Oct. 11, 2005
A consistent contender. That’s what Sue Semrau and the Florida State Seminoles are striving to be with their women’s basketball program.
“Consistency,” Semrau said. “We need to be a force in the ACC year after year and consistently go to the NCAA Tournament. I think our improvement on the defensive end of the floor was the biggest step that we took last year in developing that consistency.”
Prior to Semrau’s arrival in 1997-98, the Seminoles had never finished higher than fifth place in the ACC and had placed last in three of the four previous seasons. The 2004-05 season was FSU’s third top four league finish in the last five years. So it appears that the consistency that Semrau and her staff desires is well on its way, but in 2005-06, they will have their work cut out for them with the addition of six freshmen to the squad.
“Our biggest challenge is going to be maintaining the same kind of chemistry with six newcomers on the team,” Semrau said.
With that challenge, however, comes depth and size. Last season’s 24-8 squad did not start a player over 6’1″ and played the majority of the games with a five-guard rotation. With the addition of freshmen Britany Miller (6’4″) and Cayla Moore (6’2″), Florida State will now have five players on its roster who stand 6’2″ or taller.
“Last season, we lacked a low-post presence,” Semrau said. “We are working toward changing that this season.”
Helping to ease the newcomers’ transition from high school basketball to Division I college basketball will be nine talented returnees who not only have valuable playing time under their belts, but possess the maturity and work ethic that will be vital in creating chemistry.
“With six new freshmen, we will have a very different energy level,” Semrau said. “The tragedy of losing Ronalda Pierce was one that brought us very close together. It was very sobering and created a type of energy that enabled us to really cling to one another. That energy still exists but it will be spiked by the youth and excitement that this freshmen class brings.”
Last season, Florida State entered into what Semrau called Phase Two of the program. After working seven years to move from the cellar of the ACC to the upper-middle on a consistent basis, FSU shifted to a program in 2004-05 that demanded personal responsibility, selflessness and a championship mentality. In 2005-06, FSU will continue this philosophy and turn it up a notch.
“Last year as we moved into Phase Two, everyone needed to believe and every day we had to choose to enter in to this new phase,” Semrau said. “This year, as we move deeper into Phase Two, players are choosing to completely commit themselves to it.”
Adeduntan, a 2004-05 honorable mention All-ACC selection, played a number of positions for the Seminoles due to the team’s lack of size. Her versatility resulted in great things for FSU.
Adeduntan, who was named the team’s most improved player, led the team with 7.6 rebounds per game which ranked fourth in the ACC. She was third on the team in scoring at 11.5 points per game and scored in double figures 17 times, including five games of 20 or more points. The Athens, Ga., native also grabbed double digit rebounds in 10 games and led the squad in scoring eight times.
“Ganiyat is destined to do great things,” Semrau said. “As a nursing major, she is extremely busy on the academic side of things and as committed as she is there, she is just as committed as a basketball player. She isn’t just an important player, she’s also a key leader for our team. She will be a go-to player for us. She can score inside, she can score outside. She’s got great length and is able to defend either on the perimeter or with quickness in the post. She’s just so versatile.”
Perhaps the player with the most experience is Johnson, who was the floor general for the Seminoles in 2004-05. The Phoenix, Ariz., native has played in all 92 games since her arrival at Florida State. Nicknamed “Clutch” for the many times she hit the “big shot” last season, Johnson tied for first on the team in assists per game at 4.0. She shot a team-high 83.7 percent from the free throw line which ranked second in the ACC and set a new FSU single season record. Johnson had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in 20 games and FSU went 17-3 in those games. Fourth on the team in scoring at 8.5 points per game, Johnson scored in double figures in 13 games, including a career-high 16 points in the triple OT win over Virginia Tech. One of the most valuable players on the floor, she played 40+ minutes in six ACC games, including a career-high 52 minutes vs. Virginia Tech.
“Holly was clutch for us last year and showed her vesatility, whether at the point or the two spot,” Semrau said. “She is a great floor general because of her knowledge of the game. She has molded herself into a solid, fundamental, respected player in this league.”
Neely made a successful return to the court last season after suffering a torn ACL in 2003-04. Considered the “glue” of the team by Semrau, Neely provides a stability to the line up and contributes in a way that is not always reflected on the stat sheet. Neely, who tied for first on the team with Johnson at 4.0 assists per game, scored in double figures in two games against nationally-ranked opponents.
“If there is somebody that you would call the shepherd of the flock, it would be LaQuinta Neely,” Semrau said. “As a fifth-year senior, she is the glue that makes everything stick together. She is tremendous on the defensive end of the floor and is a developing offensive player. She is very special.”
Rounding out the senior class is Linquist who played in nearly as many games last season (30) as she did in her first two seasons combined (32). She scored a career-high 10 points in the FAMU win and gave the guard-heavy Seminole line up a different look when she was on the floor. Coaches were pleased with Linquist’s improvement last season and expect even greater things for her senior season.
Semrau has Adeduntan, Johnson and Neely penciled into the starting line up and expects junior Alicia Gladden to once again assume her starting position. Gladden was simply a different player in 2004-05. A member of the five-person ACC All-Defensive team, Gladden set a new FSU single season record with 101 steals and led the ACC with a 3.2 steals per game average.
Also an All-ACC honorable mention selection, Gladden ranked second on the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game and scored in double figures 23 times while leading the team in shooting at 52 percent from the field. She was also second on the team in rebounds per game at 6.6 and grabbed a career-high 18 boards in the FAMU win. Having started every game after coming off of the bench in the season-opener, Gladden was the only player on the team to earn all-tournament team honors in all three in-season tournaments.
“Alicia has developed in a way that none of us ever imagined,” Semrau said. “She not only has great defensive ability, but has come on as a key offensive player for our team. That’s a credit to her and how hard she works. She’s got a great mind; she picks things up extremely quickly. Alicia not only knows but usually does all the right things.”
Four sophomores will join the six freshmen in vying for the last starting position. Point guard Shante Williams returns to the floor after missing 2004-05 due to a medical redshirt. A starter for much of her freshman season, Williams averaged 10.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, both second on the team, and a team-high 5.1 assists per game. She was named honorable mention All-ACC and to the five-member ACC All-Freshman team.
“It has been really fun to watch Shante mature as a young lady,”
Semrau said. “Now she’s not only a good basketball player and a good student, but a good mom as well. She’s taken that role very, very seriously. She has worked hard in the offseason and looks fantastic. She’s approaching this year as her freshman year again. She’s starting fresh as a student of the game and making sure she does all the little things right. She has a tremendous attitude.”
Of the three freshmen who saw playing time last season, forward Christie Lautsch probably made the most consistent contribution. Seeing action in 28 games, Lautsch scored in 19 games, including a career-high 16 points in the Eastern Kentucky win. She showed vast improvement as the season progressed and snagged a career-high seven rebounds in the NCAA Tournament win over Richmond.
Center Nikki Anthony muscled her way into the line up and saw action in 30 games, including one start in her redshirt season. She saw double digit minutes in 13 games, including a career-high 24 minutes in the Miami win in which she scored 15 points and had nine rebounds. Anthony, who played two seasons on the FSU volleyball team, will now be playing only basketball for the Seminoles and the coaching staff is excited about having Anthony all of preseason for the first time.
Guard Tiffiny Buckelew had the opportunity to acclimate herself to the college game behind a slew of veteran guards last season. She played in 11 games, including the NCAA Tournament win over Richmond.
“We have a lot of key players back and many others who could step up,” Semrau said. “Demanding dedication and a solid work ethic in the midst of trial throughout the course of last season led to excitement and commitment. This is all a part of Phase Two of our program.”
A very exciting part of the offseason was a foreign tour. In mid-August, the returning players embarked on a 10-day tour of Italy, which not only allowed more game experience, but also an advantage in practice time as the Seminoles reconvened early in the month for 10 days of practice prior to their travels.
“The first time we went to the NCAA Tournament in my tenure at Florida State, we had taken a foreign tour the summer before and found it to be a great advantage,” Semrau said. “We had an incredible experience traveling to Italy. It’s like getting a head start, being able to work with our players for 10 days in practice and then also having 10 days of chemistry-building and bonding time. Experiencing a new culture together was a tremendous opportunity.”
As always, the Seminoles will face a tough schedule in 2005-06, including the opportunity to play nine teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season. FSU will play teams from eight other conferences, including the SEC and Pac 10.
“I think it is important for us to challenge ourselves in the non-conference portion of our schedule so we know what we are going to be up against when we hit ACC play in January,” Semrau said. “Playing Florida twice will be really good for us. It also helps us to get on a schedule where we can play Florida at home the same time our football team plays them at home. It is important for us to be tested and going to Xavier and Tulsa and having Montana, the team that broke our winning streak last year, and Washington, a solid team in the Pac-10, come here will certainly be a challenge for us.”
The ever-challenging ACC, which was the No. 1-rated conference in the RPI rankings in 2004-05, adds yet another strong program to the mix with the inclusion of 2005 NCAA Tournament team Boston College.
For the next two seasons, each ACC women’s basketball team will play a 14-game conference schedule that includes three primary partners and eight rotating partners. In 2005-06, FSU will play Clemson, Miami and Virginia each twice. The Seminoles will host Boston College, NC State, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest and travel to Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland and North Carolina.
“The ACC proved last season to be the best league in the country,” Semrau said. “We did that last year with the No. 1 RPI ranking. And now you add Boston College, a tremendous program, and it’s better than it’s ever been in my tenure. Some of the sports are going into divisions, but with women’s basketball, it’s about going head-to-head with every team in the conference at least once and seeing where we all fall. It’s a privilege to be in this league.”