After three straight seasons of 19 or more wins and 10 or more wins in the NEC, the LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball team had a rough go out of it last season. The Blackbirds finished with a 7-22 record and a 4-14 NEC record which put them in a eleventh place finish in the NEC and they missed the NEC tournament for the first time since 2008-09 which was head coach Gail Striegler’s first season at LIU.
Last season, there was a lot of turnover in the roster. Coach Striegler only had six returning players from the season prior and also lost LIU’s all-time leading scorer Ashley Palmer to graduation. The result was a fall from 21 wins two seasons to 7 wins last season.
This season though, Coach Striegler has eight players returning from last season’s squad along with seven newcomers in which six of those are freshman which results in a good mix of veterans and newcomers to this LIU Brooklyn squad. Coach Striegler will have a full complement of 15 players at her disposal, making this possibly a very deep team this season unlike last season in which LIU ended up with just 12 players on the roster.
Let’s begin by taking a look at this season’s roster from upperclassmen to the slew of freshmen.
The Players and Coaches
Fanny Cavallo – #2 – 5’11” – F – Senior
Cavallo played in 28 games in her first season in the LIU program, she started in 13 games. Averaged 2.3 ppg and 4.6 rpg. Shot 35.1% from the field in 77 FGAs. She played in just over 15 mpg last season. Solid rebounder, needs to improve on her shooting both from the field and at the free throw line.
Cleandra Roberts – #25 – 6’0″ – G/F – Senior
Roberts played in 26 games with 13 starts in her junior year with LIU. She had career-highs in PPG (9.3), RPG (6.9), and FG% (45.1%) as well as in steals and assists. Finished with four double-doubles last season including a 20 pts/14 rebs game vs FDU coming off the bench. Only started in 5 NEC games last season but did start in LIU’s last four games. I would expect Roberts to land a starting spot to begin this season.
Genise Presley – #31 – 5’10” – F – Senior
Presley played in 22 games, getting 5 starts in 2012-13 in her first season at LIU. Played 11.3 mpg last season and averaged 1.7 ppg and 2.6 rpg. Her best game came at in an LIU loss at Quinnipiac where she scored 8 pts and grabbed 9 boards. 23 of her 57 rebounds came on the offensive glass. Needs to drastically improve her shooting numbers after shooting under 32% from the field and under 40% from the FT line if she wants to increase her playing time this season.
Courtney Sullivan – #21 – 5’6″ – G – Senior
Sullivan played in 23 games last season all coming off the bench in her first season at LIU. Scored 20 total points while averaging just 6 mpg, making only 7 of 47 FGAs. With added depth at the shooting guard spot, could find it hard to find addition playing time this season. Will need to find her shooting touch after shooting in the teens percentage-wise across the board last season.
Kelly Robinson – #3 – 5’6″ – G – RS-Junior
Robinson played in her first season with LIU last season after transferring in from UMass and sitting out a year. Robinson started 28 of her 29 games she played a year ago at the point guard spot. She led LIU in assists with 4.8 apg while also scoring 3.7 ppg. She was second on the team in minutes played. Her best game last season came in a win against Towson where she scored 12 pts, grabbed 7 rebounds and dished out 7 assists. Robinson did struggle with her shooting. She shot just over 29% from the field and 63.8% from the FT line in 47 attempts while not making a single three all year (0 for 13). She did show last season she can run this team on the floor and showed nice quickness. I really like her game. Can find the open man, just need shooters who will knock down some shots. Needs to also be able to knock down shots as well this season.
Ashley Brown – #1 – 5’6″ – G – Junior
Brown in a her first season at LIU Brooklyn after transferring in from Hill College, a junior college in Hillsboro, Texas. Started in 25 of 29 games last season while averaging 9.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg and 3.1 apg. Scored a season-high 21 pts vs Tyler Junior College. Shot 36.1% from the field, 32.3% from three and 73.5% from the FT line. Given her previous experience and production, could be in competition for some minutes at one of the guards positions.
Letava Whippy – #4 – 5’9″ – G – Junior
Whippy started in 21 of 29 games she played in last season. She averaged 5.0 ppg and 4.8 rpg while shooting 44.8% FG and 28.6% 3FG. She recorded a double-double in a win on Feb. 4 vs St. Francis (PA) with a 14 pts/15 rebs performance. As a guard, she rebounds the ball very well. She also led LIU in steals with a 1.3 spg average. She doesn’t take a lot of threes, only taken 9 3FGAs in her career. Needs to improve her FT shooting which was at 46.5% last season. She will likely still get first crack in the starting lineup but with the added depth this season, don’t be surprised if she struggles to see one of the incoming freshman take her spot.
Sophie Bhasin – #14 – 5’7″ – G – Sophomore
LIU’s top recruit last season, Bhasin had a good freshman year. Averaged 7.0 ppg and 3.3 rpg in 29 games played. Started in one game but likely might see her move into the starting lineup this season after the graduation of Krystal Wells. Bhasin scored in double-figures in 8 games including 4 games in a row during NEC play last February. Shot 32.4% from beyond the three-point arc in 74 attempts. Will likely improve upon her shooting numbers this season with the increase in playing time.
Jahmia Phillips – #11 – 6’3″ – F/C – Sophomore
Phillips appeared in 8 games last season, playing in just 45 total minutes. Only shot she made last season (1/10 FGs) was a three-pointer. Got 22 combined minutes in the last 2 games of the season. At 6’3″, she is the tallest player on the LIU Brooklyn roster. With the graduation of Tamika Guz and the transfer of Honor Duvall, Phillips could likely get her opportunity for a lot more playing time this season but she will have some competition for a couple of freshman that she will have to battle through.
Demi Tomlinson – #0 – 5’6″ – Guard – Freshman
Tomlinson is one of the two players on this season’s LIU Brooklyn team who arrives all the way from Australia. Tomlinson comes in with some impressive credentials including being named her Australian club team’s MVP five times. In watching some of her YouTube clips, her strengths seem to be that she is a good on the ball defender who can pick up rebounds at the point guard position and can also hit an outside shot. Could likely be see her backing up Kelly Robinson at the point guard spot.
Shanovia Dove – #10 – 5’8″ – Guard – Freshman
Dove is a three-star recruit from West Palm Beach, Florida. ESPN Recruiting evaluated her as “Explosive guard with one on one tools. Attacks and creates.” Was named Player of the Year two seasons ago. Coach Striegler sees her as a defensive stopper who will also attack the basket and score points. In her POY season in high school, Dove averaged 22.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg and 4.0 apg. See her coming off the bench to start with a possibility of working her way up this season.
Rachel McCoy – #12 – 6’0″ – Forward – Freshman
McCoy is a two-sport athlete (hoops and track) who comes to LIU from California. Was a three-time team MVP in high school and holds several individual records at her high school. She recorded an incredible 32 triple-doubles in high school career. Last season, she averaged 21 ppg, 12 rpg, 6 apg, 6 spg, 6 bpg! Oh, she also shot 44% from three last season as well. She can any position on the floor. That kind of versatility and production is going to push Coach Striegler into giving her some playing time and see what she can bring to the table at the collegiate level.
Aleisha Myers – #13 – 5’8″ – G – Freshman
Myers is the second player to come to LIU Brooklyn from Australia this season. A shooting guard who is expected to come in and contribute right away. She has an ability to score from both outside and inside. Averaged 24.3 ppg two seasons ago. Has a team MVP and a female Player of the Year under her belt. Will likely be in competition for the starting shooting guard position left open after the graduation of Krystal Wells.
Brianna Farris – #22 – 5’9″ – G – Freshman
Farris comes to LIU Brooklyn from Tennessee. She played on back-to-back state champs. She averaged 8.6 ppg and 2.5 rpg in her junior year. She was an early-signee last season for Coach Striegler. Versatile guard who can play both guard positions. Can shot from the outside and is a good ball handler.
Mercedes Harris – #24 – 6’1″ – F – Freshman
Harris comes to LIU Brooklyn from North Carolina. She won a high school state championship her junior season. She committed to LIU in August of 2012. Averaged 11.8 ppg and 13 rpg as well as an incredible 9 blocks per game! Will likely be in competition at the 5 position with Jahmia Phillips. Either way, could see plenty of playing time this season.
Gail Striegler returns for her sixth season as the head coach of LIU Brooklyn. Her record at LIU is 78-73. She returns her entire coaching staff from last season, associate head coach Lisa Pace (4th season at LIU), assistant coach Terrell Coburn (third season at LIU), assistant coach Erin Geary (second season) and director of basketball operations Chelsea Wolf (second season).
Blackbirds Hoops Journal’s Opening Night Projected Starting Five:
G – Kelly Robinson – R-Jr.
G – Letava Whippy – Jr.
G – Sophie Bhasin – So.
F – Cleandra Roberts – Sr.
F – Rachel McCoy – Fr.
The LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball team will play 11 non-conference games and 18 NEC games this season. They will play 14 home games including a conference game at the Barclays Center against St. Francis Brooklyn on January 11. The Blackbirds start the season at home against local rival Columbia. They play just one road game in November when they travel to play Rider. They return home to battle NJIT, Maine and then get into the annual LIU Turkey Classic at home against McNesse State and either Georgia Tech from the ACC or Southern Utah. In December, all their games will be on the road, staring at Penn and then at Townson. They will then see a familar foe in former NEC school Monmouth before traveling out west to take on Grand Canyon University and Northern Arizona to round out non-conference play.
The 18-game NEC schedule begins at Wagner on January 4th. Four of their first six NEC games are on the road before they enter into a five-game home stand which will include games with Sacred Heart and St. Francis (PA). After the home stand, they finish the regular season with four of six games back on the road. The regular season will end with the annual Battle of Brooklyn game which will hosted this season at St. Francis Brooklyn on March 3rd.
You can check out the entire 2013-14 LIU Brooklyn Women’s Basketball Schedule by clicking here.
I believe LIU Brooklyn will improve greatly after a long, stressful season last year. The team chemistry will need to be work on early on with seven new players coming into the program with the eight returnees. LIU only has two players with at least three years of experience playing at LIU Brooklyn with Gail Striegler. It is going to take time for all the pieces to gel. Coach Striegler will need all 11 non-conference games to figure out what combinations will work together and who she is going to be able to count on down the stretches of close games. It is going to be a work-in-progress. I believe by NEC play, Coach Striegler will have certain things figured out and I would think LIU has the talent now to make it back in the NEC tournament after a one-year absence. I would guess to say they will finish somewhere near .500, let’s say 15-14 with a 9-9 record in NEC which should get them a possible 6 or 7 seed in the NEC tournament.