WYE MILLS - A warning to the rest of the Division II women’s college basketball teams in Region XX of the National Junior College Athletic Association: Chesapeake is Chesapeake again.
For those who thought the Division II champion Skipjacks might show signs of decline after the graduation of school’s all-time leading scorer, Janice Ladson (1,032 points), and last year’s second-leading scorer, Shahra Madison (averaged 15.7 points), Chesapeake coach Gwen Barnes came up with five good reasons: Chantelle Gross, Emily Truitt, Amunique Newell, Natori Nesbit and Reeva Jackson.
Both Gross and Truitt averaged in double figures last year and are primed to lead the Skipjacks.
“Even with all the scoring threats we had last year, I don’t think we are going to miss any of that offense,” said Barnes, whose team went 18-10 overall and 10-4 in conference play last year. “Any of the (starters) have the ability to come in and make an impact on the game.”
Truitt, a 5-foot-10 sophomore from Millsboro, Delaware, can be automatic on 3-pointers at times.
She led the team last year in 3-point shooting percentage (39).
Barnes wants Truitt, who averaged 13.2 points and 4.0 rebounds last season, to provide more of a scoring punch and be more a little more selfish this winter.
“She was trying distribute the ball a lot,” Barnes said of last year. “This year, we need her to score a lot more.”
Sophomore combo guard Chantelle Gross also returns to the starting lineup.
Gross has the size and quickness to go one-on-one, and also proved she can nail a pull-up jumper from almost any range.
Gross averaged 12.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists last year.
“She is very agile,” Barnes said. “She can play the one, two or three. She has gotten a lot quicker from last year. We’re really looking for her to continue scoring, rebounding and pushing the ball.”
Barnes gets excited when she talks about Newell, a 5-foot-7 freshman combo guard from Hampton, Va.
Her passing skills and versatility should make her a valuable player.
“She goes non-stop,” Barnes said. “She brings intensity and a lot of energy to the team. She’s a mentally tough player who is also going to score and rebound for us.”
Madison made Chesapeake a rugged team under the basket last year.
She averaged a whopping 15.4 rebounds per game, and that production will be tough to replace.
The Skipjacks hope 6-foot-4 sophomore Jackson, a center, will be the rock of the frontcourt.
Jackson is expected improve on her average 5.6 rebounds last year.
“She really has made strides as a player,” Truitt said. “She is getting off the floor better and her shooting has improved.”
Jackson should get some inside help from Nesbit, a sophomore guard/forward who completes the starting lineup.
“They are going to be a key for us having a successful season,” Barnes said of Jackson and Nesbit. “They have worked extremely hard on getting stronger and improving their shots.”
Sophomore guard Chandni Taylor and freshman guards Destiny Johnson, Toni Chiarella and Claire Pritchett will fight for time as the top reserves.
Barnes has her worries, but her 9-player roster is not one of them.
“I am not really concerned about our depth,” said Barnes, whose team opened the season with a 92-61 loss to host Harcum College on Nov. 3. “We’ll face teams that have more size and depth than us. We are prepared to meet those challenges.”
Barnes and Truitt rave about the team’s chemistry.
“I can’t compare it to other teams I’ve played on because it’s nothing like we have this year,” Truitt said.