2013-14 Auburn Women's Basketball Summer Preview

Sept. 11, 2013

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AUBURN, Ala. - The Auburn women's basketball team enters its second season under head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy in 2013-14. With eight newcomers, joining six returning letterwinners, the team has embraced the theme "Strength in Numbers." The Tigers are coming off a 19-15 season in Coach Flo's first year, a season that ended in the Women's NIT quarterfinals.

Williams-Flournoy brings an aggressive defensive playing style, focusing specifically on creating turnovers to feed the offense to Auburn. With the team full of youth, she understands it will be difficult to condition the new members of the team to the fast-pace and aggressive game plan.

"It's hard because we have so many newcomers. It feels like we are starting over again," Williams-Flournoy said. "With the returners, you hope that they have gotten better, conditioned better and understand how we want to play. I think it's going to be a totally different, new season with so many new players out on the floor. We are bringing eight newcomers, so they actually become the majority where the upperclassmen become the minority."

The eight newcomers will have six returning players on the court to lead the way. The returning squad brings a mixture of experienced and younger players looking to make an impact on William-Flournoy's starting squad.

"We bring back Hasina Muhammad and Tyrese Tanner, who have been big contributors," Williams-Flournoy said. "It was Peyton Davis' first year really playing, and Courtney Strain didn't play much. Cabriana Capers and Tra'Cee Tanner were freshmen, so we are really looking at Hasina and Ty as ones with a lot of experience. We have a lot of players still learning, mixed with eight newcomers. We are just going to work and try to put a good group together on the floor."

Returning starters senior guard Tyrese Tanner and junior guard Hasina Muhammad led the Tigers last season in scoring and were both in the top-10 scorers of the SEC. Tanner led the team with 14.2 points per game while Muhammad scored 14.0 points per game. Senior Peyton Davis will join Tanner and Muhammad as the only other returning starter. At center, Davis averaged 6.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Being Williams-Flournoy's second season at the helm of women's basketball, returning players are well prepared for her coaching style and many newcomers were specifically recruited for her system. Being able to recruit her own players this season is an advantage Williams-Flournoy is looking forward to.

"That is what the purpose of recruiting does for you, it allows you to bring in players that can play your system and your style of basketball, so I think that helps us a lot," Williams-Flournoy said. "Last year we had a few players that didn't really fit our style, so we were trying to make them do things they really weren't capable of doing. Whereas now you are bringing in the kids that are supposed to be able to do it and now you just have to teach them and make sure they understand exactly how to do it."

Six of the eight newcomers to the team this season will be true freshman, recruited for Williams-Flournoy's aggressive playing style. They include Khady Dieng, Keonna Farmer, Katie Frerking, Brandy Montgomery, Allina Starr and Meagan Tucker. Junior college transfers Melinda Brimfield and Kiani Parker will also join the six freshmen.

"We have Brandy Montgomery who is a scorer that definitely loves to shoot." Williams-Flournoy said. "We can put Kiani Parker at the two guard as well and you still have Khady Dieng, another freshman that can come in, contribute and give us some depth there."

That depth at the wing also includes Muhammad and freshman Keonna Farmer, an in-state product from Birmingham.

"For our three's you have Katie Frerking, Hasina and Keonna Farmer as well so it gives us both some length and height at out at the wing positions," said Williams-Flournoy.

At point guard, Williams-Flournoy will look to a pair of freshmen to come in and take over. Auburn has big shoes to fill in the position after the departure of Najat Ouardad, who finished her career ranked in the top 10 at Auburn in both assists and assists per game.

"It is hard with freshman point guards," said Williams-Flournoy. "We hope that between the two of them (Allina Starr and Meagan Tucker) they will be able to take over and run the show and run the team and be the leaders that we need our point guards to be.

"If not, we still have Kiani Parker, who played point guard in junior college as well who could bring in a little more leadership although I really want to leave her at the two guard position, but we'll just have to play it out and see."

At the post, Williams-Flournoy made an offseason move, transitioning senior Tyrese Tanner to the four spot to add more athleticism down low.

"Tyrese Tanner is moving to the forward position for us and we will still have Cabriana Capers in the position as well," said Williams-Flournoy. "We also have Melinda Brimfield there, a junior college transfer. That is a tough position for us because most of the time our fours are trailer type forwards that can either put the ball on the floor, attack the basket, shoot the three."

Rounding out the lineup at center are sophomore Tra'Cee Tanner and Davis. A key position in Auburn's press, Williams-Flournoy hopes that offseason conditioning and a year's worth of experience will pay off for the Tigers this year.

"I think it's still going to be a little tough for both Peyton and Tra'Cee, trying to play the back line of that press for us," said Williams-Flournoy. "That is definitely something hopefully they have worked this summer, working on their conditioning and getting in better shape, because it is a tough job back there."

Williams-Flournoy and her staff say the most important skill the team has right now is their versatility. The ability to contribute at multiple positions will help the team defensively as well as offensively on fast breaks. Williams-Flournoy emphasized having athletic players makes transitioning the ball much easier.

"When you have kids that can handle the ball for at least a certain amount of distance, they don't have to make a play or be a playmaker, but they can start the break by being able to push the ball ahead and pushing transition like we want to play," Williams-Flournoy said. "More importantly, for our defensive theme when you have more long, lanky, athletic players in certain positions it just makes it even better for us as we try to do what we like to do."

The team expects a challenging non-conference schedule this season that includes difficult road tests like UCLA and Minnesota. With so many new players Williams-Flournoy says they will need to learn fast in order to compete successfully.

"When you have a young team with two freshman point guards, you would like to be able to ease into things, but they are going to get thrown in the fire right away," Williams-Flournoy said. "It is competitive and will definitely help us get ready for the SEC."

PRESEASON QUOTES
On transitioning from last year to this year...
"It is hard because we have so many newcomers, it feels like we are starting over again. With the returners you hope that they have gotten better, conditioned better and understand how we want to play. I think it's going to be a totally different, new season with so many new players out on the floor. We are bringing in eight newcomers, so they actually become the majority where the upperclassmen become the minority."

On the six returners...
"We bring back Hasina Muhammad and Tyrese Tanner, who have been big contributors. It was Peyton Davis' first year really playing and Courtney Strain didn't play much. Cabriana Capers and Tra'Cee Tanner were freshman, so we are really just looking at Hasina and Ty as ones with a lot of experience. We have a lot of players that are still learning, mixed in with the eight newcomers. We are just going to work and try to put a good group together on the floor."

On the team knowing her coaching style...
"That is what the purpose of recruiting does for you, it allows you to bring in players that can play your system and your style of basketball, so I think that helps us a lot. Last year we had a few players that didn't really fit our style, so we were trying to make them do things they really weren't capable of doing, but were trying to do. Whereas now you are bringing in the kids that are supposed to be able to do and now you just have to teach them and make sure they understand exactly how to do it."

On point guard positions...
"It is hard with freshman point guards. We hope that between the two of them (Allina Starr and Meagan Tucker) they will be able to take over and run the show and run the team and be the leaders that we need our point guards to be. If not, we still have Kiani Parker, who played point guard in junior college as well who could bring in a little more leadership although I really want to leave her at the two guard position, but we'll just have to play it out and see."

On two guard position...
"We have Brandy Montgomery who is a scorer definitely loves to shoot. Once again, we can put Kiani at the two guard as well and you still have Khady Dieng, another freshman, that can come in, contribute and give us some depth there."

On three guard position...
"For our three's you have Katie Frerking, Hasina and Keonna Farmer as well so it gives us both some length and height at out at the wing positions."

On four post position...
"Tyrese Tanner is moving to the forward position for us. We will still have Cabriana Capers in the position as well. We also have Melinda Brimfield there, a junior college transfer. That is a tough position for us because most of the time our fours are trailer type forwards that can either put the ball on the floor, attack the basket, shoot the three. "

On center position...
"We have both Peyton Davis and Tra'Cee Tanner returning at the five spot. I think it's still going to be a little tough for both of them, trying to play the back line of that press for us. That is definitely something hopefully they have worked this summer, working on their conditioning and getting in better shape, because it is a tough job back there."

On increased athleticism on the team this year...
"It's very important when you can put more athleticism on the floor. The best part about it is I listed everyone in certain positions, but they can really play a lot of different positions which makes it great when you become a versatile player that can play different positions. It not only helps you with the playing time but it helps you on being on the floor. There is no one certain person that has to be able to get a rebound and pass it out to the point guard, we can actually start a break and be faster and quicker. When you have kids that can handle the ball for at least a certain amount of distance they don't have to make a play or be a playmaker, but they can start the break by being able to push the ball ahead and pushing transition like we want to play. More importantly, for our defensive theme when you have more long, lanky, athletic players in certain positions it just makes it even better for us as we try to do what we like to do."

On staff continuity....
"It is huge to have the whole coaching staff back. When you can keep your staff in tact, you know everybody is on the same page, everybody understands how we want to play. It makes it a lot easier when you are trying to start another season and not having to teach your coaching staff. You already have to teach eight newcomers, but when you have to teach your coaching staff as well it can be a tough job. It makes it easier when everybody returns and everybody knows exactly what we want to do."

On non-conference schedule...
"Our non-conference schedule is tough. It is a little tougher than what we had anticipated, especially with so many newcomers. You want to have a competitive schedule and we have done that, especially with some of our away games. Scheduling is always hard and it's tough, nobody ever wants to play you, it seems. When you have a young team with two freshman point guards, you would like to be able to ease into things, but they are going to get thrown in the fire right away. It is competitive and will definitely help us get ready for the SEC."