By Cristhian Plasencia/ Asst. Sports Director
The FIU women’s basketball team will have a new identity going into the upcoming season with only four players returning from the 2017-18 season.
“The first step is to get the young ladies to gel. Of course, you want it to be natural. That’s the toughest thing as a coach when you’re going through a transition of personnel change,” said Head Coach Tiara Malcom.
Three out of four returnees are heading into their sophomore year: TaMiracle Taylor, Cabria Lee and Shante Walker, while redshirt senior Chelsea Guimaraes will return with much needed experience in the frontcourt.
Guimaraes transferred from Georgia Tech last season, however did not see a single minute for the Panthers all year due to NCAA transfer rules. FIU will hopefully have a true presence at center with the redshirt senior’s 6-foot-3 frame.
“Chelsea was huge in the recruiting process for a number of them. You always want someone that can identify with you in that setting,” said Malcom.
The forwards on the upcoming roster will be able to step out more and shoot the ball. The guards on this year’s squad have the ability to shoot the ball better compared to the guards from last season.
“We are going to be more athletic as we added some size to our team. We have some players with more diverse skill sets, to where we’re going to mix and match,” said Malcom. “We are relying on everyone to do their part rather than riding the backs of one or two people.”
All newcomers have made it to camp this summer, except Canadian small forward Kylee O’Hara.
The lanky six-foot small forward will not join the Panthers until the beginning of the fall term, due to her tryouts for Canada’s U18 roster. If granted a roster spot, O’Hara will travel to Mexico City for the 2018 FIBA Americas U-18 Women’s Championship. The tournament will run through August 1-7.
O’Hara averaged 17 points per game and rebounded eight boards per game at Henry Street High School in Whitby, Ontario.
“She has been heavily involved with Canadian basketball, competing at a high level,” said Malcom. “All of these experiences will allow Kylee to contribute to our program right away.”
Phase one of practices began at the beginning of the summer B semester and will run through the end of July. Players will then return home until the start of the fall semester.
NCAA allows coaches to have eight hours a week with the players. Four hours of skill workouts with the coaches and the other four are used for conditioning.