11/14/12 — Senior leadership must surface for Trojan women

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Senior leadership must surface for Trojan women

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 14, 2012 1:48 PM

The latest edition of the Mount Olive College women's basketball team finds itself searching for an identity without major players in the starting rotation.

Andrea Jones, a two-time all-Conference Carolinas performer, is lost to an undisclosed injury for an undetermined period of time. Joneiqua Gary, another returning starter, is out. Newcomer Anamaria Zjacic is recovering from a knee injury she suffered in a preseason scrimmage.

The early-season troubles place added pressure on a small senior class that must step outside its comfort zone, put the team on its shoulders and lead it in the right direction -- now.

The Trojan women must be focused, determined, persistent to get the job done and hold each other more accountable when handling their respective responsibilities on the court this season.

Especially Tamara Nesmith and Alyssa Luebs.

Nesmith nearly averaged a double-double (13.5 points, 8.5 rebounds) a year ago, while Luebs contributed 7.8 points and eight rebounds an outing. Those numbers must rise in the absence of Jones.

"Having Andrea out there last year, I think that gave Tam a comfort zone knowing that she didn't have to be the 'go-to' player and Alyssa the same way," MOC head coach Wendy Lee said. "Without points coming from Andrea, they both have to step up. They've got to tell themselves 'I've got to do this, got to be a scoring threat'. I don't think they have that mentality right now and that's a little disconcerting.

"They don't have the urgency to be that dominant player."

Mount Olive returns its top six scorers off last year's team that finished 19-9 overall. Jasmine McDonald knocked down 12 points a game and was the team's second-leading thief with 67 steals.

Nesmith and McDonald paced the team in assists with 100 and 80, respectively. McDonald also shot an efficient 77.4 percent from the free throw line.

"Jasmine, a utility player, is really the glue that's holding us together right now," Lee said. "We definitely want to keep her healthy. She can lead us in any category on any night."

Lee describes her team as a diverse, multi-faceted group that will require opposing defenses to work a little harder to discover the Trojans' tendencies on each end of the court.

Freshman guard ShyLia Buie and JUCO transfer Alexandra Silva have earned considerable minutes in practice and scrimmages. Each is learning the system, not just their own position, but everyone else's spot on the court, also.

"I've seen some good segments of where they seemed to really get it," Lee said. "They're so different and that's a good thing. They're both very intelligent kids. When they do get it, I think that's when we're going to start coming together."

Lee concedes the chemistry is lacking, but says the current absences will make the team deeper and stronger. Once the injured players return, she anticipates putting a determined defensive team on the court that will fuel its offense with ball pressure.

Until then, the Trojans must be creative, not make careless mistakes, stay in front of the ball and not gamble too much in the passing lanes.