The Clayton College and State University women's basketball team has been picked to finish seventh out of 12 teams in the 2002-03 Peach Belt Conference according to a vote of the league's 12 head coaches.
After posting its highest win total in four years and its most Peach Belt Conference wins ever, the Lakers finished with 55 points in the preseason poll. Kennesaw State was selected the preseason favorite by the narrowest margin in the history of the conference as the Owls finished with 110 points, three points ahead defending champion USC Aiken with 108 points and seven points ahead of North Florida.
The Clayton College and State University women's basketball team took a giant step in the 2001-02 season, and with all five starters returning and a talented incoming recruiting class, the Lakers are poised to continue their climb up the PBC
ladder in the 2002-03 season.
CCSU's top returnee will be senior Catreia Shaw, a second-team All-PBC selection last season. Shaw led the club, averaging a "double-double" with 15 points and 10 rebounds per game. She was among the Peach Belt leaders in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocks.
Apryl Brown, last year's PBC Freshman of the Year, averaged 10 points and nine boards per game, while point guard Nicia Puckett returns after leading the squad in assists and steals. Allyson Rutledge will provide experience at the guard position, while Kate Kauffman and Dawn Baldwin will add depth at the post positions.
Head coach A.C. McCullers' 2002 class of signees is comprised of one Division I transfer and five freshmen. April Taylor, a freshman last season at Georgia State University, joins freshmen in Carlie Anderson, Aletha Binion, Rhonda Bass, Sarah Durham and Ashley Howell. In addition, Cynthia Conseil, a redshirt sophomore will be added to the mix of new players after enrolling at Clayton State during the spring.
Taylor heads the recruiting class, joining the Lakers after playing last season on Georgia State's 21-10 squad that won the 2001-02 Atlantic Sun Conference regular season and tournament championships. Last season at Georgia State, she played in 21 games for the Lady Panther squad that made the NCAA tournament before falling to the University of Tennessee in the first round of the tourney.
At Memphis' Craigmont High School, she averaged 17 points and 14 rebounds per game and was named
"Best of the Preps" by Memphis' Commercial-Appeal newspaper.
Fans will get their first glimpse of the 2002-03 Clayton State squad in an exhibition game against Georgia State University on Saturday, November 16, at GSU. The Lakers will open their regular season on Friday, November 22, hosting Reinhardt in the first round of the Heritage Bank Tip-Off Tournament at Clayton State.
Columbus State was fourth in the PBC voting with 92 points, followed by GC&SU, Armstrong Atlantic State, Clayton State, UNC Pembroke, Francis Marion, USC Spartanburg, Lander and Augusta State.
The preseason vote reflects the parity that dominated PBC women's basketball last season. USC Aiken won the league with a 16-3 conference record, but lost in the second round of the PBC Tournament to eventual tournament champion GC and SU.
Kennesaw State won the PBC South Division with a 13-6 conference record, but also lost in their first game at the tournament to Armstrong Atlantic State, who was seeded sixth.