HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Wallace State’s women’s basketball team opens the 2019-2020 season at home tonight, featuring a sophomore-heavy backcourt and as the 24th-ranked team in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) preseason poll.
Wallace State hosts a pair of Tennessee-based schools at the outset. The Lady Lions welcome Volunteer State today at 5:30 p.m., and host Cleveland State on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Tom Drake Coliseum.
Sophomore guards Imari Martin, Jasmine Baker and Kyra Williams return to the fold for Wallace State, which finished 24-7 last season, surpassing the 20-win plateau for the seventh time in eight seasons.
“Our backcourt is probably the deepest I’ve seen it in a long time and should definitely be one of our strengths. We’ve got speed, maturity and pure shooters in the backcourt. They can push the tempo without it being chaotic. They’re all good shooters, but they can also create their own shot at the rim,” said Wallace State women’s coach Jessica McBrayer, the 2019 ACCC Co-North Division Coach of the Year.
Martin, a Hazel Green native, made an immediate impact for Wallace State as a freshman, earning a second-team nod on the All-ACCC Region 22 and All-North Division teams. She averaged 13.9 points per game and dished out 156 assists, which was second in the conference.
Baker, a Madison County High grad, averaged 8.2 points per game last season, while Williams, a Jacksonville native, poured in 6.3 points.
Add sophomore Tawana Nevels in the post for Wallace State, and McBrayer has a strong nucleus to feed off of this season.
“Collectively, those four sophomores played considerable minutes for us last season and know what to expect in this league. Their leadership on and off the court has been great during the preseason. They’re all competitors,” McBrayer said.
Nevels, a Hillcrest High product, averaged 6.3 points and 4.9 rebounds for Wallace State as a freshman.
Sophomore transfers on the team are Cherelle Straughter and Jamique Barclay, both graduates of Lee High. Ivy Fowler also returns for her sophomore season.
Among the freshman class, McBrayer points to Corner’s Jiselle Woodson and Olivia Howard as key pieces. Howard is from Spanish Fort.
“Jiselle Woodson should be another asset at guard. She’s quick, has great court vision and can shoot. Olivia Howard is a 6-foot guard who is strong and is very capable around the rim. She’s also a great passer in the lane,” McBrayer said.
Rounding out the freshman class are Makyia Broughton (Lanett High), Dazja Hankins (Muscle Shoals), Gwenyth Cook (Newnan, Ga.), Kaelyn Walker (Hoover), Emery McGill (Clements) and Savannah McConnell (West Limestone).
“This team has a competitive edge. If one group loses in practice they want another shot. That’s great to see,” McBrayer said. “We’re working hard to be a great defensive team, and I think we can hit those offensive surges like we did last year.”
Wallace State’s non-conference schedule includes matchups with 16th-ranked Walters State, 19th-ranked Three Rivers CC and 20th-ranked Wabash Valley.
The Lady Lions’ conference opener is Jan. 11, 2020, vs. Lawson State.
Hannah Nichols enters her first season as a Wallace State assistant.
Hope Mann and Tatum Goode are the managers.