FLORENCE, S.C. – The Francis Marion University women’s basketball team, under the direction of first-year head coach Kate Glusko, will open its 2010-11 season on Friday evening (Nov. 12) when the Patriots take to the road to battle Fayetteville State University.
The season opener will tip-off at 5:30 p.m. in FSU’s 5,000-seat Felton J. Capel Arena.
Glusko inherits eight letterwinners, including two starters, from last year’s 27-5 squad that advanced to the Peach Belt Conference Tournament title game, advanced to the round of 32 in the NCAA Division II Tournament, and finished the year ranked 20th in the nation. The national tournament appearance was the program’s third consecutive and eighth in the past 14 seasons.
After leading the nation in scoring offense for two years, the Patriots ranked second last year (89.7 points per game). FMU has led Division II in steals for three consecutive seasons (16.1 steals per game in 2009-10).
Fayetteville State returns seven players from last year’s 20-10 squad that captured the CIAA championship and earned the program’s sixth invitation to the NCAA Division II Tournament. FMU leads the all-time series 14-5 including a 91-61 victory in Florence last season.
Two-time All-PBC selection and two-time honorable mention All-American Shannon Singleton-Bates leads the FMU returnees. The 5-10 swing player led the Patriots in scoring (16.0 ppg), while connecting on 47% of her field goal attempts, including 41.7% from three-point distance, and only playing 24.9 minutes per game. She enters her senior campaign already 18th on the FMU career scoring list with 1,215 points.
Senior point guard Robin Colbert, the 2010 PBC Defensive Player of the Year, returns after averaging 8.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 3.7 steals per game (4th nationally) last year.
Other returnees include senior guard Monica Mann (3.4 ppg, 3.3 apg), senior center Danelle Downs (2.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg), junior forward Simone Trice (2.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg), and sophomore guards Courtney Mealing (5.7 ppg), Ana Imani (1.1 ppg), and Kristen Dickerson (0.9 ppg).
Four transfers, including three with NCAA Division I experience, join one true freshman as newcomers on the 2010-11 roster. Junior post players T.T. Belcher (Western Carolina University), Hannah Jones (Santa Fe College and Florida Atlantic University), and Kendra Bothof (Converse College) add size to the Patriot frontline. Sophomore 5-8 guard Jasmine Williams-Hayes comes to FMU from Hampton University and 5-7 guard Brittany Christian is a product of Wakefield High School in Raleigh, N.C.
“We are excited to start the season,” Glusko gushed. “We have worked extremely hard for the past three weeks. We believe in what we are doing and the building blocks are being put in place. It is still a day-to-day process, but if the players continue with this work ethic, we will get there.
We can score and put the ball in the basket, but there is still work to be done on the defensive end. That being said, the players have taken a real ownership in their defense.
Special plaudits must be placed on the four seniors and Simone as they have helped lead the team through this change in coaching staffs. That has made the transition very smooth and has enabled us to get to the point where we are. That will also be key as we play eight of our first 10 games away from home.”
With a probable starting line-up of Belcher, Colbert, Mealing, Singleton-Bates, and Trice set for Friday’s opener, Glusko asked pointed toward Mann and Downs as those who will play major minutes this season. At 6-2, Jones has had some success during the pre-season and should give the Patriots another presence in the lane.
“Our goal will be to push the ball and play up-tempo, but if nothing is there we need to have structure to work the clock and maintain good shot selection,” Glusko added.
“The entire team and staff are ready to get after it and play someone other than ourselves. There is a very enthusiastic air to this group and we want to carry that over to the opener.”
Francis Marion will play its home opener on Tuesday, Nov. 23, against Morris College at 5:30 p.m. For the second year in a row, the Patriots will participate in the Crescent Bank Carolina’s Challenge in Myrtle Beach. The Patriots will meet Virginia Intermont College at 5 p.m. in the final game of a women’s basketball tripleheader.
The Patriots were picked to finish third in the Peach Belt’s annual pre-season coaches’ poll.
FMU has twenty-two 20-win seasons in the team’s 37-year history. FMU ranks among the Top 10 Division II programs in all-time victories with 750 wins. The Patriots were 15-1 at home last season, 29-2 over the last two years, and have won 158 of their last 198 home contests in the Smith University Center.