The UAB Women’s basketball team will look to shock Conference USA this year as they are they clear underdogs. Randy Norton is in his fourth year as head coach, and this is his first team comprised of only his recruits.
UAB finished eighth in the regular season last year with a 7-11 conference record. However, they made it to the quarterfinals match where they lost in a heart-breaking fashion. Senior Chelsee Black’s half-court shot did not count (it actually probably should have, but that’s not my call) and the Cinderella run came to an end.
This year they are tabbed to finish ninth in the coaches poll. I can see where people will have their doubts.
Shoes to Fill
This new team will be without two key players, Chelsee Black and Brittany Windborne. Black was the glue that helped last years team. She handled the ball really well and was a great shooter. Black finished as the 16th leading scorer in UAB history and was the 28th player to become a member of the 1,000 point club.
Brittany Windborne dominated inside for UAB. She led the league in five statistical categories including double-doubles. She had 23 rebounds against the eventual tournament winner Middle Tennessee, which was the second most rebounds in a game in UAB history.
A Wealth Of Young Talent
Of the 14 eligible players this year, (there was one redshirt given to Maya Garland this year as she just underwent surgery) NINE of them are sophomores or younger. Let that sink in. There will be seven true freshman this year and one redshirt freshman (Bailee Wolfe).
The lone sophomore, Deanna Kuzmanic, needs no introduction to Blazer fans. As a freshman she hit 74 3-point shots last season. That number is sixith most in a season in UAB history.
Towards the end of the year, she was hard pressed to get touches as most teams sent a defender out to be specifically glued to her. It will be interesting to see how Coach Norton uses her this year.
She has decent ball handling skills, and last year she got touches bringing the ball up the floor. Maybe this could be used to get her more chances at the three because its evident she can be lights out for this team.
A lot remains to be seen for this freshman class. However, based on readings and high school records, this will be a very talented bunch. All credit goes to Norton and staff for going and finding these girls. Let’s take a look at a couple and see how they might could fit in.
First is Rachael Childress. If you were at Hoops on the Green, you saw she can be devastating from 3-point range. I believe she hit 12 in the final round to beat Nick Norton. The 5-foot-10 guard from Moulton averaged 24.8 points per game as a junior in high school. With the possibility of Kuzmanic getting more touches as a point guard, Childress could be used as a shooting guard. In all honesty, it probably won’t matter too much who brings the ball up, because either of these girls can shoot the ball consistently, and defenses won’t have enough hands to put in their faces.
Secondly, there will be a couple of girls to add some size to this lineup. Four of the freshman on the roster are listed at 6-foot and above. Two of these to note should have a field day on the inside and hopefully be rebounding machines.
The first is redshirt freshman Bailee Wolfe. She is listed at 6-foot-3 and walking by her on campus, she is every bit of that height. Coming out of high school she was a top 10 forward in Florida. As a senior she averaged 8.6 rebounds per game and she blocked a crazy 91 shots in the season. Hopefully she will help lead UAB again to another league best defensive efficiency.
Another freshman with some size will be Katelynn Thomas. A graduate of Shades Valley High School (my alma mater, sort of), she helped lead the team to a 6A state championship. In the 2014-2015 season she averaged 3 blocked shots per game.
There will be a lot of size on the inside this year and hopefully it will lead to some easy transition buckets for the Blazers.
I think many people in Conference USA are sleeping on this team. However, it might be like the men two years ago and be a trial by fire. The women have a pretty tough out-of-conference schedule and these freshman are going to have to adjust quickly.
I think this will be good for them though, and it may lend itself to a run come conference play time and into the tournament. I have high hopes for this team and everyone needs to come out and support the women.
The first game is November 3, at 5 p.m against Tuskegee at Bartow Arena.