Fresh start

This season’s women’s basketball team has a lot of pressure on the shoulders after having a disappointing 2014-15 season Photo by: Jason Luong
This season’s women’s basketball team has a lot of pressure on the shoulders after having a disappointing 2014-15 season
Photo by: Jason Luong

Coming off of a disappointing 2014-15 season and losing key players such as Alisha Andrews, Brittany Logan, Gaby Moss and Kayla Nolan, the Women’s Basketball program is optimistic about their clean slate this year.


A slate so clean that only four players are returning from last season, two new coaches have been added to along with a new strength and conditioning coach. Head coach Sherwin Baldwin-Tener is fresh off signing a three year contract extension this summer and sees more ability in this season’s squad than in any other.


“I think we have a lot of potential. I think it will depend on how fast people pick things up and how fast we mesh together,” coach Baldwin-Tener said. “But I do think we have more talent than we’ve had, we’re more deeper than we’ve been and I’m ready to make a pretty deep run in the conference.”


Key Players


Makeba Ponder

Ponder returns to her second season as the team’s reigning leading scorer and as a third team member of All-American Mid-Major Freshmen. Ponder also tied the school record for 3-point baskets in a season with 69 and was one 3-pointer away from tying the single game record of 8-point baskets against Morehead State. The sharpshooter’s three point percentage ranked second in the conference and thirty-fourth in the NCAA.


Last season, the Panthers seemed unclear at times knowing who their star exactly was, however, this season there shouldn’t be much confusion. Ponder understands her expectations for the year and sets her goals even beyond the hype.


“[In the Sun Belt preseason polls] I made second team, this year I want to make first team,” Ponder said. “I’m trying my best to win Player of the Year, go to the NCAA Tournament and at least go to the first or second round.”


Kennesha Nichols

Nichols is a returning starter for the Panthers. Her freshman season, she played in all 30 games for Georgia State and averaged 8.1 points to go along with 6.4 rebounds in the last 19 games of the season, starting in 18 of those matchups (didn’t start Senior Day).


In 2014-15, Nichols had a four game span where she grabbed at least nine rebounds and blocked three shots against Arkansas State. Nichols is an elusive post player who shot 55 percent from the field, which would’ve ranked second in the conference if she had one more attempt. In high school, Nichols was twice named a finalist to be named the top player in the Women’s Basketball hotbed of Tennessee.


Alaysia Mitchell

Basketball fans in the state of Georgia might remember Mitchell and her brother, Georgia Tech senior Forward, Charles “Chuck” Mitchell dominating high school teams at Wheeler High School. Like Chuck, Alaysia is an absolute workhorse on the post, averaging 14.7 points and 7.8 rebounds a game last season for Pensacola State. Mitchell scored a season-high 30 points against LSU Eunice and had nine games both for when she scored over 20 points and nine games when she grabbed over 10 rebounds. At Wheeler, Mitchell set the school record for rebounds and ended her high school career finishing second in Cobb County history for rebounding.


The transfer will look to play a vital role for the squad this year, with the departure of the now-professional Brittany Logan and the recovering injured starter Haley Gerrin.


Erica Norwood

Norwood is a junior transfer point guard from Furman. After the first seven games of the season (first semester), Norwood will be eligible to play for the Panthers. At Furman, Norwood proved she is a nice scorer, posting a season-high 22 points against High Point and scoring 14 points against UGA. The Campbell High School graduate had her number 4 jersey retired by the Spartans.


Norwood and freshman Madison Newby will share the point guard responsibilities this season. Newby once had 10 steals in a game for Archer high school against Berkmar and set the Gwinnett County, the same county WNBA superstar Maya Moore played in, record for career assists with 665. Ponder has been very fond of Newby so far leading up to the season.


“She’s a very good player and a very good person,” Ponder said of Newby. “I played with her in AAU and we’re very close on-and-off the court.”


Tatianna Jackson

Out of the 10 newcomers for the Panthers, coach Baldwin-Tener said Jackson has stood out the most at the moment. A 5-foot-10 transfer Forward from Chattanooga, Jackson played in all 33 games as a sophomore with the Moccasins, who had a 25 game-winning streak that was stopped in the NCAA tournament losing to Syracuse by six points. Jackson was also named to the Southern Conference All-Freshman team.


“She’s very versatile. She can shoot the three, she can drive in. She’s a strong player, she’s really good defensively,” Baldwin-Tener said why Jackson has impressed her. “She’s an all-around great person as well.”


What to expect

The Panthers should improve this season. The new talent on the team come from winning programs and legacies where they were honored on their respective paths to Georgia State. However, the Sun Belt on the Women’s side is extremely competitive, as five teams from the Conference clinched postseason bids last year. By no means is it a guarantee all of this new talent will come together its very first games together, especially when so many players are coming off of offseason surgeries as well. Fans should feel excited for the growth going on the Women’s side of things for the future and shouldn’t be surprised at a 2015-16 winning season, ranked as a mid-seed in the conference tournament, making it to the semifinal Sun Belt game in March.


Key Opponents

Arkansas State

(Jan. 28 at Arkansas State, Feb. 20 at GSU Sports Arena)

The Panthers face off against the Red Wolves twice this season in-conference play during the second semester. Arkansas State was picked in the preseason to win the conference after finishing second last regular season and in the conference tournament. The Red Wolves are lead by two-time conference Player of the Year Aundrea Gamble, who’s had a career average of 19 points a game since transferring to Arkansas State from Kilgore College her freshman season.


Little Rock

(Jan. 30 at Little Rock, Feb.18 at GSU Sports Arena)

The defending conference champions are led by the senior duo of Alexius Dawn and Shanity James. Last season, Dawn finished second in school history for 3-pointers in a season with 76. James led the team in rebounding and finished second in points. Last season, Little Rock defeated its opponents by 13.6 point margin and finished with an 18-2 record.


Georgia Southern

(Jan. 19 at GSU Sports Arena, Feb. 22 at Georgia Southern)

The Eagles were picked to finish last in the conference this season. Georgia Southern finished 2014-15 with a 5-24 record and lost by a margin of 10.3 points to its opponents. The teams’ leading scorer Angel McGowan returns as a junior this season.