Women's Basketball Preview: Grambling State
2016-17 Record and Finish: 19-15 (14-4 SWAC); SWAC Regular Season Champion, lost in SWAC Tournament Final, lost in second round of Women’s NIT
Key Returners: G Shakyla Hill, G/F Monisha Neal, G Jazmin Boyd, F Jazmine Torian, G Takerra Parsons
Key Losses: F John’ea Thompson, G Bre’nae Andrews
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – On the heels of a historic season that saw Grambling State pick up the first-ever postseason win by a Southwestern Athletic Conference team in the modern era, the Lady Tigers head into the 2017-18 season loaded to make a valiant defense of the SWAC regular season championship in hopes of claiming the SWAC tournament championship.
Head coach Freddie Murray has the luxury of returning nearly every key piece of last year’s unit that fell just shy of the tournament title. Leading the way is preseason Player of the Year Shakyla Hill. The junior point guard was the only player to rank in the top five in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and field goal percentage, leading the league in the latter three categories.
Hill spearheads what is – at least on paper – perhaps the strongest and deepest guard corps in the league, as fellow junior Jazmin Boyd (11.8 PPG, 50 made three-pointers) is also back in the fold. Senior Monisha Neal (11.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG) also returns as a do-everything swingman and is likely to assume a leadership role on the team.
Takerra Parsons projects as an effective reserve that can knock down shots for Grambling, as she posted the ninth-best shooting clip in the league last season (42.1 percent). Her growth – as well as the emergence of reserves Darae Taylor and Deja McKinney -- can help the Lady Tigers ease through the graduation of Bre’nae Andrews.
The Lady Tigers have just two seniors on this year’s team: Neal and forward Jazmine Torian. As forward John’ea Thompson has graduated, Torian must establish herself as an interior presence early and often to supplement what should be strong perimeter play.
In addition to Torian, Grambling has received an infusion of height on this year’s squad. Names like Alisicia Machado, Kaylin Gideon, Hannah Henderson, and Alexus Williams could step forward to shore up what appears to be the lone glaring weakness for an otherwise strong Grambling squad.
Grambling State’s out-of-conference schedule is highlighted by tilts versus Alabama (Dec. 10), Arkansas State (Dec. 16), North Carolina (Dec. 19), Xavier (Nov. 16) and a home date with Florida State (Nov. 19). The Lady Tigers open the season at Louisiana Tech on Nov. 10.