After losing only two seniors, the women’s basketball team will return most of their key players this season. The team’s key guards that are returning are Makeba Ponder and Madison Newby.
The junior Ponder has led the Sun Belt Conference in three pointers made a game in each of her first two seasons at Georgia State. Ponder also led the Panthers in scoring her freshman season and is currently tied for the the most single season three pointers in school history with 69 in 2014-15. Newby led the Sun Belt Conference in assist and as a result was named the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year. Newby shot twice as many free throws as anyone else on the Panthers did last season, hoisting 130 foul shots.
Although a lot of the season’s success could be credited to the duo of Ponder and Newby, the overall record of 10-19 and missing the Conference Tournament could fall on the shoulders of the duo as well. Ponder shot 34.8 percent from the field and 31.4 percent from beyond the three-point line, while Newby averaged 4.8 turnovers a game.
The group of guards will continue to grow with the signing of the No. 27 guard of the ESPN 2016 Class Jada Lewis from McEachern High School.
Sophomores K.K. Williams and Astaja Tyghter are the key wing players while Haley Gerrin and Alaysia Mitchell hold the Panthers down on the post. The tallest player on the team this year will be freshman Center Shaquanda Miller-McCray, who is 6-foot-3.
Two important components for the women’s basketball team having a better season this year and clinching a bid back to the Conference Tournament* will be staying out of trouble off the court and continuing to learn each teammate out on the court.
During last season, Ponder and Tyghter were suspended for violating team policies. Erica Norwood and Nasheema Oliver were two players the team decided not to bring back this upcoming season. On the court, the Panthers were beat by their opponents in every statistical category.
Only looking on paper, the programs future looks doomed, but by using the eye test, one can see the potential for a breakout year is certainly there. The team has talent, depth and a passionate coaching staff led by Sherwin Baldwin-Tener. Only time will tell how far the 2016-17 team will go.
*Note: According to Georgia State announcer John Morgo, the Panthers will be guaranteed a spot in next season’s Conference Tournament, due to conference expansion.