butterfly,” Staley said. “If Lady could have it, she would be out there with our opponents just dancing and having a ball. But I think her teammates love her, I think her teammates really enjoy her because she’s always positive. She doesn’t have a bad thing to say, she’s always encouraging, she’s always talking.”
And as a member of the A-10 preseason first team, expect Comfort to do a lot of talking.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at email@example.com.