Todd aims for new goals as women's basketball begins 2017-18 practice

Oct 4, 2017

Credit MSU Athletics

21 victories and a second-place finish in the Ohio Valley Conference. By any standards, that's a successful college basketball season.

Women's basketball head coach Greg Todd acknowledges that his team accomplished much in 2016-17.

However, entering his fourth season at the helm of the Eagles, Todd and his squad are not complacent. Like a famished waif, they have an appetite for more.

"We don't usually have a lot of goals," Todd admits. "Our goal is simply to be the very best team we can be. However, we do have a saying: 'Rise for 22.' 21 wins was good, but we have the makeup of a team that can have more wins than last year."

Armed with eight returnees and bolstered by six promising new additions to the lineup, Todd will put his team on the floor Monday for the team's first official practice toward the 2017-18 season.

"Like every other school, we're excited to get out on the court and go full-time and start molding our team for November games," Todd says. "We've had good workouts in the spring, the summer, and the fall, so we're looking forward to putting things together.

"I feel our team has worked hard in the off-season," he says. "We're hoping we can stay healthy. We have good depth, and as the year goes on, we feel like we can be a team that has strong depth."

That depth should make itself obvious as the practice sessions unfold and the team preps for its Nov. 11 opener against Sacramento State.

"We've done more individual work leading up to the fall," Todd says. "Team-wise, we'll start putting things together in terms of seeing our personnel mesh together. We'll start seeing what our strengths can be and answering some questions.

"Will we run a little more zone this year? Will we press? Our athleticism will be strong, and we'll play fast-break offense, no doubt," he says. "These next several weeks we'll be looking to find the personnel who will get the minutes at some of our positions. We'll give everybody a good look, and find out some small things that we can do to utilize the strengths of our new players and make sure all of our players understand the roles they have."

Two terms that frequent Todd's description of his team are depth and athleticism.

"Those were the strengths of our team last season," he says. "I feel like again this year those will be the strengths of our team. I feel we will be the among the fastest, if not the fastest team in the OVC. We were last year, and we have the makeup to do that again. We did lose four valuable seniors, but I feel that depth and athleticism will be our strengths.

"We will be a fast-paced team that will play great half-court defense. Offensively, I feel like we have a little more size with a couple additions. We lost Shay Steele, a 1,000-point post player, but I feel we'll have a little more depth in the post. We have a mixture of experience with some younger players we'll be counting on."

One of those new faces who will impact the post is Tierra McGowan, a 6-foot-3 junior from Chicago who comes to Morehead State from Rock Valley College (Ill.), where she was named NJCAA Division III Women's Basketball Player of the Year while leading her team to a 33-2 mark.

Another addition who can have an immediate impact is Erin Blaine, a fifth-year graduate student with one season remaining for the Eagles after transferring from Howard University. The 5-foot-11 Blaine led Howard in rebounding last season.

The top returnee at the post is 6-foot-2 senior Brooke Todd, the coach's daughter now in her fourth year on the squad. She ranked among national leaders all last season in blocked shots and comes into her final tour as the most experienced player in the paint.

Also available at the post are 6-foot-1 junior Georgia Campbell, who has seen action in 45 games over the past two seasons, and 6-foot-1 freshman Phydell Nwanze.

That handful of players takes the edge of much of the concern Todd might have had in filling the post position, and four returnees fortify Todd's optimism elsewhere.

One of those is 5-foot-10 senior Eriel McKee, who started 30 games last season and was third on the team in scoring (11.1 ppg) and led the Eagles in rebounds (7.2 rpg). Already over 1,000 career points, the team's depth in the post will give the flashy McKee an opportunity to play a more natural position on the wing, according to Todd.

Another returnee who should attain the 1,000-point barrier is 5-foot-8 junior guard Miranda Crockett, an All-OVC second-team selection a year ago when she averaged 11.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.2 assists and led the team with 53 steals.

While she played only one semester after transferring to MSU from Roane State Community College (Tenn.), 5-foot-6 redshirt senior guard Shauntae Brown showed quickly last year that she will figure prominently in the mix this season.

Todd will look to junior point guard Darianne Seward to spearhead the defense as well as direct the offense. She played in 20 games after sitting out the fall semester following her transfer to Morehead State, and averaged 9.3 points with 110 assists.

"She only played half the year but her assist-to-turnover ratio was very good and she was among the top defensive players in the conference," Todd says. "She is a very good full-court defender."

As seniors, McKee and Todd will be the natural leaders on the team.

"Both of them have played all three years," says the coach. "This will be their fourth year, and it's my fourth year. I think both of them will provide leadership.

"As a team, I think we will start finding out more about who will help in a leadership role, as well," Todd added. "Sometimes it can be a younger player, as well. It's been a good group. These are high-character young ladies who've done well in the classroom, and that carries over to the court."