With the core of the frontcourt returning, the women’s basketball team now has the two basketball virtues that were missing from “Episode III:” experience and chemistry.
Sophomore Candice Dupree, junior Ari Moore and senior Tynecia Pam return to power an athletic and versatile frontcourt. Freshman Kamesha Hairston could see some time, and sophomore Mercedes Miller, pending an indefinite team suspension, will provide some rest for a primarily three post-player rotation.
With the loss of floor leader Stacey Smalls, the production and experience in the frontcourt will be forced to emerge. Moore is poised to step into the role.
“I can lead, I can direct, and I have the most experience,” she said. “I know the system. Basically my personal goal is to be a leader and show them [younger players] the ropes of how we do things.”
Moore was third on the team in minutes last year with 28.4 per game after the loss of Khadija Bowens to academic probation. She also led the team in total steals (55). Moore predicts teams will focus on stopping Dupree, who has improved her shooting range in order to become a bigger offensive threat.
“When you give Candice the ball and she knocks down shots teams are going to have to double her and that leaves somebody open,” Moore said. “Most of the time that’s me. I just have to be ready to catch the ball and make the shot.”
Dupree will be entering her second season as a starter with high hopes after her freshman campaign was cut short after a foot injury in mid-January.
Before her injury, Dupree was third on the team in scoring average (10.4 ppg), second in minutes (30.8), first in rebounding average (7.6) and blocked shots (25). Despite missing a chunk of the season, Dupree believes most of her learning came from watching her teammates while she was sidelined.
“You learn more from sitting and watching,” Dupree said. “You get to know your teammates better, where they like to go and what they like to do, things like that. I got most of my knowledge when I sat out for those eight or nine weeks.”
Last year Tynecia Pam emerged as the frontcourts’ spark off the bench. Although Pam only averaged 15.7 minutes per game, she became the artery that pumped life back into a tired frontcourt.
“Pam is coming in the best shape, she is really focused,” coach Dawn Staley said. “We’re going to need her to play a lot more than she did last year.”
Pam’s hustle will be an invaluable asset to the team and will undoubtedly make a difference.
Although the Owls are undersized in the post, Staley does not see it as a major problem for a frontcourt that was out-rebounded last year by an average of four rebounds per game. She’ll take the trio over some taller players.
“We’re giving up a couple of inches in height to almost every opponent that we’ll face, but I like our chances,” Staley said. “I believe we can even the playing field in the effort and heart we display. We’re going to rely heavily on them to take us as far into the postseason as possible.”
An up-tempo offense might be an option and the frontcourt’s speed is an advantage they can utilize against bigger teams.
Much of the pressure to succeed will be on the frontcourt and how they are able to react and progress. Opposing teams will focus more on stopping Dupree in the post, but she doesn’t feel like they can stop her from contributing.
“As far as pressure goes, I had a lot of pressure on me last year,” Dupree said. “I can take pressure pretty good now, actually. Pressure is nothing.”
David Cargin can be reached at email@example.com.