Senior guard BJ Williams will become a member of the Big Three.
After reaching the NCAA tournament for the eighth consecutive year last season, the Owls look to try to make this year a memorable one for the seniors. The team’s “Big Three” was broken up as Qwedia Wallace graduated, but the Owls are confident that other seniors can step up and create a new outlook for the team.
A new part of the “Big Three”, senior guard BJ Williams will immediately step in and start at the point guard position.
Last season, Williams earned the team’s Most Improved Player Award, playing in 32 games, and averaging 4.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. The Maryland native also dished out 99 assists throughout the season. Coach Tonya Cardoza stressed she wants Williams to have a much larger role and be more of a scoring threat to help make up for the loss of Wallace.
“We’re more up-tempo when [Williams] is at point and she can create for others,” Cardoza said. “Coaches know when she’s on the floor really good things happen for us. She can score, too and this year we’ll look to her to be more aggressive.”
Williams has started 14 games during her three years so far and has contributed off the bench, but will now be expected to be a major threat alongside senior guard Shey Peddy.
Peddy won a list of accolades last year in her first season at Temple. Peddy was named Big 5 Player of the Year, Team MVP, Atlantic Ten First Team, and Atlantic Ten Conference All-Defensive Team. Peddy averaged 14.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, while also racking up 104 steals and 137 assists. The 104 steals were good enough to set a new Temple all-time record for a single season.
But Cardoza would like her to improve her vocal leadership in her senior season.
“Obviously [Peddy’s] talented, everyone sees that, and they respect her,” Cardoza said. “But she leads by example and I’m trying to make her more vocal and pulling that out of her was a struggle, and sometimes we butt heads because of it. She understands now for us to be successful, she needs to be more of a vocal leader.”
Senior guard Kristen McCarthy’s job was one of the few guarantees heading into this season for the Owls. She already has 1,204 points in her career, good for 11th in Temple history. The only thing standing in the way of that accomplishment could be injuries, something the team hopes to avoid.
Another factor to consider is the lack of experience behind Peddy, McCarthy and Williams at guard. Four freshmen, Rateska Brown, Shaniqua Reese, Tyonna Williams and Monaye Merritt, will have to assist the seniors.
“[Williams and Merritt] are the two that are probably going to play right away for us,” Cardoza said.
Juniors Natasha Thames and Brittany Lewis, and sophomore Nikki Works will all have a chance to earn a starting job at forward by the season opener, Cardoza said.
Works, the youngest of the three, saw action in 21 games last season and averaged .9 points and 1.1 rebounds a game but has shown progress during the summer.
Lewis, after transferring from Virginia Tech, played in 18 games last year and started in two contests. The 6-foot-2-inch junior averaged 2.5 points and 1.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 44 percent from the field.
Thames, the most experienced of the three, has started in 24 games in her first two years and all of her statistics have improved each year. Last season, she averaged 6.3 points and led the team with 5.5 rebounds per game.
“That was a big conversation we had going into the summer, getting that contribution from the post and every single one of them has improved,” Cardoza said. “[Works] and [Lewis] have been the biggest surprises because of their work ethic and consistency so far. I’m hoping that continues.”
Cardoza is unsure if the team will feature two forwards or a forward and a center in the season opener, much less for the season.
At center, the Owls have senior Joelle Connelly and junior Victoria Macaulay. Macaulay has more natural talent but plays with more finesse, Cardoza said. Connelly only played in 20 games last year, logging 216 minutes, but on a per-minute basis she was far more effective than Macaulay, averaging nearly half as many rebounds and points, 2.5 and 1.9, respectively, than Macaulay in a third of the time.
“[Macaulay] had some breakout games but it’s about being consistent and playing with passion every single day,” Cardoza said.
If the coaching staff isn’t impressed by either of them heading into opening day, look for the runner-up in the battle between Lewis, Works and Thames to get the nod in the fifth spot.
Jake Adams and Brandon Stoneburg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.