The future is bright for GVSU women’s basketball team

Pete Barrows

In women’s collegiate basketball, the future is something every team reaches and redefines at a rate of 40 minutes a game—whoever they are, however they play. With the countdown to a new season set for Friday, the future is flying towards the Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team.

Every minute counts.

“Every night will be different for our lineup in terms of minutes played because we have great depth, which should be one of our greatest assets this year,” GVSU seventh year coach Janel Burgess, who is 103-64 in her career, said. “For us coaches to be able to balance that depth and for our players to really take advantage of the minutes they’re going to have the opportunity to compete in, it’s exciting.”

GVSU will return nine players from the 2012-13 team that capped a 19-8 (15-7 GLIAC) record with an appearance in the conference tournament for the eighth time in nine years, although only one of the nine, senior guard Dani Crandall, started.

“Dani Crandall, who has played behind some other great players, is going to be our lone senior,” Burgess said. “This is her year to lead the show and really display great leadership and great calmness from the floor.”

In 18 games as a starter and 25.4 minutes per game last season, Crandall averaged 8.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and1.7 assists, while shooting 44.4 percent from the floor. Although Crandall will be asked to assume an even larger role vacated by last seasons leading scorer (15.8 points per game), rebounder (6.9 rebounds per game) and setup woman (3.2 assists per game) Briauna Taylor, this year.

“In the past, I’ve kind of been a role player,” Crandall said. “I’d come in for Briauna or I’d be the sixth man off the bench, whatever coach needed me to do. This year, I think I have defined my role a little differently.

“Being the only senior, I’m looking to lead the team, not necessarily on the stat sheet part, but most definitely in the vocal and experience driven parts.”

Joining Crandall and junior point guard Meryl Cripe in the starting rotation will be junior returners center Daina Grazulis and forward Kat LaPrairie, GVSU’s deadeye sixth man who last season knocked down 43 3-pointers and was recently named to the preseason All-GLIAC second team.

“I think you can really count all three of those young ladies together with Dani as players who will help to shape our season,” Burgess said. “Meryl, Daina and Kat are all third year players who have a done a really great job of just being who they are.”

Also factoring heavily into the rotation will be sophomore guard/forward sharpshooter Bailey Cairnduff and uber athletic junior guard Janelle McQueen, both Division I transfers. Cairnduff, who played in 32 games last season for Bowling Green will start for the Lakers, while McQueen, who started in 25 games last season for Texas Southern, should be supplied ample minutes to make her impact felt off the bench.

“You look at Janelle and Bailey, both of them bring different things,” Burgess said. “Janelle is explosive with the ball getting to the basket, Baily is a great shooter, but can still create off the dribble and both of those ladies are really excited to be here at GVSU.”

The freshman class comprised of forward Kayla Dawson, a semifinalist for Miss Basketball of Wisconsin as a high school senior, guard Taylor Lutz, a two-time Northern Indiana Conference first-team selection, guard Keyara Wiard, a three-time All-West Michigan Conference and all-area selection, forward Piper Tucker, a member of the Lansing State Journal ‘Dream Team’ who holds the free-throw percentage record at East Lansing high school and Janae Langs, a four-time All-Southern Central Athletic Association athlete, should also make an instant impression upon GVSU basketball.

“We may be real young, but we work extremely hard and a lot of that goes to this hardworking group of freshman,” Cripe said. “They all will be asked to provide different things at different times this season, but they all work so hard, you can tell they love it, and they’re just as happy to be here as we are happy to have them.

Selected to finish third in the eight-team GLIAC North Division preseason poll behind Michigan Tech and Wayne State, and ahead of Ferris State, GVSU enters the season without tempered aspirations.

“Nothing is going to change from what we always need to do, which is to be our best when our best is needed,” Burgess said. “Being picked third is not necessarily surprising, as youthful as we are, but I’m excited to see how we continue grow and improve each and every day. I also hope that we really embrace that the GLIAC is probably the toughest, top-to-bottom, that it’s ever been.”

The Lakers will travel south to participate in the Pops Duncan Classic to be hosted in Nashville, Tenn. and will officially embark upon the season Friday with an 8:30 p.m. tipoff against Truman State. GVSU will return to the court Saturday at 1:00 p.m. to play Missouri-St. Louis.

“This is our toughest schedule that we will have ever played and we’re excited to take this team down to Nashville,” Burgess said. “We’ll play 26 Division II teams and all of the non-conference teams we’ll see had records over .500 last year. It’s going to be a heck of a little journey, but we are excited to get started.”

With GLIAC championship ambitions, the Lakers will look to continue to grow and progress throughout the season, while helping to define GVSU basketball; game-by-game, minute-by-minute. The clock is set, the time is now.

“What we’re really trying to continue to establish is to play basketball at a fun, fast pace where fans can enjoy coming to watch us play and can understand and appreciate that our young ladies have tremendous character and work ethic,” Burgess said. “We don’t know what the end result of the season will be, but I can promise you that are girls are going to play as hard as they possibly can, day-by-day, as they grow.”

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