While the loss of their leading scorer is glaring, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi figures to be a main player in the Southland Conference this season behind a roster that will continue to makes strides while growing up.
A 19-12 team that finished 11-7 in the league last season under veteran coach Royce Chadwick, the Islanders must compensate for the loss of guard Brittany Mbamalu’s offensive production.
Having back three juniors sophomores who made impressive inroads in the program the last two seasons should at least ease Mbamalu’s absence.
That group includes Emma Young, Dalesia Booth and Dae Dae Evans. That trio set a school record for starts to open a season and career at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Young (12.3 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game) followed Mbamalu in scoring last season. A 46 percent shooter from the floor, she led the team in assists with 77 and was also adept on the defensive end with 38 steals and 11 blocks. Booth (10.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg) had 38 steals and 38 blocks while starting 31 games. Evans (6.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg) led the squad in steals with 41 and added 64 assists.
Other notable returners include senior Uri Jolivette (4.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and junior Lajaneira Robison (3.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg). Jolivette shot 48 percent from the floor, and Robinson contributed 43 assists and 28 steals last season.
A newcomer with more upside is Alexes Bryant, who was one of the top JC players in the nation at New Mexico Junior College last season. The 6-3 center who originally signed with Oklahoma State averaged 13 points and 6.7 rebounds as a sophomore at New Mexico JC, where she was ranked the top post player by Colliegiate Girls Basketball Report.
“Lex is the best power forward in junior college basketball,” Chadwick said. “She has length athletic ability and a great shooting touch. She can pass the ball like a guard, has catch and shoot skill and can make moves. She can post up a smaller player and finesse a bigger one. She has outstanding skill."
Brianna Jackson, Tasia Foman, Makinna Serrata and Torrionna Nesbitt also figure into the plans. Jackson , who sat out last season, averaged 15.4 points her last season at Independence College. Foman sat out last season after transferring from the University of Texas. Serrata, a 6-0 guard, averaged 26.2 points and 9.3 rebounds at McMullen Country High School. Nesbitt is a 5-foot-8 freshman guard who had a solid high school career at Cibolo Steele.
Projected Starting Five:
- Dae Dae Evans, G, 5’7, Jr., Bellaire, Texas
- Emma Young, G, 5’10, Jr., Nicholasville, Kentucky
- Dalesia Booth, G, 5’9, Jr., San Antonio, Texas
- Brianna Jackson, G, 5’10 Sr., Fort Smith, Arkansas
- Alexes Bryant, F, 6’3, Jr., Cibolo, Texas
Jr. Emma Young can score, rebound and sets others up with her passing skills. She shoots well from both the free throw and 3-point line and is good on the defensive end (129 defensive rebounds and 38 steals).
The program could match its 19 wins from last season and figures to be very competitive in the Southland. The trio of juniors Emma Young, Dalesia Booth and Dae Dae Evans gives the program experience and solid production all over the court. This team will be a tough customer in league affairs and the league tournament and could find itself in a game for the right to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
If the offense struggles, the Islanders will find the terrain difficult in the Southland and be a mid-pack league finisher.
Game of the Year: Feb. 20 a Stephen F. Austin figures to be a big one for the Islanders and head coach Royce Chadwick. Chadwick won 173 games in seven seasons at SFA, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 1996.
Most Impactful First-Year Player:
Sr. Brianna Jackson from Independence College