BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Birmingham-Southern women's basketball lost just one of its starters from last season and are looking to blend an experienced core with an influx of fresh talent to put the Panthers back on top of the Southern Athletic Association.
"I'm having fun right now," said Head Coach Mike Ricks. "I think that's a big part of why teams can be successful or not. This year's team is focused. The sky's the limit this year and the future is very bright for our basketball program."
Returning in the front court is all-conference forward and two-year starter junior Emilee Olsen (Marietta, Ga./Lassiter HS). She finished last season ranked nationally in nine different categories and led the team in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and minutes.
"She's one of the leaders on our team and we're expecting her to have her best season yet," said Ricks.
BSC also returns its starting back court in senior Kaitlin Hogan (Vestavia Hills, Ala./Vestavia Hills HS), and sophomores Misa Fujii (Sunnyvale, Calif./Notre Dame) and Leah Middleton (Decatur, Ga./St. Pius X HS). Sixth man, senior Christian McGowan (Birmingham, Ala./Oak Mountain HS) returns as well.
"Our seniors Kaitlin and Christian have been in the program for three years and they've experienced winning championships," Ricks added. "Misa was our starting point guard as a freshman and I thought she did a good job of taking care of the basketball. She's going to be pretty solid. Leah was one of our more reliable scorers."
Sophomores Gracie Duggan (Hawkinsville, Ga./The Westfield School) and Samantha Lee (St. Petersburg, Fla./Northeast HS) also return to the Hilltop this season to compete for playing time. Ricks has brought in five athletic freshmen to compliment the young returning core.
"We're excited about all of our freshmen," Ricks noted. "I could see a number of scenarios where all of our freshmen contribute."
"It's early, but we've been really impressed with Derienne and Aisya," said Ricks. "Great kids, super competitive, and athletic. I think they can add a dimension to our team and help us to be better defensively."
The Panthers open the 2018-19 season at home with the Richard Dardenne Memorial Classic November 17-18 where they welcome some of the top programs in the country to Bill Battle Coliseum. BSC takes on Mary Hardin-Baylor and Rose-Hulman in the Classic. Both teams were receiving votes in the national poll at the end of last season. Other tough tournaments this year include the Quality Suites Holiday Classic hosted by Oglethorpe University in Atlanta December 20-21 where they will see No. 3 Hope College.
Conference play begins on the road at Millsaps College January 1. They open at home just days later against Oglethorpe on November 4 and Berry College on November 6.
"I think this is the best collection of coaches we've had in our league since I've been here," said Ricks. "It's going to be a dog fight."