GW Women's Basketball: 2012-13 Season Preview
Nov. 6, 2012
The last time Jonathan Tsipis was on the sidelines, he was the top assistant at Notre Dame, coaching in the NCAA national championship game for the second year in a row.
Just three days after the Fighting Irish fell to Baylor, Tsipis was standing behind a podium in the Colonials Club inside the Charles E. Smith Center being introduced as the ninth head coach of the George Washington women's basketball program.
Tsipis is charged with returning the Colonials to their glory of the 90s and 2000s, when they were a perennial power not only within the Atlantic 10 Conference but in the nation. From 1992-2008, GW won four A-10 tournament championships and 13 regular-season titles and earned 15 NCAA Tournament berths, reaching the Sweet 16 four times and the Elite Eight in 1997.
But since their last NCAA Tournament appearance in 2008, the Colonials have posted a 42-85 record and have not won an Atlantic 10 tournament contest.
Tsipis hopes to change all that.
"When GW is good, it's good for the A-10," he said. "It makes the league stronger. Knowing women's basketball is very important here and has a strong tradition is one of the things that attracted me to GW."
Tsipis will have the luxury of an experienced team, including three fifth-year seniors - Tara Booker, Sara Mostafa and Brooke Wilson - and three traditional seniors - Danni Jackson, Megan Nipe and Shi-Heria Shipp - to help him adjust to his new surroundings and aid the transition for the younger players.
"When you have that kind of internal leadership, both on the floor and in the locker room, that really bodes well for your team," Coach Tsipis said. "The biggest thing for all six seniors is that they all want to win so bad. From the first day I met them, they have been on board with what we're trying to do and they've been so receptive."
Tsipis will entrust Jackson as his floor general. A 2012 Preseason All-Atlantic 10 Third Team selection, Jackson started every game last season and led the team in scoring (12.0 points per game) and assists (3.0 apg). Sophomore Chakecia Miller also has experience running the point, and Tsipis said the duo could see some time together on the court, as well. Miller ranked third in the A-10 with 2.9 steals per game during an impressive rookie campaign.
AT THE WING
The Colonials have a number of options on the perimeter, led by senior Megan Nipe, who Tsipis said has had a tremendous preseason. Nipe served as GW's "sixth man" last season, ranking fourth on the team in minutes despite starting just four games.
In addition, a pair of freshmen from Texas - Aaliyah Brown and Alexis Chandler - provide options off the bench. Brown is a McDonald's All-America nominee, while Chandler is a first-team all-state selection.
"Aaliyah Brown is someone who is going to be really hard to guard off the dribble," Tsipis said. "She has a scorer's mentality to get to the rim, to shoot her pull-up and to spot up on the three-point line. Alexis Chandler is someone who makes everyone around her better and has a maturity beyond her years, especially her shot selection. They both do different things defensively but each can put significant pressure on the ball."
Sophomore Maria Saia walked onto the team this fall and has impressed the coaching staff. In addition, sophomore Bria Bourgeois, who sat out most of last season with a fractured thumb, was again bitten by the injury bug in the preseason, as she tore her ACL and will be forced to miss the entire 2012-13 campaign.
At 6-1, Booker has the size of a post player and the range of a shooting guard, and her stats last season proved she was one of the best all-around players in the league. Another Preseason All-Conference Third Team pick, Booker matched Jackson for the team scoring lead at 12.0 ppg and also paced the Colonials in most other categories, including rebounding (7.0 rpg), field goal percentage (.429) and three-pointers (47). She enters the season just 98 points shy of 1,000 in her career.
"Tara is such a physical player that we feel she'll have some opportunities to help us in the post, not only offensively, but she does a tremendous job of getting physical and setting the tone when she's guarding a post player," Tsipis said. "We know that she can really shoot the ball, so we want her to play inside, but also be able to drag defenses out and get to the three-point line, where she's been really effective."
Tsipis also points to senior Shi-Heria Shipp and freshman Dalacy Anderson as other such hybrid players. Shipp has battled injuries throughout her career, but Tsipis said she is finally healthy and has impressed in the preseason.
"Shi-Heria Shipp has the attitude that when she puts the ball on the ground, nobody is going to stop her," he said. "She had a great summer in the weight room, and she's really learned how to use that strength on the drive and be a physical defender. We're looking for big things from her, and I think she's really going to be a mismatch wherever she plays."
Anderson was rated as the top high school forward in the state of Illinois, and she knows what it takes to win, as her Bolingbrook High School team won three straight state titles.
IN THE POST
The 6-foot-5 Mostafa averaged 9.8 ppg and 5.9 rpg through the first eight games last season before suffering a season-ending injury, but she is healthy and ready to once again control the paint for the Colonials. Wilson, 6-2, filled in for Mostafa at center after the injury and averaged 6.8 rpg, but she will now shift back to her more natural `4' position.
"We've got tremendous options inside," Coach Tsipis said. "It starts with getting Sara Mostafa back. She's had tremendous success on the block, and she has such a good touch out to the free throw line and just has a command about her. I think Brooke is as good of an offensive rebounder as I've coached. She should be just a nightmare on the offensive glass, and she's done a really good job of finishing around the rim."
Freshman Anjaleace White, 6-2, adds some new blood to the post for the Colonials. The left-handed White was named the 2012 Gatorade Delaware Player of the Year after averaging 14.3 points and 11.2 rebounds while leading Sanford High School to the state finals. While Tsipis hopes she takes advantage of the opportunity to learn from the veteran duo of Mostafa and Wilson, he also expects her to contribute right away.
"Anjaleace White is a long post player who is really skilled," the coach said. "I think Anjie is going to have a great career at GW."
The Atlantic 10 graduated a great deal of talent from last season, as 10 of 15 all-conference honorees, including the entire first team, were seniors. However, the league is still expected to be strong, with seven teams participating in postseason play a year ago. Coach Tsipis looks forward to the challenge.
"I'm excited for my first time through the league," he said. "It's going to be a tremendous challenge, and I'm curious to see how things play out. I think like anybody with a competitive nature, I want to see how we stack up to those teams, because anybody can beat anybody."