Bearkats expect big improvements in Sunday opener

There was not much to cheer about last season on the Bearkats’ basketball sideline when Sam Houston State ended the season at 5-24, which included a conference record of 2-14, finishing last in the Southland Conference. The bright spots were few and far between a year ago, but the team has a renewed optimism with six newcomers on the roster that are expected to fill key roles in the team’s success.

There are also six lettermen coming back for the Bearkats this year, including the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, junior post Lydia Gonzales who averaged 8.2 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game last season. Other key returning players include guard Ratysha Alexander, averaging 5.5 points and 3.1 assists per game last year, and forward Whitney Smith, who scored 7.4 points while pulling down 4.4 rebounds per game, and three key contributors off the bench, including forward Britney Harris, who averaged 8.6 points and 3.0 rebounds a game last year, guard Brittney Brooks, 5.2 points and 2.5 assists per game, and forward Miriam Garraway, who averaged 2.3 points and 1.2 rebounds in just over nine minutes a game last season. The hope is that these women can form excellent chemistry with the freshman and transfers to concoct a winning formula.

The newcomers for the Bearkats have come from as far away as Georgia, all looking to jumpstart a winning program where there has not been one in quite sometime.

The two transfers are Leasa Ailshie, a junior from Connors State in Oklahoma where she averaged 8.5 points and 8.5 assists per game, and Kristin Ford, a junior from Paris Junior College in Fort Worth where she put together a nice season by averaging 12.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, and they are both expected to make a huge difference for the previously struggling team. The freshmen, who also hope to have a positive impact for the Bearkats, are post player Deltrice Daniels, guard Ausha Hartley, guard Katie Sanders and post player Jameisha Todd.

There is no way to view last year’s statistics for the Bearkats basketball team without cringing. The team was dominated in every single discernable offensive or defensive statistic, which included being outscored by their opponents by 449 points on the season. The team shot only 63 percent from the free throw line with their opponents at 71 percent, 27 percent from the three-point line with their opponents shooting 35 percent, and only 36 percent from the field to 43 percent for their opponents.

All of this translates into a 5-24 record, while averaging only 60.6 points a game to your opponents 76.0 without having a single person average double-figures in scoring. The optimism would seem to be limited with these unfortunate numbers glaring back into your face, but coach Brenda Welch-Nichols believes that they can be remedied with help from the newcomers to the club. She has spoken highly about transfers Ailshie and Ford, along with freshmen Daniels, Hartley, Sanders and Todd.

“She [Ailshie] is a hard nose player with great leadership experience. Kristen [Ford] will bring an inside threat we need next season. She [Daniels] is an inside/outside player that will bring versatility to our style of play. She [Hartley] is a feisty guard with quick hands and exceptional passing ability. Katie [Sanders] is an outstanding outside shooter and tenacious defender.Jameisha [Todd] is an athletic post player that works hard on the boards.,” coach Brenda Welch-Nichols said about each and every one of her talented new players. She added, “We will be looking for Leasa [Ailshie] to step in and contribute immediately.”

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