Scovel adds speed, shooting with new class
By DUSTIN KENT
June 24. 2016 6:41PM
PANAMA CITY — Gulf Coast women’s basketball coach Roonie Scovel led the Lady Commodores to their fourth national championship last season, though she did it a little differently than in the previous three title runs.
Known for her fast-paced, guard-heavy style of play, the Lady Commodores’ most recent incarnation under Scovel was centered on a pair of dominant 6-foot-3 post players in All-Americans Kristina King and Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau.
But with both players now departed – King to West Virginia, Caron-Goudreau to Texas – and an incoming recruiting class built on quickness, shooting, and ball handling, Gulf Coast could soon be back to playing the style Scovel is most familiar with.
“Oh absolutely,” Scovel said. “Probably our strength in the past was guard play. That’s what we’re used to. When you’re at Laurel Hill (where Scovel coached before coming to GC), you only have about seven kids on your team to begin with and most are very small, so this is probably more of a comfort zone for us. Guards are what we’ve always had.”
The Lady Commodores have five newcomers on the way, with four already signed and a fifth not yet in the system. They will join a large group of returning players, most of whom had significant roles on last year’s championship team and accounted for 58 percent of the team’s offense.
Five of the team’s eight returners are guards or wings, with reserve post players LaSonja Edwards and Kennedy Rushin also back, and 6-4 post Fatou Diagne cleared to play after redshirting last season due to injury.
Among the freshmen looking to strengthen the backcourt in 2017 is a pair of combo guards in Dazha Congleton and Janesha Green.
At 5-7, the Huntington, W.V., native Congleton is a quick and athletic slasher skilled at getting into the paint and finishing in transition, and gives GC a player capable of handling both guard spots. A member of Samson’s (Ala.) 34-win state championship team, the 5-6 Green averaged 12.5 points and 9.1 rebounds to go with 3.4 assists and 3.2 steals last season.
“She’s a nice combo guard who is very strong, very athletic, and has great leaping ability,” Scovel said of Green. “(Congleton) is also a very explosive guard, very good off the dribble and a nice long range shooter. She’s a very athletic guard.”
Tulane transfer Taylor Emery should provide more offensive punch as well from the perimeter. A 5-10 wing, Emery was an explosive scorer at FreedomHigh School in Tampa, averaging 36.4 points per game as a senior along with 6.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 5.3 steals per game. She also shot 59 percent from the field, 41 percent from the 3-point line, and 82 percent from the foul line.
In her freshman season at Tulane, Emery averaged 6.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in just under 18 minutes per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and 29 percent from the 3-point line.
While the guards are impressive, the jewel of the class might come from the frontcourt in the form of 6-2 post player Jhileiya Dunlap of Dreher High School in Columbia, S.C.
A former University of North Carolina commit, Dunlap averaged 20.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 3.6 steals, and 3.1 blocks per game for a state championship winning Blue Devils team and was named Gatorade State Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Though Dunlap does much of her damage in the paint, Scovel said that she couldn’t be better suited for transition basketball given her quickness and ability to run the floor.
“I know that Jhileiya is very athletic, so she’s going to fit into our running game very well,” she said.
Even with the size advantage it held over most opponents, GC pushed the pace and tried to get into early offense last year. With the addition of Dunlap and the depth of talent and quickness on the perimeter, Scovel said she hopes to play even faster next season and punish opponents from outside the paint.
“I just think there’s a lot of depth there and some better perimeter shooting,” she said. “We were a bit suspect (as shooters) at times last year and had to depend on the post game. I think we have a lot of depth now in our perimeter shooting and I think we’ve gained some confidence and added some people who will help us be more of a threat from the outside at the guard spot.”
Integrating newcomers, particularly freshmen, is always a challenge for a team, but Scovel said that the unusually high number of experienced returning players should help speed up that process.
“We’ve got eight kids returning who have been there and done that,” she said. “They’ve seen everything, so we’ll depend on them to carry the load until everybody can adjust to our style of play. This particular group has been all in to working hard and buying in. To have eight people carry over that environment and work ethic should be an advantage for us. They have to carry the torch and show how things are going to be done and what’s expected around here.”