The St. John’s University women’s basketball team has big shoes to fill.
With last year’s departure of seniors Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith to the WNBA — the first female Red Storm players ever drafted to the league — the team has some gaping holes.
Smith and McKenith were the key players of the greatest dynasty of St. John’s women’s basketball, which included four-straight NCAA tournament appearances for the Red Storm and the team’s first-ever Sweet Sixteen berth. But with the stellar pair and other key players gone that means new players have to step up.
“No matter that our face has changed our goals stay the same, our expectations stay the same,” said head coach Joe Tartamella.
Sophomore guard Aliyyah Handford, the reigning All-Met Rookie of the Year and a 2012-2013 Big East Conference All-Freshman team selection, will be a major factor to determine how the Red Storm fare in the new-look Big East. Handford scored 9.4 points per game last year and averaged 4.5 rebounds per game, and those numbers are expected to balloon this year.
“To be honest I think it’ll be great to be the top player on the team,” Handford said. “I think we can go further than we did last year.”
In the front court junior forward Amber Thompson, who averaged 6.5 rebounds per game last year, is returning to pound the boards and solidify the Johnnies’ interior defense.
The Red Storm also has a cast of returning guards that can push the ball, such as seniors Keylantra Langley and Briana Brown, and sophomore Ashley Perez.
Redshirt senior Eugeneia McPherson, who was inactive last year due to a season-ending knee injury, expects to be able to take the court when conference play begins.
But as one of the only seniors on the team and the only current player who has been through all four-straight NCAA tournaments, McPherson will be counted on for her experience to direct the team.
With this mix of experience, top players and team chemistry, the Red Storm is confident that they can continue the dynasty to a fifth year.
“We have a great group of young ladies that have been working hard,” Tartamella said. “We will put a product out there that will make our fans, alumni and university proud.”