What's up: Stefanie Collins. It all starts for St. Bonaventure with this junior guard.
Last season, she ranked third nationally in three-point shooting percentage (.466) while averaging 16 points a game. Collins was called upon to be not only the team's leading scorer, but also its best defender and main ballhandler.
"Everything we'll do will start with Stef's demeanor and attitude," coach Jim Crowley said. "She's a very talented basketball player. When she gets to the point that she knows it and every time she walks on the floor she portrays it to the other team, to her team, to herself, then we'll really get some things going."
While Collins has the ability to make things happen on her own, most dramatically by stepping out and swishing three-pointers, she also has value as a decoy. Since opponents have to respect Collins, she opens up opportunities for her teammates.
Now she just needs teammates to step up and score.
Senior forward Tory Vyborny was one of the Bonnies' most improved players last year, averaging 7.6 points a game. Sophomore forward Audrey Latendresse shot 52 percent from the field last season and may be overlooked. Senior guard Caitlin Crist, second on the team in rebounding last season, does the dirty jobs and sets the work ethic.
Crowley is impressed not only with his returners' leadership ability but with their overall attitude.
"They want to be here. They want to be successful and that shows right away in how they act and what they do," Crowley said. "They don't just talk about it, they back it up."
What's down: Anybody got a roster? There are eight new players. Inexperience and unproven ability at the college level remain the key questions for the program. Crowley is not only comfortable, but confident with the talent level of the players he brought in.
"We've got two kids who grew up playing in Philadelphia, one in New York City and another won the Montreal championships, so it doesn't faze them to be in tough situations," Crowley said. "I've been pleased. I thought we'd spend two hours at practice on a 'V' cut, but these kids have a pretty good basketball IQ, and obviously they've been coached pretty well. We've been able to progress pretty quickly."
Freshman guard Mandi Pierce will likely be the fifth starter.
The guard from Altoona, Pa., averaged 16 points and six rebounds as a high school senior.
"She's really steady," Crowley said. "She can knock down the three. She can go to the basket. She's a solid defender. She doesn't make real bad decisions, which is what we need."
Look for early contributions from left-handed point guard Priscilla Edwards of New York City and guard Maripier Malo of Montreal. Two junior college transfers -- guard Latrice Hood (San Jacinto,Texas), and forward Olecia Miller (State Fair CC of Mo.) also should have an impact.
Outlook: The Atlantic 10 keeps getting stronger, which makes it difficult for a program like Bona to make headway. With Collins in the game, Bona almost always has a chance. The Bonnies were 2-13 in away or neutral site games last season. If they are to make improvements, they'll need to win on the road.
So many young players means so many questions, particularly with chemistry and how they'll react in game situations. If things click, the Bonnies could improve from their 9-19 record to win 12 or 13 games.