Deep Bench, Long Home Stretch Give Rio Women Hope For 2013-14

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With a young team and last-place preseason ranking, Rio Grande has a challenging season ahead of it. According to the Mid-South Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll, Rio Grande is ranked dead last at tenth place in the conference.

Coach David Smalley said he believes the ranking is “completely accurate, with many of the teams in our conference ranking in the top 25 in the NAIA”.

After last year’s 8-22 season, 2-18 in league play, Rio is going to need to step it up if it wants to earn a winning record. The RedStorm will have a fresh start with a young team consisting of only four upperclassmen. Smalley said he sees this as a disadvantage with a lack of experience and leadership issues, but thinks it’s exciting because the new players coming in are very dynamic and talented.

Kate Hammond, one of the team’s leaders and the only senior, will be entering this season after coming off of two injuries. She experienced both a broken foot and hand, but Smalley expects her to be on the court in no time. Last year Hammond was one of Rio’s best scorers, averaging 11.9 points per game.

As for some of the younger players, Smalley has high expectations. At the three guard spot is freshman Kaylyn Gambill. Gambill could end up being one of the scorers on the court and she is able to handle the ball very well from the shooting guard position.

At the four spot is sophomore Sarah Bonar who is a great slasher and can get it to the glass to score. Smalley sees her great basketball IQ as a huge benefit to the team that will help her become a leader on the court.

As a team, Smalley said he hopes to shoot a lot of threes and wants to mix up different types of presses on defense. This press will be beneficial after last year’s lack of defensive pressure and physical play.

Last year there was a lack in depth that didn’t allow for many options at each position. This year the RedStorm have changed that. They will be deep with 14 on the roster.

“Last year when we went to the bench it was a big drop off,” Smalley said. “There was a lack of depth last year, and this year we’ve addressed that. We’re deeper, and we go two and three in each position. We will remain the same, or even be a little better coming off the bench.”

With the 2013-14 season approaching, Rio Grande Women’s Basketball is getting ready to face Wilberforce for its first game of the season. After last year’s win against Wilberforce, the RedStorm hope to start this season off strong with yet another victory at home. This gives the team a chance to start off the season with confidence and get a win, which is something Smalley says they need to learn how to do.

Rio will have the home court advantage during the first eight games of the season before heading to Wilberforce on Nov. 22. Smalley said he sees the long home stretch to start the season as an advantage that allows the girls to prepare before entering 2014 on the calendar. 

January and February have a competitive schedule in store. Many of the teams in the MSC rank highly in the NAIA. Five of the teams are ranked among the top 25 teams in the country, making up half of Rio Grande’s conference.

“We’re in a tough and very dynamic league,” Smalley said, “but I believe we’ll be able to sneak up on people.”