Women's Basketball Preview: Alabama State
2016-17 Record and Finish: 14-16 (12-6 SWAC); Lost in SWAC Tournament Semifinals
Key Returners: C Tatyana Calhoun, PG Shamyiah Smith, G Kayla Stephens, C/F Victoria Harvey
Key Losses: F Britney Wright, G Daniele Ewert, G/F Danielle Clark
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After falling short of a three-peat, perennial contender Alabama State rolls into the 2017-18 season with perhaps the most to replace in hopes of claiming its third Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament title in four seasons.
Longtime coach Freda Freeman-Jackson has the unenviable task of steering this year’s Lady Hornets squad through the graduation of 2016-17 SWAC Player of the Year Britney Wright and sharpshooting guard Daniele Ewert among key personnel departures. Scorers must emerge if Alabama State looks to reach or surpass the preseason predictions of finishing third in the league.
While Alabama State lost three starters and seven letter-winners in total, the cupboard isn’t entirely bare for the Lady Hornets. Senior point guard Shamyiah Smith – a year wiser after last season’s trial by fire – returns to the fold to direct the show.
Word from the gym indicates that Smith has grown much more comfortable in her role at point as well as one of the leaders on the team. Her continued growth will be imperative for Alabama State’s success going forward. The prime candidates for offensive catalysts are center Tatyana Calhoun (4.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG) and forward Kayla Stephens (3.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.3 RPG). Big things are expected of Calhoun, not only from Alabama State but from the rest of the league as evidenced by her selection as Preseason All-SWAC First Team center.
With the aforementioned need for a go-to hand on offense, the role may be Stephens’ for the taking. With a bevy of new faces in tow, immediate contributions will be expected from the newest Lady Hornets, and new signees such as Amber Hunt and Areleatha Gipson could offer day-one production at the perimeter.
On the inside, new signee Aliyah Nelson and junior transfer Nia Sapp offer some size and scoring potential to potentially complement Calhoun.
Alabama State’s out-of-conference schedule is one of the most arduous, as it features a home tilt versus Troy (Nov. 16) as well as road matchups at Tennessee (Dec. 3), Miami (Fla.) (Dec. 15) and UAB (Dec. 19). The Lady Hornets tip-off the 2017-18 slate with a road trip to defending national champion South Carolina on Nov. 10.