The Louisville women’s basketball team heads into the 2012-13 season with a roster full of talent and high expectations. Returning four starters from a team that went 23-10 last season, the Cards are picked #9 in both pre-season polls.
With key injuries to Monique Reid and Tia Gibbs plaguing last season’s team, several young players had to step into key roles. In his 6th season at Louisville, Jeff Walz hopes the experience of the younger players combined with a healthy roster will translate into another final four run. “If we can get healthy, I like our chances.”
The Cards return several guards, including first team All-Big East selection junior Shoni Schimmel. Schimmel finished league play last season ranked 11th in scoring, sixth in assists, and fourth in steals. Schimmel is optimistic about the season and Louisville’s chances of making a deep run in March. “We got to get out there and work everyday and prove to everybody that we are good enough to get to a final four. We have a lot of depth. I definitely think we can get there.”
Junior Tia Gibbs who missed last season due to a shoulder injury was granted a medical redshirt. Although still battling injury, she hopes to be back on the court next week. Gibbs was a major contributor two seasons ago when she led the team in steals and finished the year ranked third on the team in scoring.
Bria Smith who started every game last season and earned freshman All-American honors should be poised for a monster sophomore season. Senior Shelby Harper and sophomore Jude Schimmel should both see time at the point guard spot adding quickness and depth.
Junior Antonita Slaughter should provide depth on the wing and an outside shooting presence. She hit a career-high seven three-pointers against Gardner Webb last season and finished second on the team shooting 34.6 percent from behind the arc. Freshman Megan Deines averaged 16.2 points, 7 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in high school and should provide more depth at the guard spot. “Megan right now is going to see significant minutes for us at the wing,” Walz said at media day last week. “With her length and ability to handle the basketball, she is going to have to come in and contribute for us.”
The post position is where the Cards hope to regain their steadying force in senior Monique Reid. Reid, who was granted a medical redshirt after an injury sustained in the eighth game last season, led the team in scoring and rebounds the last two seasons. She earned first team All-Big East honors in 2010-11 and was selected to the preseason Big East honorable mention team this year. Reid is still rehabbing her knee but hopes to be at full strength by conference play. “I think I am doing really good,” Reid said. “I’ve worked hard this summer to get better. I just want to go out and give 100%. This is my last year so I want to go out with a bang and show everyone what I can do.”
Sophomore Shawnta’ Dyer saw action in 33 games last season and finished the year ranked fourth in scoring. Junior Sheronne Vails led the team in blocks last season and should add experience at the center position. Senior Asia Taylor finished last season averaging 5.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. She had hip surgery over the summer and has not started practicing yet.
One of the players that has been receiving plenty of praise from Walz is sophomore Sara Hammond. Walz said Hammond has worked very hard in the off-season and he expects her to come in and contribute this year. “Coach challenged me after last year,” Hammond said. “Over the summer I worked on my perimeter shooting, ball handling, and passing ability. So I think I have definitely improved from last year and hopefully that shows on the court this year.”
Freshman Cortnee Walton will also add depth to the post this season. She received many accolades in high school including selection to the Arizona All-Star team and helped guide her team to the state championship her junior and senior seasons.
Louisville will play in one of the more high profile match-ups of the early season Friday against #12 Texas A&M. Picked to finish 3rd in the SEC, Texas A&M is playing their first season in the SEC after leaving the Big 12.
The Aggies are no stranger to success having been to seven straight NCAA tournaments, winning the 2011 National Championship. The Aggies return two pre-season All-SEC selections, Kelsey Bone and guard Alexia Standish.
Tip off against the Aggies is at 7 pm at the Yum Center.