It seems like the winds of change have finally blown through the LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball program.
In May, LIU hired Stephanie Oliver as their new head coach and at the time of her official annoucement, LIU had fourteen returning players on their roster. Although it would have been nice, it would have been hard to expect Oliver to retain all fourteen players considering they were all recruited by former LIU head coach Gail Striegler and her staff. Expecting one or two players to go would have not been surprising. But as the school year has arrived and preparations for the 2015-16 season gets going in earnest, the LIU women’s basketball team is left with just ten players on their final roster to go into the season in year one of the Oliver era.
Four players are presumed no longer with the program. These players are Mercedes Harris, Jahmia Phillips, Demi Tomlinson and Sophie Bhasin.
Harris played in just eight games for LIU last season after playing in 27 games as a freshman the season before. She averaged 1.1 points and 2.3 rebounds per game in 6 minutes per contest.
Tomlinson played in 15 games last season as a sophomore and averaged just 3.9 minutes per game. She was the lone remaining Australian on the roster after fellow Australian Aleisha Myers left the program after one season the year before.
Phillips, the tallest player on last season’s roster at 6’3″, played in 22 games and averaged 2.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per game in just 6.8 minutes per game. Phillips no longer on the team comes as a surprise since she expressed great enthusiasm with the coaching change when I spoke to hear back in May at Stephanie Oliver’s introductory press conference. With Phillips off the roster, the tallest players on the team are both six feet tall in forwards Jolanna Ford and DeAngelique Waithe.
Finally, the biggest surprise and undoubtedly, the biggest hit is with the departure of Sophie Bhasin. She started in all 30 games last season as a junior and was LIU’s leading scorer at 15.5 points per game. She also grabbed 4.8 rebounds and handed out 1.9 assists per game a season ago. Bhasin was easily their go-to scorer and top perimeter threat although she shot just 28 percent from three last season. She had seven games of 20 or more points and twice scored over 30 in a game last season.
With no Bhasin returning back, LIU’s top returning scorer becomes junior Shanovia Dove who averaged eight points per game.
Recently, Stephanie Oliver spoke to Brandon Glogau of LIU Brooklyn’s student newspaper, Seawanhaka, and told him the following regarding the challenge having just ten players on her team this season will present:
It’s not that big of a challenge. It’s the players that are here, and the players that want to be here and that’s all that matters. The way the game is changing with quarters, it might be easier working with a smaller bench. All of the girls know that they all have to contribute at some point in the season, at one role or another.
The departures are much more visible being that Oliver and her staff did not bring in any new players to the team for this season. The coaching staff are though busy working on getting 2016 recruits and have already landed three verbal commits in 6’1″ forward Aja Boyd, 6’0″ forward Autumn Ashe and 6’1″ forward Gigi Caponegro.
Coach Oliver and her staff will remain very busy on the recruiting trail throughout this season as LIU will look to fill several open scholarships available for 2016-17. (My count is six but the official count is unknown.)
Of the returning players, LIU has one grad student (Ashley Brown) and three seniors (Angelia Allen, Shanice Vaughan, and Jolanna Ford) who will be asked to lead this season’s group along with two juniors and four sophomores.
With these ten players and without their two of their top three scorers from last season in Bhasin and Letava Whippy who graduated in May, Oliver will need to somehow pull more offense out of a team that finished sixth in the NEC in scoring offense, eighth in field goal percentage and also finished eighth in the NEC in scoring defense.
This just adds a little more intrigue to what should be an interesting year one for Oliver and her program.