Lady Trojans are preseason number one
The UALR Lady Trojans were picked first in the Sun Belt conference’s West division. They received all 12 first-place votes and 72 points total in the preseason poll that came out Tuesday, Oct. 19. It is the fourth year in a row that the women’s basketball team has been picked to finish first in the West.
All three seniors, Chastity Reed, Asriel Rolfe and Shanika Butler, were picked to a preseason All-Sun Belt Team. Both Rolfe and Butler are second team selections. Rolfe led the Lady Trojans in minutes (36.2) and led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.98/1. Butler averaged 9.0 points and 6.2 rebounds a game last season.
Reed was a first team selection and chosen as the Preseason Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. That is not the only accolade Reed received before the 2010-2011 season begins. She was named to the Preseason Wade Watch List in August and to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 30 List at the beginning of the month.
“Chastity has been one of the big surprises for me in coaching,” coach Joe Foley said at the Sun Belt Conference media day. “When we brought her in as a freshman, I thought we had a pretty good athlete, but I didn’t think we had near that caliber basketball player.”
Last year, Reed averaged 24.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in the Lady Trojans’ first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The team beat Georgia Tech 63-53 in the first round of the tournament before losing to Oklahoma 60-44 in the second round.
Foley is looking to build on last year’s success by setting up for a very tough schedule for this year. UALR’s non-conference schedule includes six teams that had a top-100 ratings percentage index last year.
“We have a great non-conference schedule,” Foley said. “We’ve got Texas A&M, which will probably be ranked in the top five. We got Oklahoma St. and we have a bunch of teams that are in the top -100 RPI-wise. We’ve got by far the toughest schedule [in the Sun Belt] so they’re going to get challenged quite a bit in the non-conference.”
The Lady Trojans actually received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last year, which is rare for a mid-major conference, after losing to Middle Tennessee in the SBC championship game. The fact they received the at-large bid is verification of what the NCAA selection committee thought of UALR’s chances. Success has a price because Foley said teams that showed interest in playing the Lady Trojans earlier last season were not receptive to the idea anymore.
“Not very receptive at all,” Foley said. “It was like pulling teeth. As a matter of fact, we came up one game short. We couldn’t even get a full schedule this year and there were several teams in the ACC, the SEC and the Big XII that we had communicated with and pretty much [verbalized] that we’d play and once we got through our Sun Belt Conference tournament and the NCAA, it was like we couldn’t even get phone calls returned. We ended up with a very tough non-conference schedule, but it wasn’t easy by any means.”
There are six new freshmen this year that Foley plans to blend with the seven upperclassmen, including junior Marian Kursh, who averaged 21.6 minutes a game last season.
The Trojans’ only significant loss from last year was Kim Sitzmann, who is now playing professional basketball in the Netherlands for the Amazone Danes, so the Trojans do have some experience coming back. Foley said there are a couple players that will take Sitzmann’s minutes.
“Janette Merriex, [who] is a sophomore this year, went through the growing pains of a typical freshman,” Foley said. “We got her in some games, but she’s a phenomenal shooter. We have Karisma Tyson, a freshman from Memphis, about 5’11”, [who is] a very good athlete and probably has one of the purest shots as any kid that I’ve coached since I’ve been here. That’s the two that I think have a chance at replacing Kim.”
Foley said there is another freshman who has a chance to contribute this year.
“We have a post player, a 6’2” kid from Louisiana named Hanna Fohne, [who] I think will give us some depth inside that will be a very good scorer in time,” Foley said. “She has very good post-moves, a good running left hand and she’s got a good wingspan.”
Foley said that Fohne is a little bigger than some post-players he has had in the past and that it well help in scoring and taking some of the load off Reed.
“I think we have a chance to have more depth, maybe a little better scoring inside and outside,” Foley said. “If we can get it all put together and stay away from injuries, then we might have a chance to have a pretty good ball club.”