Following a historically successful 2019-20 campaign, the Marist College women’s basketball team is once again ready to compete.
The Red Foxes suffered some significant losses due to the departure of five impactful seniors. But with the new faces they recruited, the team feels that they can stay at the top of the standings.
Major roster turnover is always a difficult hurdle to overcome, however, as long as the positive culture within the locker room remains the same, then similar results will surely follow. Strong teams are not built overnight and the freshman athletes know that it takes going above and beyond to be a part of this program.
The next generation all began playing at some point, with each of their upbringings being incredibly influential on their choice to play in college. Freshman guard Emma Wax explained how her father, who was a former collegiate athlete, convinced her to follow an athletic path.
“I tried a lot of different sports at a very young age, but basketball is the one I fell in love with,” Wax said.
Athletic ability translates to almost any sport, but in the case of Wax, it was basketball that called her name. Though not everyone chooses the sport they play by choice, sometimes the pieces just fall into place.
“My mom actually forced me to play basketball against my will, but I actually grew to like it,” said freshman forward Erin Fox.
From not even wanting to touch a basketball, to being on one of the best college basketball programs in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), Fox has come a long way. Whether these freshmen were driven to the sport by passion or forced into it, basketball was their calling, which is why they ended up at Marist.
Finding talent starts with high school recruitment and in order to catch the attention of a program as prestigious as Marist women’s basketball, athletes need to stand out. Senior seasons are often instrumental in a coaches decision to recruit a player, therefore excellence is required.
Freshman guard Anabel Ellison was strong throughout her high school career, but broke out her senior season. She averaged 25.2 points, 6 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 6.1 steals per game. Despite lacking help, Ellison was able to lead her team against the top competition.
“I was one of the only good players my senior year. We even made it into the regional semifinals where we played the fifth ranked team in the country,” Ellison said.
Tremendous skills, with numbers to back her up, are the reason athletes like Ellison were recruited to Marist. Coach Brian Giorgis and the entire coaching staff look for the best of the best to continuously improve this program, and continue their quest for a conference championship.
Marist College is not a big name school, therefore the college’s name might be more foriegn to certain athletes. Both Ellison and Wax had stated they had never heard of the school before being recruited. When this occurs, the program will use multiple strategies to sell the school.
The main emphasis that women’s basketball uses is their past achievements, historical presence, and reputation.
“I played AAU with Trinasia [Kennedy], so she would tell me about Marist and her experience when she came home and trained with us. She spoke very highly of the school and would always give good insight,” said freshman forward Zaria Demember-Shazer.
Having an inside source was definitely crucial in influencing Demember-Shazer in accepting her invitation to play for Marist. Learning about the prowess of the program and their commitment to winning from a former teammate is momentous when considering offers. Every freshman confirmed how it was the recent success of the program that really drew them to the school.
Entering a new system, location, and team is troubling for any incoming freshman, no matter the sport. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic taking over, adjusting becomes even harder. With the McCann Center having limited hours for practices, all athletic teams on campus have had to make alternate arrangements.
From having to condition on the baseball field, to practicing at 8 a.m. on the outdoor courts in below freezing temperatures, the women’s basketball team has had to really alter their preparations. But this is not changing any of the team’s mentality heading into this new season.
“[We are] working hard and studying the play, so once we actually get to do five on five, we can make the most of it,” said freshman Caitlin Weimar.
Winning can only be accomplished if a team is willing to put in the grind, and if that means early morning practices in unconventional places, then that is what must be done. Even with the pandemic and less court time, constant team interaction is vital for building chemistry and developing a winning mentality for when the season starts.
Last season marked the end of an era, but this year will be the beginning of a new one. The goal remains the same, to win the MAAC. The roster has changed, but expectations remain high.
These freshmen are going to have to earn their spot in the rotation, but they are up for the challenge. This group is ready to face anything headed their way, and the fresh faces on the court will ensure success will follow this team once again.
Edited by Bridget Reilly & Nicholas Stanziale
Photo Credits: Soar-NJ.com
Photo of Marist freshmen guard, Emma Wax.