From Staff Reports
Fans of the Clayton College & State University women's basketball will have the opportunity to see the 2003-04 Lakers tip-off their season on a "big stage" Saturday as the squad will open its season in an exhibition contest against Division I Georgia State University in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
Last season, Clayton State came within three baskets, 70-64, from upsetting Georgia State, a squad that has won three straight Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Championships and participated in three straight Division I NCAA Tournaments. Tip-off for contest in the Dome will be noon.
"We are looking forward to the upcoming year," said head coach A.C. McCullers.
"Our goal is to continue our climb in the Peach Belt, where he have made steady improvement the last two seasons. "We have a good group of girls this year and our team is going to play an exciting brand of basketball."
McCullers' 2003-04 squad will be his most athletic in his five years at Clayton State, built around plenty of speed and quickness. The Lakers return seven letterwinners and have six junior college transfers and are coming their best season ever in the Peach Belt Conference, placing fifth in the 12-team league.
Clayton Sate returns one of the most talented frontcourt tandems in the Peach Belt Conference as post players Apryl Brown and April Taylor return. Brown, the 2001-02 PBC Freshman of the Year was the team's second leading scorer and rebounder last year, while Taylor had several huge games last year, including a 21-point effort against last year's PBC champ Armstrong Atlantic State University. The biggest "shoes" to fill in 2003-04 will be loss of All-America post Catreia Shaw, who graduated as the Clayton State all-time leading scorer and rebounder. The Lakers also will have overcome the season-ending injury to senior Allyson Rutledge, who went down in the preseason with a knee injury.
Rutledge was a three-year starter and would have provided leadership at the guard position.
In addition to Brown and Taylor, the Lakers have four other returnees in lone senior post Kate Kauffman , junior post Dawn Baldwin sophomore wing Cynthia Conseil and sophomore guard Carlie Anderson . Kauffman will provide depth at the post position, while Baldwin and Conseil are both coming off knee injuries but will provide depth and experience to the club.
Anderson is the top perimeter shooter on the squad, and McCullers is hoping she can extend opponents' defense by being able to drain the three-pointer.
Leading a group of six junior college transfers will be Junior College All-America and 2002 Georgia Junior College Player of the Year Jamika Hindsman.
She will be an immediate impact player in the Peach Belt and soften the scoring loss of Shaw.
Junior College transfers Myeshia Choice will take over the point guard duties after transferring from Darton College, while junior Brandi Catia, will give the team another scorer in the post position, coming in from Seminole Junior College.
Along with Hindsman, Choice and Catia, junior guards Kaleena Coleman, Shanakie Ward and Monique Diamond will provide the Lakers with quickness, shooting and depth at the guard positions.
With its athleticism and depth, the Lakers will be strong on defense again after holding opponents to 32 percent shooting from the field in 2002-03, second best in the nation.
Clayton State hopes to continue last year's success, which included defeating its first nationally-ranked team and being ranked for the first time in the South Atlantic Region. Clayton State finished 2002-03 with a 16-11 overall record, placing fifth in the 12-team Peach Belt Conference with a 10-9 mark, its highest finish in the league.
The squad will tip-off the regular season on Nov. 15, traveling to face North Alabama.