November 1, 1998
If experience is the best teacher, the Lady Tigers should be well versed in the game of basketball.
This year’s team features four seniors and a cast of newcomers that include five junior college transfers who should make this one of the most experienced teams in Lady Tiger basketball history.
The 1998-99 team will be another athletic group that will feature more of a power, inside game with more emphasis on rebounding. This year’s squad will also have more size and improved speed and quickness.
Head Coach Jim Davis has four seniors who will be relied upon very heavily for the success of this years team. They include guards Itoro Umoh and Amy Geren, power forward Nikki Blassingame and small forward, Natasha Anderson. This group of seniors has played in the last three ACC Tournament Championship games and won the league title in 1996.
Aside from Itoro Umoh and Amy Geren, I think the keys to this years team will be Natasha Anderson and Nikki Blassingame, said Head Coach Jim Davis who is the fourth winningest coach in ACC womens basketball history.
We know what Itoro and Amy can do, but I think Natasha Anderson and Nikki Blassingames improvement will be one of the keys to this teams success. Both are tremendous athletes and both have great attitudes and a great work ethic. I think they are both ready to explode.
There is no doubt that this basketball team will depend on the senior class for leadership. Erin Batth, as a sophomore, can emerge as an all star player in our league. It hinges on the attitude and work ethic it takes to improve everyday.
Andrea Gaines and Nuria Forns also received a large amount of playing time as freshmen. They, too, will be experienced players along with the four seniors. We will depend very heavily on our returning players. By midseason, I expect to have tremendous depth with our incoming players.
Davis commented further on other keys to the season.
Free throw shooting: We have been one of the best free throw shooting teams in the league over the past few seasons. We expect to be good again this year. It is such a very important part of the game. Amy Geren led the league as a sophomore and junior, and we expect her to lead the league as a senior. We have to get her to the free throw line more this season. Itoro Umoh and Natasha Anderson are good free throw shooters. We have some young ladies who can hurt our opponents when they step to the charity stripe.
Rebounding: Rebounding is always a concern because games are won and lost on the blocks and on the free throw line. It is a very important phase of the game. The first part of last year, I thought we did a great job. Near the end of the year I thought we eased up and were not as effective. With Nikki Blassingame Erin Batth, Joanie Mungro, and Miesha Mattison, we can be a dominating front line.
Rebounding is something we are going to emphasize this year. Natasha Anderson is a great rebounder as a small forward. We are going to be much improved.
Three-point shooting: We should be an excellent three-point shooting team. We have many players capable of shooting from behind the three-point arc.
Amy Geren is one of the best at shooting the three not only in the ACC, but in the nation. Nuria Forns came on strong late in the year and took some pressure off Amy. Andrea Gaines is capable of being a consistent shooter from beyond the three-point line. Our newcomers, Amirah Leonard, Datishella Byrd, Angela Cossey, and Krystal Scott, all have three-point shooting range. Byrd won the three-point shooting contest at the Mississippi Junior College All-Star Game. We should be very solid in this area. We dont shoot as many as some teams, but our three-point field goal percentage is as good as any. I like our perimeter shooting abilities.
Defense: Defense is 75-80 % desire, and 20-25% technique. We can teach the techniques. The players have to prove their determination in order to be good. There is no reason we cant be good because we are as athletic as we have ever been. I think this will be the most athletic team we have had in my 12 years at Clemson. Last year, we relied too much on finesse. This year we hope to be stronger and tougher. I think this will help our defense to become more of a factor. The quickness and speed is there for us to be a solid defensive team.
Clemson has six newcomers joining the ranks, five of which are junior college players.
We were looking for balance in this recruiting class. We expect all six to come in and help us immediately. We signed at least one player at every position. We feel good about our class. They are six athletes and I believe they possess a high level of physical and mental toughness. This class will also give us more of a power game. The junior college players obviously have college experience working in their favor. I expect by midseason, they will have learned quite well our offensive and defensive systems.
We definitely have several new faces coming into our program. It will be so important for these players to mesh with our veterans. The chemistry has to be good again this year in order for us to be successful. Competition is going to be strong in practice with our depth. We are going to make each other better in practice everyday. I feel good about our newcomers and their ability to help us immediately.
This year we have a group of veterans who have already made their mark on basketball as they have enjoyed a lot of success at Clemson. Another important element is how hungry the seniors will be and how they manage to convey this hunger to this large recruiting class.
Clemson should have one of the best backcourts in the country with the return of senior All-ACC performers, Itoro Umoh and Amy Geren, along with sophomore Andrea Gaines.
Itoro Umoh has already joined the 1,000 point club as she now has 1,010 points in her career. Umoh ranks 11th on the Clemson career list for most points scored. Geren should reach the 1,000 career point plateau in the early part of the season, as she currently has 970 and is ranked 18th on the all-time Clemson list. Geren is also the best free throw shooter in Clemson history as she holds the Lady Tiger career record for the best free throw pct. (.844).
Itoro Umoh has had a great career at Clemson. She has tremendous quickness and plays with intensity. She was one of our top scorers last year and led us in many statistical categories. In her junior year, her strongest quality was her leadership ability. We will again count on her to play both guard positions. Itoro is a tremendous athlete and should be an All-ACC performer barring any injury.
Last season, Umoh was second on the squad in scoring (12.0 ppg) and led the team in steals (74) and assists (136). She also averaged 30.2 minutes per game last year, and was the only Lady Tiger to start all 33 games. She was named second-team All-ACC.
Amy Geren had a great junior year and was named first-team All-ACC. She has worked hard in improving the other aspects of her game. We like to have her in the game at the end because of her free throw shooting ability. We will be counting on Amy for her leadership ability. She has become a solid all-around player for us. Amy should have a good senior season.
Geren led the team in scoring in 1997-98 with a 13.5 ppg. average. She also hit 92-105 from the free throw line for a .876 percentage. She played in 33 games while picking up 29 starts.
Andrea Gaines returns after playing in 29 games as a freshman. Her speed and quickness are an asset to Davis team. She finished the year averaging 3.5 ppg. in 9.6 minutes per game.
At times during her freshman year, Andrea was a solid player and very explosive in the open court. She needs to develop consistency and intensity. She is a tremendous athlete. Andrea and Itoro are the best of friends, yet competitive at practice. This has made them both better players. Andrea is good at shooting off the dribble and I feel she is going to be a fine player.
Clemson added three newcomers at the guard position in Krystal Scott, Angela Cossey, and Amirah Leonard.
Krystal comes from an outstanding high school program that won a state championship during her career, and was named to the all-state team in both her junior and senior years. She is an athletic player who can help us at both the shooting and point guard positions. She has three-point range and is a strong player with tremendous upper body strength. Krystal personifies the term student-athlete. She is an outstanding student and has a great understanding of the game. She has a very good future at Clemson.
Angela Cossey will play exclusively at the point guard position. Being an excellent passer, she handles and distributes the ball very well. She has a toughness we need in our program at the point guard position. Angela is a tough-nosed player who is a coachs daughter with a great understanding of the game. Certainly in her high school and collegiate career, she has had some big games offensively, but what impresses me most is her ability to play with intensity and toughness night in and night out. Angie certainly has the qualities of the coach on the floor-just what we look for in a point guard.
Amirah Leonard was the California Junior College Player-of-the-Year. She shoots the ball well off the dribble. She takes the ball to the rack as well as anyone, and also has three-point shooting range. Amirah is a very intense player and takes pride in her defensive play.
Amirah has the reputation of wanting to guard the opponents strongest perimeter player. She has good size for a guard and is a very confident young lady.
The frontcourt has Natasha Anderson and promising sophomore Nuria Forns returning at the small forward position. Nikki Blassingame and Erin Batth return at the power forward slots.
Playing in 33 games last year, Anderson came off the bench and starred for the Lady Tigers in the latter part of the season. Anderson was the squad’s third leading scorer last year with a 9.9 ppg. average. and tied as the team’s second leading rebounder with a 4.8 rpg. average.
Nuria Forns played in 30 games last year and proved to be a danger from the three-point line later in the season.
At the small forward position, Natasha Anderson and Nuria Forns give us two solid players who have the size and athleticism that we look for at that position. Natasha can turn it loose. With more confidence, she could be the best small forward in the league, and with her size, speed, and jumping ability, she is the best athlete on our team. She can use the left and right hand equally well close to the basket, and has great back-to-the-basket moves. She has really come along with her ability to shoot off the dribble. Natasha is a good rebounder and has the potential to be a tremendous player in her senior season.
After a slow start, Nuria really contributed late in the year. She has a good left-handed stroke from three-point range. At 6-2 she has great size for a small forward, and she handles the ball quite well. She could even play at point guard for us. Nuria gives a potent offensive punch whether she is in the lineup or coming off the bench. She shoots it well off the dribble and is a good shot blocker. She needs to develop toughness-both physically and mentally, and if she does, Nuria could be a large contributor to our success next year.
Nikki Blassingame played in all 33 games last year while starting in 14 contests. She led the team in rebounding with a 5.0 average. and was the squads leader in field goal percentage (102-198) .515. She was the teams fourth leading scorer with a 7.4 ppg. average.
As a senior, Nikki Blassingame is our most experienced front- court player. With increased playing time, she should shoulder much of the rebounding responsibility. She was also our field goal percentage leader, and we expect her accuracy to continue. She has a good power game and runs the floor very well. She will play the power forward position and give us the physical player we need.
Erin Batth, a promising freshman last season, saw action in 10.8 minutes per game. She averaged 3.4 ppg. and 2.9 rpg.
Erin made tremendous strides, not only in her game, but also in her willingness to practice hard. She came a long way from the beginning of the season. She is a talented left-hander and a player with the potential to become a dominating power player. She is very physical and has a variety of nice moves with her back to the basket. Erin has the size at 6-4, and the tools to be a premier player in the ACC.
Clemson also has three newcomers joining the front court ranks. Joanie Mungio, Miesha Mattison, and Datishella Byrd are all junior college transfers.
Joanie Mungio was an All-American at Walters State Community College (Morristown, TN) averaging 16.1 ppg., and 8.0 rpg. during her sophomore season. Joanie (6-2, forward) is a big, strong player with a good shooting touch from 10-12 feet. She is physical enough to defend inside and make players earn everything they get down low. Joanie has good hands, runs the floor extremely well, and with her great attitude, she will continue to improve.
Miesha Mattison is a player with good size and great intensity. She has limited shooting range, but is a great athlete. She runs the floor very well, and is very competitive. She will help us rebound at both ends.
Miesha Mattison (6-4, center/forward) averaged 18.1 ppg. and 12.3 rpg at San Bernardino Valley Junior College during her sophomore season.
Datishella Byrd can play both forward positions. She won the three-point shooting contest at the Mississippi Junior College All-Star game, so she will be able to step out and pull the opponents big girls away from the basket. She can put the ball on the floor and take it to the rack. Her speed is definitely a strength. Datishella has good jumping ability and has the knack to score well in traffic. We are going to depend on her very soon into the season.
Byrd (6-1, forward) averaged 19.4 ppg. and 11.2 rpg. at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville, MS.
1997-98 Overall Record: 25-8 Starters Returning: 3 1997-98 ACC Record: 12-4 Letterwinners Returning: 7 1997-98 ACC Finish: Second Letterwinners Lost: 5 ACC Tour. Finish: Second Final Poll: 14th Associated Press, 21st USA Today Postseason Play: NCAA 2nd Round
LETTERWINNERS RETURNING (7)
Name Pos. Hgt. Yr. GP-GS PPG. RPG. APG.Natasha Anderson, G/F 6-0 SR 33-11 9.9 4.8 2.2Erin Batth, F/C 6-4 SO 33-1 3.4 2.9 0.5Nikki Blassingame, F/C 6-3 SR 33-14 7.4 5.0 0.4Nuria Forns, G/F 6-1 SO 30-1 2.2 1.2 0.3Andrea Gaines, G/F 5-9 SO 29-1 3.5 1.2 0.8Amy Geren, G 5-11 SR 33-29 13.5 3.7 2.1Itoro Umoh, G 5-7 SR 33-33 12.0 4.6 4.1
LETTERWINNERS LOST (5)
Name Pos. Hgt GP-GS PPG. RPG. APG.Jeanette Davis, G/F 6-2 32-27 5.6 3.5 1.8Jennifer Davis, F 6-1 32-11 3.1 1.7 0.5Marta Forns, F 6-3 31-0 1.7 1.9 0.3Anette Percy, F 6-1 29-5 4.0 2.2 0.3Kerri Thomas, F/C 6-3 33-29 6.2 4.8 0.5
Name Pos. Hgt. Cl. PPG. RPG. Last SchoolDatishella Byrd, F 6-1 JR 19.4 11.2 Pear River CC Angela Cossey, G 5-7 JR 20.2 6.5 North Arkansas JC Amirah Leonard, G 5-8 JR 22.3 5.7 Ventura JCMiesha Mattison, C/F 6-4 JR 18.1 12.3 San Bernardino Valley JC Joanie Mungro, F 6-2 JR 16.1 8.0 Walters State CCKrystal Scott, G 5-8 FR 20.0 8.0 Carolina Academy HS
**Newcomers stats are from their last year in high school or their sophomore year in junior college
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