Pablo Hernandez | Assistant Sports Director
The FIU women’s basketball team is preparing to tip-off their season against the Florida National Conquistadors on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023 in Miami, Florida.
Coming off their worst record since the 2019-2020 season, the Panthers finished last season with a 14-19 record and a 7-13 record against Conference USA opponents.
They struggled to find wins in enemy territory, as they went 10-8 at home and were 2-9 in away games. Towards the end of the season, they began to find consistency away from home and won their final two games that were both in neutral territory.
Inconsistent play on both ends of the floor haunted FIU throughout last season.
Offensively, they averaged 68.8 points per game and ranked fifth in CUSA in scoring. While finding success scoring, they only held a 39.7% field goal percentage as a team, which was the second worst in CUSA.
Unable to efficiently score the ball, the Panthers also struggled to pass and keep possession of the ball.
Last season, they averaged more turnovers than assists and held a 0.60 assist-to-turnover ratio, which was also the second worst in CUSA. Overall, they averaged 19.5 turnovers per game and led CUSA in turnovers.
Despite being a high scoring team, their offensive inefficiencies didn’t allow them to keep pace with their opponents. On the defensive side of the ball, they didn’t help their case.
However, while allowing many points, they averaged 9.3 steals per game and were second in the conference in total steals.
On both ends of the floor, the Panthers were either at the top or the bottom of conference statistics and showed all the telltale signs of an inconsistent team.
As they looked to develop an identity for their 2023-2024 campaign, they underwent an overhaul in the offseason. They added seven new players and made a new addition to their coaching staff.
Entering a new season, FIU retained multiple key contributors while adding a variety of new players in the offseason.
Henderson, the 5-9 combo guard, led the team on both ends of the floor last season.
She averaged 15.7 PPG, 4.6 rebounds per game, and shot 40.7% from the field. Proving to be an elite scorer, she ranked fifth in points in the conference last season.
Providing FIU with more than just offense, she averaged the second most steals per game on the team, notching 1.6 per game.
Hayes, the 5-6 pure point guard, ran the backcourt alongside Henderson last season.
Acting as the orchestrator of the offense, she averaged 3.4 assists per game and led the team in assists. Also demonstrating a knack for scoring, she averaged 10.2 PPG and was the team’s second leading scorer.
As a duo, Henderson and Hayes combined to average 25.9 PPG and shouldered a large portion of the Panthers’ offensive load.
Due to their contributions last season, they were both recognized on the 2023 Preseason All-CUSA Team, as announced on Thursday, Nov. 2.
Besides keeping their top two contributors, FIU added seven new players as they looked to patch up their discrepancies from last year.
Adding experience and defensive prowess, the Panthers brought in graduate student forward Courtney Prenger.
Standing at 6-1, Prenger spent her last four seasons with the Xavier Musketeers, where she emerged as a top contributor in her senior season.
In the 2022-2023 season, she averaged seven points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and led the team in blocks with 1.3 per game. Bringing in an all-around defensive anchor, she looks to help improve FIU’s defense this season.
Keeping in mind the future of the program, they also added freshman guard Fantasia James.
James, the 5-9 two-way guard, played in 104 games over four years at Oakleaf High School in Jacksonville, Florida.
Over her high school career, she averaged 15.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 2.2 blocks per game. In her senior season, she notched 18.8 PPG and 3.1 SPG, which were both career bests.
Stuffing the stat-sheet every season, James looks to continue her dominance at the collegiate level and contribute to a veteran led team.
Beyond players, the Panthers also were able to bring in Heather Karner as an assistant coach.
Karner spent four years as an assistant coach with the UTEP Miners and helped them reach a 20-12 record last season. They also held a positive 12-8 record against CUSA teams.
Covering all grounds, including coaching in their additions, FIU has shown a commitment towards developing the program for the present and years to come.
Addressing multiple needs in the offseason, the FIU women’s basketball team looks to open up their new season against the FNU Conquistadors on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Ocean Bank Convocation Center in Miami, Florida.
Follow Pablo Hernandez on X: @pablitothree