Lady Cougars open season at home tonight
By Joseph Myers
Special To The Ledger-Enquirer
If the Columbus State women's basketball team -- which opens its season Friday at 6 p.m. against Fort Valley State at the Lumpkin Center -- could be described with one word, it would be young.
The Lady Cougars have eight freshmen on their roster and CSU coach Jonathan Norton said his team's youth has shown during preseason practice.
"Practice has been going like we have a lot of freshmen," said Norton, who is starting his fifth season as CSU's coach. "We've had to cover a lot of fundamentals on the defensive end of the floor, but I think the light bulb is starting to come on more consistently. We're starting to have a lot more productive practices and there's a lot of intense competition going on."
Post player Chatil Bradford is one of just three seniors for the Lady Cougars and she said she knows she has to set an example for the younger players on the roster.
"I've been here four years and there haven't been too many players who have done that," said Bradford, who averaged 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds last season. "There hasn't been anybody here to really show the younger players the ropes and help them have a good college experience on and off the court. I want to help them become better people not just better players."
Columbus State defeated Reinhardt University, 85-81, in a scrimmage at the Lumpkin Center that left Norton a bit concerned and made him focus the subsequent practices on improving the Lady Cougars' defense.
"I wasn't even worried about how many points we gave up," Norton said. "What bothered me was Reinhardt's field-goal and 3-point percentages. That made me put more of a defensive emphasis in our practices and we talked about not letting that defensive effort carry over into the regular season. We gave up a lot of uncontested shots, but we also played a lot of kids and I think once
we get our rotation set, we'll do a better job of knowing where we're supposed to be defensively."
The Lady Cougars currently have 15 players on their roster, but Norton said he doesn't expect to play all 15 every game. In fact, he said he may be red-shirting some of the freshmen in order to let them get accustomed to the college game.
"Right now, we feel confident in eight players and once we get one back from injury, it'll be nine," said Norton. "We'll definitely have nine we can play and with such a young roster, we're looking at red-shirting two, maybe three players to let them develop some more."
Columbus State -- which finished 16-12 last season -- was picked fifth out of 14 teams in the Peach Belt Conference's preseason coaches poll. Bradford said in order for the Lady Cougars to take the next step and contend for a PBC title, the players -- newcomers and returnees alike -- all have to be on the same page.
"We have to have all components of the game going well," Bradford said. "We have to be solid offensively and defensively and to me, it's a matter of getting everybody to the same level. By the time the conference games get here in December, hopefully we'll all be working well together and we can be one of the top teams in the conference contending for a spot in the NCAAs."
Note: Columbus State signed Opelika's Kamerian Williams on Thursday. She will begin play in the 2014-15 season.
"Kamerian Williams is a versatile athlete," said Norton, who will need to replace three seniors next year. "She can play both forward positions."
Williams, a 5-foot-10 forward, averaged 9.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game as a junior while leading her team to a record of 21-8.