GW Women's Basketball: 2013-14 Season Preview
Colonials Gear Up for Second Season Under Coach Tsipis
Nov. 7, 2013
When Jonathan Tsipis was named head coach of the George Washington women's basketball team in April 2012, he was tasked with re-establishing the Colonials as a national power and the most dominant team in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
In his first season at the helm, the former Notre Dame top assistant guided GW to its first A-10 Championship win since 2008 - 59-53 over Richmond in the first round - and its most overall (14) and conference victories (7) since 2009.
Now in his second year, Coach Tsipis has his sights set even higher as he strives to return the program to its glory of years past.
"Being one win away from qualifying for the postseason last year, we don't want to be on that end again," he said. "We really want to take another step forward and advance further in the conference tournament, have an opportunity to move up in the A-10 and be right there to play in the postseason."
The Colonials return a strong nucleus, anchored by graduate students Danni Jackson, Megan Nipe and Brooke Wilson and junior Chakecia Miller, while adding three highly decorated freshmen for the 2013-14 season in Florida natives Shannon Cranshaw and Hannah Schaible and local product Caira Washington.
The Colonials plan to run the court with a high-energy, high-octane offense.
GW's leading scorer the last three seasons, Jackson has started nearly every game in her career and will again run the Colonials' offense as its floor general in her fifth and final season in the Buff and Blue. A Preseason All-Conference third team selection, Jackson ranked fifth in the A-10 with 4.5 assists per game and is poised to move into GW's all-time top 10 in the category.
Miller also has experience running the point, and the two often saw time on the court together last season. One of the top defensive players in the league since her arrival in Foggy Bottom two seasons ago, Miller ranked third in the A-10 in steals last season and was recognized on the conference's Preseason All-Defensive Team.
Cranshaw transitioned into a point guard later in her high school career, which culminated in Florida Player of the Year recognition from a number of organizations. A strong three-point shooter, Cranshaw will be able to stretch opponents' defenses.
In December, Tsipis will have the luxury of being able to add another experienced point guard to the mix when junior Lauren Chase becomes eligible. Chase transferred to GW from UMBC last winter and must sit out until the end of the fall semester under NCAA transfer rules. While at UMBC, the native of nearby Bowie, Md., was named America East Rookie of the Year and led the Retrievers to the conference championship game.
"Point guards are always going to be the most highly scrutinized position out there," said Coach Tsipis. "These are four players that have very different skill sets and can attack the position in different ways. I think with those different skill sets it allows me to look at different combinations of what we can put out there, and that's exciting for me."
AT THE WING
Nipe enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2012-13, ranking second on the team in scoring (10.0 ppg) and third in rebounding (5.2 rpg) - both career highs - while leading the team in minutes played. If her performance in the Colonials' exhibition win last weekend when she scored 29 points is any indication, even greater things are in store for the 6-foot Minnesota native in her fifth year.
"On offense she's going to be a go-to scorer who has the green light from the three-point line and to create her own shot," said Coach Tsipis. "Defensively she's somebody that we challenge to guard the other team's best player, especially off the ball."
Another three-point threat, Schaible had a tremendous showing in her collegiate debut, making an impact on all areas of the stat sheet with 18 points, five assists, five steals and four rebounds in the exhibition win. A Central Florida native, Schaible also has a championship background, leading Dr. Phillips High School to three straight state titles and two National Tournament crowns.
"It's amazing to see that competitiveness come out and be really contagious," Coach Tsipis said. "Hannah finds different ways that she's always a part of the game; it's not necessarily always scoring, but she can rebound the ball, she's a physical kid who is really good off the ball and understands how to move without the basketball and how to get people open, and she's a really good offensive rebounder because of that."
A pair of sophomores from Texas, Aaliyah Brown and Alexis Chandler, each have something to prove after seeing limited action in their rookie seasons, Tsipis said. Brown's best games came during the non-conference portion of the schedule, but Coach Tsipis said she has made big strides in the offseason. Chandler came into her own in Atlantic 10 play, transferring her tremendous energy from the bench to become a vocal leader on the court.
Junior Bria Bourgeois, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, suffered the same fate in the preseason, as she again tore her ACL and will miss the entire 2013-14 campaign.
IN THE POST
Though forward Tara Booker and center Sara Mostafa graduated last May, the Colonials still have an extremely experienced post presence in Wilson, who is back for her sixth season after missing most of last year with a knee injury. While capable of scoring, Wilson's biggest contributions on the floor are rebounding and defense, and she is on pace to become the 14th player in GW history with 600 rebounds.
Washington also impressed in the exhibition game against Young Harris and should challenge for a starting spot in the front court as a rookie. The 6-2 Washington was a Washington Post All-Met honorable mention at Georgetown Day School.
Sophomore Anjaleace White, 6-2, ranked among the Atlantic 10's leaders in blocked shots as a freshman, and Tsipis said she is stronger and much more powerful than she was during her rookie year. Classmate Dalacy Anderson, 6-1, saw limited action last season but figures to play a more prominent role in the upcoming campaign.
"We have a very athletic mixture of post players," said Coach Tsipis. "They're all very capable of beating their man down the floor and not just occasionally; I think they can do it every possession. They are active - they're active getting in position, they're active on the offensive glass, they're active defensively."
The Colonials will be an even bigger force to be reckoned with come mid-December, when sophomore Jonquel Jones is eligible to take the court. Jones, a 6-4 transfer from Clemson, was one of the top high school players in the nation when she came out of nearby Riverdale Baptist a year ago, and she will immediately be a force down low. She averaged a near double-double (9.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg) in eight games as a freshman before announcing her intent to transfer.
"JJ is a different type of player than we had last year," Coach Tsipis said. "She's able to play inside and out. She's skilled like a guard - she wants to be able to handle the ball as well as our point guards and she wants to be able to pass as a perimeter player - but inside she causes matchup nightmares with her length and her ability to pull other post players out and go all the way to the three-point line where she's pretty accurate. Defensively she's so long and she's able to guard a lot of different positions on the floor."
The Atlantic 10 has traditionally been one of the top conferences in Division I, and last season proved no different, as the league sent seven teams to the postseason in 2013. The Colonials will play seven games against those teams as part of a challenging 2013-14 slate, including home-and-home matchups against A-10 champion Saint Joseph's and regular-season champ Dayton.
A pair of games against GW's neighbor and new A-10 member George Mason will be sure to ignite the Revolutionary Rivalry, while the Colonials will also look for regional bragging rights with non-conference contests against a number of local schools, including national powers Georgetown and Maryland, as well as American, Towson, Loyola and Morgan State. The highlight of the home schedule is sure to be an early-season tilt against 2013 Final Four participant California on Nov. 15, four days before visiting the Terrapins, a perennial Sweet 16 team. At the end of November, the Colonials will take on 2013 Elite Eight participant Georgia in a Thanksgiving tournament in Atlanta.
"One thing we looked at in trying to build this non-conference schedule was to have it prepare us for a very grueling conference schedule," said Coach Tsipis. "That includes playing three teams that made it to at least the Sweet 16, as well as playing some teams on the road to get us prepared. We know it will be really tough in the A-10 night in and night out."