Preseason MVP: N’Denasija Collins averaged 6.2 points last season and added 4.2 rebounds. Her versatility and size at her position makes her a difficult matchup for any team to gameplan for.
The Ceiling: HBU appears to have a number of good players, but have to prove it can do it on the court. The Huskies were an extremely young group a year ago. They may be another year away from being among the Southland elite, but if they improve their shot selection and rebound better, a winning conference record is within reach.
The Floor: Another rebuilding year isn’t the desired outcome, especially after two really good back-to-back recruiting classes that included the trio from Mansfield Timberview. But if the Huskies’ newcomers don’t play up to their billing, the results could be similar to last year in which HBU struggled going 4-16 in the Southland.
Projected Starting Five:
G | 5-6 | So. | Mansfield, Texas
G | 5-9 | So. | Mansfield, Texas
F | 6-0 | So. | Mansfield, Texas
C | 6-4 | So. | Hamilton Victoria, Australia
C | 6-3 | Jr. | Round Rock, Texas
Impact First-Year Player: Naomi Pierce
Of the five freshmen Houston Baptist brought in for the 2019-20 season, four ended up starting at one point of the season. Head coach Donna Finnie said that group was special, even though those four first-year-players each missed at least eight games to injuries.
Staying healthy has been a problem the past several years for the Huskies, who are coming off an 8-21 season (4-16 Southland). Finnie signed five more freshmen, to go along with 10 returnees, for the 2020-21 season in hopes of turning their record around.
“This is probably the most balanced team we’ve had in terms of scoring,” Finnie said. “The freshmen that we’re bringing in, are going to be able to help us this year. But the returnees that were scorers for us, we’re going to see huge improvements.”
Finnie expects Timia Jefferson to increase her scoring average of 10.3 points and .362 field goal percentage. Finnie has talked to Jefferson about improving her shot selection. The go-to scorers for the Huskies are expected to be sophomores N’Denasija Collins and Abbey Sutherland, who averaged 6.2 and 3.5 points per game respectively.
Collins is a good pull-up shooter who was hurt throughout last season, which disrupted her rhythm. From Australia, the 6-foot-4 Sutherland is adjusting to the American game. Sutherland had a good year defensively in the post (3.8 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game) and her offense is improving. She made .826 percent of her free throws.
Other returnees include point guard Megan Valdez-Crader, Patience Idoko, Julija Vujakovic and Asta Grimsdottir.
At 10.8 points per game, Valdez-Crader led the team in scoring and is set for a big senior year. She wants the ball in her hands at end of the game and understands what Finnie expects. Over the past three years, Valdez-Crader has been HBU’s most consistent player and led the team with 53 steals a year ago. Unfortunately because of all the injuries, Valdez-Crader has been the team’s most overly-used player. Finnie wants a fresh Valdez-Crader come conference play.
The most experienced player of the five incoming freshmen, 5-foot-11 guard Annabel Deerbon from Australia, is not on campus this fall because of the COVID-19 situation and will redshirt. Because of her versatility, she was considered to be a player that could have pushed for a starting spot.
Freshman Enya Maguire is a savvy, old-school point guard. With Megan Valdez-Crader and Kennedy Wilson expected to carry a lot of the load in that area, Maguire will relieve some of that responsibility.
Anna Maguire, Enya Maguire’s older sister, redshirted last season. Besides Deerbon, no one else is targeted to be redshirted.
A massive point of emphasis this season will be on rebounding.
“Rebounding is going to be a huge part of what we do this year,” Finnie said. “It’s an area that’s so important to this team because this team has a lot of pace and we limited our opportunities in transition offense last year because we didn’t rebound the ball as well as we should have. We have to be that team that out rebounds everybody because it will give us so many easy opportunities on offense.”