Aug. 30, 2007
2007-08 Season Outlook:
Never before have the expectations been any loftier for Florida State women’s basketball team as it starts the 2007-08 season.
While the bar has been set higher this year, no other team may be more prepared to handle the challenge. This year’s squad brings back four starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 squad and three more players who saw significant playing time. Add in three talented newcomers and the Dance may go from being Sweet to Elite or maybe even the whole way to Tampa.
Going into her 11th season as the Seminoles’ court boss – making her the fourth-longest tenured active coach in the ACC and eighth in conference history – Sue Semrau has her team poised to be a permanent fixture on the national radar, not just a blip from time-to-time.
“Obviously I would have loved to have seen everything happen quickly, but I knew when I came that it wasn’t going to be a quick fix,” Semrau said. “I see all the great facilities and everything we have that wasn’t here 11 years ago and I remember the people that came before and did the very hard work to make that possible. Not that it’s not hard now, but it’s never fun when you’re putting fourth all the effort and you’re not seeing the results. Those are the people that I appreciate so much and now going into it and having had that Sweet 16 experience we just want to continue to build this program at Florida State and bring a championship here.”
The winningest coach in school history, Semrau has a career record of 160-138 while her 68 ACC triumphs are tenth in league history. She needs three more conference victories to move up to eighth on the league list.
It goes without saying that Semrau has never had this much coming back from a team that achieved so much. Often times great runs are led by a team that is heavily reliant on seniors, but guard Alicia Gladden is the only starter not back.
“I think we have to understand that our celebration has already occurred,” Semrau added. “I think this team is hungry because they feel like, now that they were there and they had a taste of it, that they really believe `We can go further than this.’ It comes back to, once you understand that hunger you’ve got to go back to `How are you going to get back there?’ We’ve got to get back to the basics; you’ve got to be in a stance on defense, you’ve got to have great footwork on offense. As coaches we have to challenge them everyday because obviously we weren’t good enough and now we have to prepare ourselves to be good enough to do more than we were able to do last year.”
Even more exciting for the future is that this year’s team is scheduled to lose one player next year. Guard Shante Williams is the only senior on the squad so the forecast for the next two years is only getting brighter.
What is back is a group that is headed up by five players that started at least 14 games. All told, 76 percent of the minutes played from last year is back for 2007-08. With that experience comes a squad that returns over 70 percent of last year’s production in nearly ever facet of the game.
In the category that wins you the games, Florida State has 74 percent (1702-of-2306) of its points back from a year ago, led by junior center Britany Miller who averaged 12.6 points per game. Miller was ranked amongst the league leaders in scoring and rebounding (6.1 rebounds per game). FSU’s rebounding effort returns 72 percent (1014-of-1400) as 6-foot-4 sophomore forward/center Jacinta Monroe produced 6.0 rpg during her rookie year to rate third within the ACC freshmen ranks. Florida State was 19th in the country last year with 6.5 rebounding margin.
The area of the team that brings back the most production is three-point shooting. Junior guard Tanae Davis-Cain was just two three-pointers shy of tying the Florida State record last season as she nailed 52 three-balls, the second-highest single-season total. Fellow junior guard Mara Freshour drilled 36 three-pointers last season as the Seminoles retained 92 percent (106-of-116) of their three-point shooting.
Right on the heels of the three-point shooting is the block department which is led by the front line of Miller and Monroe. M&M were the top blocking tandem in the league last year as Monroe rejected 1.85 shots per game – the highest total amongst freshmen – and Miller was just behind at 1.62 bpg. The duo also ranked in the ACC’s top 10 for field goal percentage. Monroe was second amongst the newcomers at 53.9 percent to boost her onto the ACC All-Freshman Team. Miller was not very far behind, draining 51.3 percent of her shots to come in eighth.
Just like last season, Florida State will benefit from having two excellent ball handlers in the back court. Williams rates fifth amongst returning ACC players at 3.74 assists per game. During conference games only one player was better at dishing the rock as Williams’ production increased to 4.74 apg. Freshour was right behind with a clip of 3.21 apg. As a team, Florida State brings back 351-of-430 (79 percent) assists from a year ago.
“When you’re young and you see that there is something out there that you can taste, I think it drives the discipline and sacrifice side of things,” Semrau said. “Even with Shante being our only senior and being injured, she did a great job this summer of reining them in and bringing them together so that they were developing a chemistry as well as the work ethic that is going to be necessary.”
With the four-guard offense that FSU runs the lone front court player may stick out like a sore thumb, but Miller has excelled at being the only one wearing Garnet & Gold in the paint. Given the improvement she made from her freshman year to her sophomore campaign she has the potential to be one of the dominant players in the league. Miller upped her scoring average by more than two points per game, which in part was helped by getting to the free throw line more. As a sophomore, Miller made more free throws (59) than she took as a freshman (51).
There might as well be a do not enter sign outside the paint when Monroe enters the game. Her 63 blocked shots last year are the most in a season by any player not named Brooke Wyckoff. Her 1.85 bpg was the sixth-highest total in the nation by a freshman last year. Monroe had one of the best debuts in FSU history as she scored 23 points and had 21 rebounds – the eighth-best single-game output in the country – against UAB.
“To be able to play the two of them together gives us such a great inside presence,” Semrau said. “They are both exceptional shot blockers, their timing is great. I think it encourages us defensively to get out and get after it because if someone comes in the lane there is that second line of defense. Those two together are going to be really fun this year.”
While Gladden, Miller and Monroe may have grabbed the headlines, Davis-Cain put together a great sophomore campaign. She finished third on the team at 9.2 ppg, while her 52 three-pointers – on a school record 181 attempts – is the second-highest single-season total in school history. Davis-Cain nearly doubled her minutes played from her sophomore year and saw her scoring average rise by 3.6 ppg. She also finished third on the team with 30 steals.
Recruiting as a shooting guard, Freshour made the switch to point guard last season and made the transition look easy. In her first year running the offense, the Nashville, Ind., native rated eighth in the league with a 1.24 assist-to-turnover ratio. Playing more than 20 minutes per game compared to her rookie season, Freshour logged an average of 33.4 minutes per game, which was the seventh-highest total in the league.
On any given night, Williams is one of the most electrifying players in the country. The 5-foot-7 guard has enough acrobatics to be a member of the FSU Circus and the toughness to play for Bobby Bowden. Williams came on during the later half of the season to help the Seminoles’ stretch run. She upped her point production by nearly two points per game and goes into her final season needing 244 points to become the 21st member of the FSU 1000-point club.
“Her talented is unlimited,” Semrau said of Williams. “Obviously she has been slowed a couple of times during her career, most recently with an injured hip. Our hope for her is that she’s playing without pain and can use all of the talent that she has. Even with a terribly injured hip she was able to put that aside at Stanford and really be a spark for us. With a healthy hip and maturity about her she can really step in and have a great year.”
One of the first people off the bench for the majority of the season, sophomore Alysha Harvin moved into a starting role during the postseason after a career-high 12 points against Wake Forest. Classmate Angel Gray was seeing significant minutes but a torn ACL in her right knee in the 13th game of the season sidelined her for the year.
A pair of top 100 recruits highlights this year’s incoming freshmen class. Forward/guard Antionette Howard from Snellville, Ga., was the Georgia 5A Player of the Year after averaging 15.3 ppg and 7.9 rpg. She was rated 41st by All-Star Girls Report. Ranked 57th by hoopGurlz.com guard Courtney Ward was a two-time First-Team All-State from Montgomery, Ala. Rounding out the class is guard Christian Hunnicutt. The Jonesboro, Ga., native earned a pair of GACA 5A-A First-Team All-State honors.