Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Picking out the positives

To say that the 2009-10 season has been a trying campaign for the Gryphon women’s basketball team would be a blatant understatement.

Mired in a tie for last place in the OUA West, the 2-8 Gryphons have struggled with turnovers, a lack of outside shooting and most importantly, the lack of a hardened game-tested veteran player. All three co-captains from last season, guards Morgan Jean and Kris Yallin, along with forward Rachel Hancock, have moved on in various capacities, leaving the team desperately seeking leadership.

The team’s most experienced players, forwards Alex Russell and Kara Muhlhausen, were both solid contributors in previous seasons, but did so coming off the bench with limited roles. Both women, particularly Russell, who has really taken advantage of her new starting role, have had solid seasons, yet still lack that late-in-the-fourth-quarter mojo that only comes via game experience.

The most talented players on the current roster, forwards Jasmine Douglas and Samantha Russell, are in only their second seasons and still learning the ropes of OUA play. To this point, their play has been very solid, but expecting them to play the role of the seasoned on-court general is asking a little much.

Nevertheless, despite their shortcomings and lack of a home victory to this point, the 09-10 season has still contained its fair share of positive performances worth noting.

Douglas, in just her second year has shown the ability to flat-out take over games. Sitting barely outside the top ten in league scoring while averaging just shy of 14 points-per-game, the fiery redhead has shown a tenacity to dominate the paint and crash the glass.
Along with her scoring prowess, Douglas sits fifth in the OUA in rebounding and third in blocked shots. The Gryphons’ lack of a consistent outside shooting presence has led to opposing defenders double-teaming Douglas inside the low blocks, however, her quickness and strength make her virtually undefendable one-on-one. She has a commanding presence on the floor and is an obvious choice for future team captain.

Douglas is joined in the front-court by fellow second-year forward Samantha Russell, who is coming off being named OUA West Rookie of the Year for 2008-09. While her sophomore season has been somewhat more difficult than her first, Russell’s emerging versatility gives head coach Angela Orton the opportunity to play her in a variety of positions. With her outside game still improving, Russell has the opportunity to become a dangerous dual threat for the Gryphons’ offensive attack.

Lastly, rookie forward Samantha de Jong has surprised many in her first season. A tall forward with the strength to push players around underneath, there have been several occasions where de Jong’s play looks strikingly similar to that of Douglas, giving the Gryphons a talented and powerful front-court rotation, along with the Russell sisters. For the second consecutive season, it appears that Orton’s recruiting class has turned out some front-court gems.

With the Gryphons on the outside looking in at the OUA playoff picture, it is important to note that this is a team still in the developing stages. With Alex Russell being the lone fourth-year player, the lady Gryphons are short on experience, but long on potential. By taking care of the ball and feeding it inside to the talented group of forwards, the wins will eventually come.

It just might take a little patience.

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