Centre Basketball: Women's team has new look but remains dangeroups
Centre College forward Chelsea Benham earned second-team all-conference honors last season, when she averaged 11.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game as a senior. However, she had knee surgery in March and is still getting back into basketball shape. (Clay Jackson / November 9, 2012)
Gone are All-American Maggie Prewitt, all-time leading rebounder Lauren Huter and six other seniors who helped the Colonels to a 26-4 record and spot in the NCAA Division III tournament Sweet 16.
But coach Wendie Austin-Robinson said it’s what Centre, which opens the season by hosting the Country Hearth Inn/Famous Recipe Classic Nov. 16-17, has coming back that has her excited about the season.
“We lost eight seniors and the team has taken on a different look, which is not always bad,” the coach said. “I’m excited about the team this year. We’re younger than we have been the last few years, and of course we’ve changed a lot of things up. The team should be a better defensive team than last year. We’ve changed the defensive philosophy to what this team can do.”
That means more pressure on the ball.
“We should be able to guard the ball a little better,” said Austin-Robinson, who plans on using a three-guard rotation at the point. “We’re a little more athletic on the perimeter and (assistant) Tom (Campbell) and I would like to see them get up and guard the ball a little heavier.”
Centre returns two starters in seniors Chelsea Benham and Bridget Winstead.
Benham, a forward, was a second-team all-conference player last season after being second on the team in scoring (11.7 points per game) and rebounding (6.0 per game) and shooting a team-best 85.8 percent from the free throw line. She had knee surgery in March and is still getting back in basketball shape.
“She works hard in the summer to prepare for the season, but she didn’t get a chance to do that this summer, so she’s trying hard to get her body in shape,” Austin-Robinson said.
Winstead, a guard, hit a team-high 51 3-pointers last season and averaged 6.8 points per game. She is one of team’s best defenders.
Junior Paige Baechle came off the bench to score 8.9 points and grab 5.4 rebounds per game last year, and sophomore Maggie Hartlage averaged 4.2 points.
Austin-Robinson said Hillary Moore, Jenna Mire, Mary Stough, Erika Rippenger and Alanna Guy are expected to be contributors as well.
“They were big keys for us every day in practice,” Austin-Robinson said. “They didn’t see a lot of minutes, but they didn’t have to because we were so deep. Now, it’s their turn.”
The Colonels will also look to freshman Bonnie Rhule, Kaitlyn McKnight, Mary Hannah Winstead and Alexis Guy to take up minutes and provide depth. The team will have two sets of sisters on the team with Alexis and Alanna Guy and Bridget and Mary Winstead. And Rhule’s sister, Rebecca, is a former Centre player.
Austin-Robinson admits that it will take some time to get used to playing without Prewitt, a four-year starter and one of the best players in school history.
“I think the first week, they kept kind of looking around for Maggie and Lauren, but they know they’re not coming back,” Austin-Robinson said. “But we’re having fun playing a new style and with the new stuff we’re doing. They know whatever Tom and I are putting in is to make them as successful as they can be. They’re ready to go and they want to have a great season, too.”
But she is realistic about the comparisons to this last year’s team.
“As this team was preparing in the preseason, before Oct. 15, I think they felt themselves under a little bit of pressure,” Austin-Robinson said.
“The upperclassmen had to learn how to play without Maggie and Lauren and Jane (Goatley) and the others, but we talked about whatever our journey is is our journey. And our goal is to be the best we can be every day.
“This team has a completely different look. You can look at it as pressure, or you can look at it as this is the team for 2012-13.”