Aug. 21, 2006
The 2006-07 Florida State women’s basketball season will be much like a new season of a popular television series. Each season, a television show has the same name and airs on the same network but often introduces new characters and new storylines. While the premise and main characters of the show remain the same from year to year, each season is filled with new adventures, new drama and a whole lot of entertainment.
Over the years, FSU women’s basketball has provided many chills and thrills. It’s a storyline that seems to get better and better with each season. While the past two seasons have been some of the Florida State’s best with back-to-back 20-win seasons for just the second time in school history, they were very different in many ways. Each season had its’ own cast of players who created their own storylines and style of play. Gone are four seniors from last year’s squad, making this year’s team short on experience, but certainly not short on talent or size.
“It’s hard to say right now how different it will be on the court, but that’s what’s fun,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said. “It’s the same program and that’s the key. There’s a foundation, there’s a tradition, there’s a system that’s in place and now we introduce fresh faces, fresh talent and players who have been here will be stepping up into new roles. That will be the exciting.
“Last year’s freshmen gained experience and a year of ACC experience under their belt is going to be critical,” Semrau continued. “With our talent and ACC experience, it’s going to be an exciting year.”
Headlining the 2006-07 version of the Florida State women’s basketball team will be guard Alicia Gladden, the only senior on the squad. Gladden, a third team All-ACC selection last year and a member of the ACC All-Defensive Team the past two seasons, led the Seminoles in both scoring at 13.1 points and rebounding at 6.4 rebounds per game. While several players who saw substantial playing time last season return, sophomore center Britany Miller is the only other returning starter among them. Miller, who was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team, was the only Seminole last season to start all 30 games. She averaged 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds and used her 6-4 frame to record a team-high 39 blocks.
“Alicia and Britany have solidified themselves with the amount of work they’ve done over the summer,” Semrau said. “They were productive for us last year, on both ends of the floor, and both of them chose to be in Tallahassee all summer. They have worked extremely hard to improve their games. I just can’t imagine anyone vying for those two spots. They’re just very solid.”
The remaining three spots are up for grabs. First and foremost, the Seminoles will need to replace three-year starting point guard Holly Johnson, who not only directed the offensive show last season, but played a major role in the scoring herself. Johnson averaged 11.2 points per game and led the team with 3.5 assists per game and three-pointers with 44. Florida State will have options at the point with returning junior Shante Williams and incoming freshmen Angel Gray and Alysha Harvin. There’s also some talk about sophomore wing Mara Freshour seeing some time at the one.
“The backcourt is going to be interchangeable and versatile,” Semrau said. “We can move Mara Freshour, who is a great passer, into the backcourt with Shante Williams who is a great penetrator and a great scorer. We experienced versatility last year with Quint (Neely) and Holly (Johnson) and what they could do at the one. I think the same thing is going to be true this year with Mara, Shante, with Alysha Harvin and Angel Gray. All of them will be able to rotate through into that point spot but will also be capable of being scorers. The guard spots are where we have the most ambiguity but also the greatest possibility.”
Williams had moved into the starting point guard role as a freshman in 2003-04 but after a redshirt season, saw most of her action in 2005-06 as a back up at the point or even as a two-guard. She scored a career-high 23 points in the season-finale vs. Stanford and it’s that kind of offensive explosiveness that may put her on the receiving end of a pass rather than on the throwing end.
Although rated among the top 20 point guards in the nation, Gray has the versatility to play multiple guard positions. As a senior at Stone Mountain High School in Georgia, she ranked second in DeKalb County with 17.3 points per game, 4.7 steals per game and in free throw percentage at 75 percent and finished her career with 1,765 points. Harvin, from Hollywood, Florida, who averaged 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists her senior season at South Broward High School, will have the opportunity to challenge for key playing time at both guard and wing. She was named the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Class 6A-5A-4A Player of the Year and ranked No. 4 among the Top 40 players in the state of Florida by FloridaHoops.com.
Freshour possesses the knowledge and vision of a point guard, but at 6-1, has the size to play at the wing. She played in all 30 games as a rookie and averaged nearly 14 minutes per game.
Florida State will also have options in filling the final two positions. With the team’s personnel, the Seminoles’ complexion will be one of finesse and speed with the luxury of having size and bulk as well. The team will have five players on the roster who stand 6-2 or taller. Aside from Miller, the player in this category who saw the most action a season ago was junior Nikki Anthony. She may not have always put up the numbers but she was a force to be reckoned with in the middle defensively and on the boards. Anthony pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds in the NCAA Tourney win over No. 17 Louisiana Tech in just 19 minutes of play to lead FSU and led the squad again with eight boards vs. No. 14 Stanford in the season-finale.
The FSU coaches believe 6-4 Jacinta Monroe, a freshman from Ft. Lauderdale, has the ability to make an immediate impact. Named the 2006 Gatorade Florida Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year, Monroe averaged 20.6 points, 15.9 rebounds, 8.5 blocks and 4.4 steals per game her senior season and was ranked No. 1 among the Top 40 players in the state of Florida by FloridaHoops.com. Junior Christie Lautsch, who played 24 games last season, and freshman Cayla Moore, who returns after a redshirt year, will also vie for playing time.
“Alicia Gladden, with her versatility, has done a great job at the small forward spot for us,” Semrau said. “We’ll be relying on her experience, but as Jacinta Monroe comes along and Christie Lautsch comes along in their development process, we’ll be able to move Alicia out to the wing and one of those two players into the forward spot to give us more size.
“We’ll play very similar to what we did last year with four out and one in,” Semrau said. “Britany is a dominant post player and along with Nikki Anthony and Cayla Moore, we’ll be able to hold down that low post and will be versatile on the perimeter.”
Versatility on the wings begins with sophomore Tanae Davis-Cain, who started three games in 2005-06 – more than any other player outside of the starting five – and she averaged 5.5 points in playing in all 30 games. She also ranked third on the team with 20 three-pointers. Freshour’s natural position is at the wing and she too can shoot the long ball. She made 15 three-pointers and averaged 2.8 points and 2.4 rebounds. Tiffiny Buckelew enters her junior season in the best shape of her career. Add in Gray, Harvin and Williams, and the Seminoles have a plethora of options.
Leadership, as always, will be a vital component in the success of this year’s team. While Gladden is the lone senior athletically, both Williams and Anthony are entering their fourth seasons with the program having each redshirted a season. While Gladden is likely to lead more by example, Anthony and Williams are vocal players both on and off the court.
“I see our leadership as being a package deal,” Semrau said. “I thought that was very true with our seniors last year. We needed all four of them in order to have a great leadership team. The same is going to be true this year. Alicia has always led by example. She always has and she always will. She’ll never be the vocal leader that maybe Holly Johnson or Roneeka Hodges was but she will have people who compliment her like Shante and Nikki. I think, too, emerging in that leadership will be a couple of last year’s freshmen. We have some great leadership personalities. It will be a team effort.”
With seven ACC teams in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, three league teams in last year’s Final Four and the 2006 National Champion from the ACC, the Seminoles will have their work cut out for them again this season. The ACC has been rated the No. 1 conference in RPI rankings the past two seasons and last season, Florida State won a program-best 10 games on its way to its third top four finish in the last four years. The good news is that North Carolina, Duke and Maryland, who finished one, two and three in the league and were FSU’s first three ACC road games in 2005-06, will have to travel to Tallahassee.
“What else can you say about the ACC, it’s the top conference in the country,” Semrau said. “When our three top teams go to the Final Four and we finished fourth in the league, it’s a lot easier to feel better about finishing fourth. A lot of programs will want to talk about a national championship but in the process of getting there, they usually talk about a conference championship first. For us, our conference champion didn’t even win the national championship. It really puts a different spin on success and how we can achieve success in our program but it’s so fun to play in a conference where night in and night out, it’s going to be a great basketball game. We had seven teams represented in the NCAA Tournament last year and we want again to be in that mix.”
FSU’s contest with 2006 national champion Maryland on February 15th will be showcased not only in Tallahassee but nationally as well as the game will be televised on ESPN2. It will be the first time that the Seminoles will host a game that is nationally televised.
“The opportunity to play Maryland on ESPN2 is so exciting for our program,” Semrau said. “To host the defending national champion is exciting but to have that televised nationwide speaks volumes for the growth of our program and where we are going.”
The Seminoles will play another six non-conference teams that advanced to NCAA Tournament play last season, including three SEC schools with Florida, Georgia and Mississippi State as well as teams from the Pac 10, the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA.
“It has always been a staple of our program to play a tough non-conference schedule to prepare us for our conference,” Semrau said. “It’s important that we play teams that have been to the tournament and that we get ourselves ready not only for the ACC schedule but to complete in the NCAA Tournament. Going to the NCAA Tournament is something that we expect in our program so we have to play a schedule that prepares us and also gives us an opportunity for the highest seed that we can achieve.”