BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Birmingham-Southern College women's basketball team performed one of the biggest turnarounds in program history under new head coach Mike Ricks last year and are now preparing for the long journey of defending their Southern Athletic Association title.
"We were blessed to have a heavy senior-junior team last year and when you get to play that kind of experience, you have a chance to be good," said Ricks. "Last year we kind of snuck up on everybody because we were a last place team. Our new challenge is how you cope with being a champion."
The Panthers return SAA Tournament MVP and second-team all-conference selection Jasmynn Batts (Huntsville, Ala./Columbia HS) along with Jameice Holmes (Nashville, Tenn./University School of Nashville), who was also earned all-conference honors. The pair combined with fellow seniors Jothani Dixon (Tuscumbia, Ala./Deshler HS), Camillia Carter (Hueytown, Ala./Hueytown HS), and Laura Van Peursem (Huntsville, Ala./Randolph HS) are expected to anchor the team's leadership.
"We have seven seniors and we're expecting everyone to grow into new roles," Ricks added. "We don't have any juniors, so we'll have some time together after this year to grow, but we expect our seniors to lead us and for our younger players to step up and assume big roles. But everybody's got to earn it."
Five newcomers will battle for court time, including post players Emilee Olsen (Marietta, Ga./Lassiter HS), Elizabeth Philpot (Birmingham, Ala./Spain Park HS), and Taydra Holt (LaGrange, Ga./Andrew College).
BSC opens on the road at Piedmont College on Tuesday, Nov. 15 before heading to the DePauw Tipoff Tournament in Greencastle, Ind. They return home for their lone November game in Bill Battle Coliseum against Louisiana College (Nov. 22) before hitting the road again to take on Mary Hardin-Baylor (Nov. 26) and No. 3 Texas-Tyler (Nov. 28).
"We play so many games on the road that we're going to have to play every night. We really were intentional about our schedule," said Ricks. "We really wanted to challenge ourselves this year and I think we've done that."
Texas-Tyler closed last season ranked fifth in the country after making it to its regional finals and DePauw was receiving votes after an NCAA first round appearance.
SAA play starts on the road at Millsaps College (Jan. 2) with the conference home opener coming against Oglethorpe University on Friday, Jan. 13. The SAA tournament is scheduled for February 24-26.
"Now we've set this really high bar for ourselves," said Ricks. "You know that everyone in the league is trying to get better, and did get better, and are hungry to win a conference championship. That's an exciting challenge; you always get everyone's best. It could be anybody's game. I'm excited for the challenge."