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1997-98 Lady Tiger Outlook

Time, in its passage does not always lead to change. Clemson women’s basketball program is a case in point. Although the players’ faces have changed in Head Coach Jim Davis’ program the past 10 seasons, his success has remained a constant, the by-product of dedication and teamwork. He has carried squads to nine NCAA Tournaments, been ranked in the final top 25 nine seasons and guided Clemson to the school’s first ACC basketball championship in 1996. Eight 20-plus win seasons is another benchmark in Davis’ success at Tigertown.

Instead of building teams, Coach Jim Davis has been busy building a program during the last decade, and it again should be successful in 1997-98 with the return of three starters and 10 letterwinners.

A trademark of the Clemson program over the last 10 seasons has been depth with several players receiving playing time. This season should not be any different as nine players return who averaged double figures in minutes played last season.

“You never know who will step up in a game,” said Head Coach Jim Davis, who became the winningest coach in Clemson basketball history (men or women) in 1997. He now has 208 wins at Tigertown, an average of over 20 wins a season.

“I would like to think we have had complete players on our teams. Obviously there are better ball handlers, better shooters, and better rebounders, but I feel as though every player on this team can contribute in every fundamental phase of the game. And when every player can contribute, you don’t have to rely on one player. Basketball is a team game that requires a lot of skills and fundamentals. I would like to think our players are good at most of them.

“This team should be as athletic as we have had in some time. We helped ourselves in terms of recruiting athletes. The three incoming freshmen are all capable of contributing in their first year because of their athletic ability. Their ability to run and jump will make us hard to defend.

“We are going to have good depth and we will play a lot of people. That is going to be a characteristic of this basketball team. Our players are able to rely upon teammates coming off the bench and playing as hard as they can play, wearing teams down with our conditioning and pressure defenses.

Rebounding-“There is a misconception in basketball that post players are depended upon exclusively to get the rebound. I think we are going to be a good rebounding team. Nikki Blassingame is quick off her feet. If she will dedicate herself to the task, she will be a good rebounder. Autumn Sam can be a good rebounder. Jeanette Davis was a good rebounder for us last year. We expect some good things from her in this area. Rebounding is an area where everyone, including guards has a responsibility in our system. The more we stress it as a team responsibility, the better we will be.

FreeThrow Shooting-“We have been a good free throw shooting team in the past. It is a very important part of our game. We expect to be good again this season. There have been some rule changes since last season that might make our free throw shooting an even bigger factor. Amy Geren has the potential to lead the country in free throw shooting.”

Defense-“We will probably be as mobile as we have been in some time. I believe we will be able to play more of a 94 foot game. That is going to be our intention as we start practice in October. It is going to be very important to be well-conditioned. We need to be mentally tough and have the stamina it takes to play at this pace. “We want to be a team that is good at playing the 94-foot game and can utilize the traps, presses, and changing defenses in our scheme. We are excited about our potential in this area.”

FRONT COURT Clemson lost two starting front court players, Jaci Stimson and Laura Cottrell, due to graduation. However the Lady Tigers return a wealth of talent and experience on the inside with Jeanette Davis, Kerri Thomas, Jennifer Davis, Nikki Blassingame, Marta Forns, Anette Percy, and Autumn Sam.

“Jeanette Davis, Kerri Thomas, and Jennifer Davis are our senior frontcourt players. All three of those players have been role players each year and have had their moments. This year it will be different as they will have to provide the leadership at the forward positions.”

Kerri Thomas (6-3, SR) averaged 2.7 ppg. and 2.2 rpg. She played in 30 games and earned six starts in 1996-97. She is currently in seventh place on the Clemson career list for most blocked shots (57).

“Kerri has the basketball body and is a superb athlete,” said Davis. “It has to be her mindset that she becomes more aggressive.”

Jeanette Davis (6-2, SR) was tied as the Lady Tigers’ fifth leading scorer with a 6.6 ppg. average in 1996-97. She also was tied for second on the squad for the best rebounder with a 5.1 rpg. mark.

“Jeanette Davis is a solid all-around performer and can play any one of the five positions. She has been a solid performer for us during her career, however, she too has to play with more intensity.”

Jennifer Davis (6-1, SR), Jeanette’s twin sister, played in 15 games last season and averaged 3.6 minutes per game, and 1.5 ppg.

“Jennifer Davis will play both forward positions. She will see more playing time this season than she has seen in the past. She will have to play bigger than her 6-1 frame.

“Nikki Blassingame (6-3, JR) played very well at times last year. She has to put it together and play with consistency and be a solid performer for us. I think she has the skills and athletic ability to be a big factor for us this season.”

Blassingame played in 30 games last season and gained six starts. She averaged 8.3 minutes per game and had a 2.5 ppg. average. She also had 1.8 rpg.

“Autumn Sam (6-2, JR) is a big strong player, and is probably an unproved commodity at this point. Autumn is a solid defender, but has to improve her offensive skills.”

Autumn saw action in 17 games last season and averaged 3.1 minutes per contest.

Anette Percy (6-1, JR) averaged 3.5 ppg. and 1.8 rpg. She played 214 minutes last season for a 10.7 minutes per game average.

“Anette came on at the end of the year. She can pass the ball as well as anybody on the team. I think our open post passing game suits her to a tee. She can put the ball on the floor and can shoot the ball off the dribble with good range for her 6-2 frame. She is a physical player who mixes it up well.”

Marta Forns (6-3, JR) saw action in 17 games and averaged 5.5 minutes per game.

“Marta Forns, very similar to Anette Percy, is an outstanding passer in the post. She is a post player who can pass the basketball, a valuable part of any basketball team. Marta needs to become more aggressive in order to be successful in the Atlantic Coast Conference. She has good size, good reach, and runs the floor very well. Marta should see a great deal of playing time with her skills and playing ability.”

Clemson added two players in the post area with Nuria Forns (6-2, FR) and Erin Batth (6-4, FR).

“Once Nuria learns the system, she will contribute a great deal to our team next year. She has the ability to shoot the three at 6-2. She has the ability to put the ball on the floor and take it to the basket. Nuria handles the ball quite well to be 6-2. This season will be a learning experience for her in regards to our defensive schemes. Nuria is a good athlete and runs and jumps very well. She should see a lot of action during her first season.”

“Erin Batth was really an important signee for us. She gives us a back-to-the-basket type of player. She too is very athletic. Erin is a left hander who has a nice power game. She really enjoys mixing it up. She is a very physical player, and this is very important as she enters this league. Erin shoots with good range,15-18 feet. She runs the floor well and is an intimidator on defense. Erin should have an outstanding career at Clemson.”

Batth is a 6-4 center from Lassiter High School in Marietta, GA. She did not play her senior year due to a knee injury. During her junior season, she averaged 13 ppg. and 12 rpg. Prior to her senior season, she was named a Street & Smith Preseason All-American.

BACKCOURT Clemson lost the services of guards Angie Salyer and Calesha Corder due to graduation, but returns second-team All-ACC performer Itoro Umoh (5-7 JR). Umoh led the team in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and was tied for the second best rebounder (5.1 rpg.) in 1996-97. She also led the team in assists (76) and steals (69). She was also instrumental in leading the Lady Tigers to the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament and was named first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

Umoh started 28 games and averaged 28.7 minutes per game, a figure that led the team.

“This is as thin as we have been in some time at the backcourt position, especially at the point guard position. Itoro Umoh may get more minutes than any of our point guards in several seasons. It is important to develop a backup, as soon as possible, however it is great to have Itoro at the point. She may be the fastest player to have ever played at Clemson. She is a great open court player and is excellent in breaking teams down with dribble penetration. Itoro has really developed her ability to shoot off the dribble. Her forte is defense and she will probably leave ranking very high on our career steal list.

“She has the qualities to lead this team to a successful season.”

Another player returning is Natasha Anderson (6-0, JR). Anderson was tied as the Lady Tigers’ fifth leading scorer with a 6.6 ppg. Anderson played in all 30 games and picked up nine starts while playing an average of 19.8 minutes per game.

“Natasha is one of the best all-around athletes we have ever had. She is six-feet tall and will play the two-guard position most of the time. She came on strong at the end of her sophomore year as a defender. Natasha has made the most progress in terms of being the kind of defender that we will assign to our opponent’s leading scorer. In addition, she has worked very hard to better her offensive skills. She is an excellent student and is a solid member of our basketball team.”

Amy Geren (5-11, JR) was the Lady Tigers’ fourth leading scorer last season with a 7.3 ppg. and is the second leading returning scorer. Geren averaged 17.6 minutes per game last year and was 41-55 from the free throw line for a .745 pct., second on the squad. Geren is Clemson’s career leader for the best free throw pct. with an .822 mark. During her career, she is 125-152 from the free throw line. She is third on the Clemson career list for most three-point field goals made with 75.

“We all know Amy Geren can shoot the basketball. It is important that she contribute in other ways. It is also important for her to be able to play the up tempo style. It is also imperative that Amy develops that first quick explosive step to the basket to compliment her three-point shooting ability.”

Clemson added one guard as freshman Andrea Gaines (5-9, FR) comes to Tigertown as a much heralded player from Orlando, FL. Gaines led Jones High School to the 4-A Florida State Championship this past winter. She averaged 15 points, nine rebounds, four steals, and three assists per game her senior season.

Gaines was a four-sport athlete in high school as she competed in volleyball, cross country, basketball and track.

“Andrea Gaines is a ball-handling, ball-hawking guard. She is very pesky on the defensive end. She fits into our style of play at Clemson. Andrea is a superb athlete and I hope we are going to bring her along slowly at the point guard position, however, she can play both guard positions. By mid-season she should see considerable time at the point guard position.”

CLEMSON FACTS1996-97 Overall Record: 19-11   Starters Returning: Two1996-97 ACC Record: 8-8 Letterwinners Returning: 101996-97 ACC Finish: Sixth   Letterwinners Lost: 4ACC Tour. Finish:  Second Final Poll:  21st AP,  Postseason Play: NCAA 25th USA TodayFirst RoundLETTERWINNERS RETURNING (10)Name                    Hgt.  Class   GP-GS   PPG.  RPG.  APG.Natasha Anderson, G/F   6-0    JR     30-9    6.6   4.0   0.9Nikki Blassingame, F/C  6-3    JR     30-6    2.5   1.8   0.2Jeanette Davis, F/G     6-2    SR     30-23   6.6   5.1   1.5Jennifer Davis, F       6-1    SR     15-0    1.5   0.8   0.2Marta Forns, F          6-3    JR     17-1    1.6   0.8   0.4Amy Geren, G            5-11   JR     29-1    7.3   2.2   1.6Anette Percy, F         6-2    JR     20-6    3.5   1.8   0.4Autumn Sam, F           6-2    JR     17-0    0.4   0.2   0.1Kerri Thomas, F/C       6-3    SR     30-6    2.7   2.2   0.1Itoro Umoh, G           5-7    JR     30-28   9.3   5.1   2.5LETTERWINNERS LOST (4)Name                Height  GP-GS   PPG.  RPG.  APG.Calesha Corder, G   5-7     29-14   4.5   1.5   1.4Laura Cottrell, F   6-1     30-21   9.3   6.8   0.9Angie Salyer, G     5-9     30-15   0.7   0.8   1.3Jaci Stimson, F/C   6-3     30-20   8.9   4.6   0.9**NEWCOMERS (3)Name            Height  Class  Pos.    PPG.  RPG.        Erin Batth      6-4     FR     C      13.0   12.0Andrea Gaines   5-9     FR     G      15.0   9.0Nuria Forns     6-1     FR     G/F    NA     NA

**Newcomers’ stats are from their last year in high school. Forns played with club teams during her high school career.