Experience leads Lakers into season

 GVL Archive 
Senior Jasmine Padin screams out a play call

GVL Archives

GVL Archive Senior Jasmine Padin screams out a play call

Stephanie Deible

With a roster featuring a pair of Division II honorable mention All-Americans, a Division I transfer and the return of a fifth-year senior, the Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team this season will be full of an element that it has somewhat lacked in previous seasons: experience.

After advancing to the NCAA Tournament a year ago, the Lakers welcome back 13 players and hope to be in contention for a GLIAC Championship and a return to postseason action.

“We have huge goals at the end of the season, but if we’re going to accomplish those goals we can’t let a slip up happen early in the season,” said senior forward Kara Crawford. “We really have to stay focused and maintain our confidence and consistency.”

This year’s team features a balanced offense that includes honorable mention All-Americans in junior guard Briauna Taylor on the perimeter and sophomore center Alex Stelfox in the paint.

“We have a nice inside and outside balance,” said GVSU head coach Janel Burgess. “We’ve got Alex Stelfox, Brittany Taylor, Kellie Watson and Kara Crawford, all inside presence kids for us that will be able to help us get the ball in the low post. But I think we’ve also got a great balance on the outside.”

Not only will GVSU utilize a mix a of interior play and outside shooting, but it also welcomes back Crawford, who sat out last season with a knee injury, and sophomore Kelly Watson, who is in her first season of competition with the Lakers after transferring from the University of Notre Dame.

Watson, who played in all 31 games as a freshman for the Fighting Irish and was named Miss Basketball of Michigan in 2008, will add to the team’s offensive versatility.

“It’s good to see her get out and get into a flow,” Burgess said. “Kellie’s a great shooter and a great passer that will give us some diversity on the outside and the inside.”

Knowing she can contribute to the team in a variety of ways, Watson is working to fit into her role of distributing the ball and shooting.

“All summer I worked really hard because I knew coming that they were going to look to me to try to bring a little bit of outside shooting,” she said. “Passing-wise, it’s just hitting my open teammates. I know our post players work really hard down low, bashing around trying to get open so we can get them the ball.”

The return of Crawford will give GVSU added leadership and a sense of urgency out on the floor.

“Crawford has just got that little edge on her,” Burgess said. “This is her fifth year and I think she will be our blue-collar hard worker at will … she will just give us that gritty edge that we need from the senior position.”

The Lakers will open up the regular season Sunday against St. Joseph’s University at 2 p.m. in Indiana.

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