The point guard is an essential part of any basketball team. Calling plays, getting teammates involved, and pushing the ball up the court while knowing when to slow down the tempo are all characteristics of a dependable point guard.
The women’s basketball team has three players at the point: 5-foot-6-inch senior Melissa Dunne, 5-5 junior Stacey Smalls and 5-7 freshman Cynthia Jordan. All three possess those characteristics, and all three bring something different to the court.
Smalls can push the ball up the court faster than anyone in the Atlantic 10. Her running jumper in the lane serves as somewhat of a trademark, attesting that size doesn’t matter.
Dunne brings four years of knowledge and a lot of patience to the hardwood, while Jordan is getting her feet wet as one of the most highly-touted freshmen in the A-10.
“We’re all different in how we play. We’re all point guards, but we all got different styles,” Smalls said. “So that’s something different to throw at everybody. Until somebody comes into the game, you don’t know what to expect.”
Coach Dawn Staley, a former all-American point guard at Virginia who spends her summers playing for the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting, has revived the position at Temple. Since her arrival last season, she has added depth to a position that is vital in the team’s offensive and defensive configuration. Each of the point guards gives Staley a handful of options and a fresh pair of legs.
“We maintain balance because we all bring different things and different strong points,” Dunne said of her backcourt counterparts. “We’re all a cohesive unit as far as point guards. Under Dawn, it’s a great advantage, so it’s been nice. We all are together in it, and it’s a good position to have on this team.”
Dunne has averaged 11.5 minutes a game and served as a seasoned backup to Smalls, coming off the bench at almost any given moment in a game. Dunne has kept the offense at its constant fast pace while finding and creating opportunities for her teammates. She says she is a leader by example and through effort.
“If you know your role and you know what you have to get done, you focus on that and give that effort and produce. You’re going to have positive results,” Dunne said. “So far, it’s been going well for me this season, and hopefully it will continue.”
In three seasons at Temple, Smalls has looked up to Dunne and, eventually, Staley. With the arrival of Jordan, Smalls has her work cut out for her during practice, as all three guards share their knowledge and try to add a little swagger to their game.
With Dunne and senior guard Natalia Isaac gone next season, Smalls will probably be paired up with Jordan in the backcourt, which could pose numerous matchup problems for other teams whose guards aren’t as crafty or agile.
“Cynthia brings a lot of excitement and enthusiasm into the game,” Smalls said. “She’s kind of like the flashy player. It’s cool to have her, and you can take a lot of things from her. She sees the floor well and is a good passer.”
Jordan is going through the learning process, averaging about five minutes a game. She had significant minutes against Richmond, playing most of the first half and showing some signs of what’s to come.
She is the most flamboyant of the three. Her repertoire can be seen in practice and occasionally during a game where she might whip a no look pass across her chest or take a defender hard off the dribble with a little hesitation in her crossover.
Like Smalls, she can push the ball and can always find a way to the hole, weaving and juking through defenders. A freshman with as much potential and skill as Jordan could find more playing time at a different school, but having the advantage to learn from Staley and two other sound point guards will help Jordan in the long run.
Few teams in the A-10 have seen what she can do, which is an advantage to her and the team. She knows her time will come.
“I just look at it as an opportunity to try to maintain or pick up anything lost from the players before me,” Jordan said. “So it’s just a moment to just take care of things, and I guess in time you’ll see the rest.”