Basketball teams refuel with rookies

by Josh Koenig | 11/8/12 11:00pm

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After starting in all of the team's games last season, guard Faziah Steen '13 returns as the captain of the women's basketball team this year.
by Yomalis Rosario and Yomalis Rosario / The Dartmouth

On the men's side, the Big Green is joined this year by seven freshmen, highlighting the youth of a squad that carries only one junior, Tyler Melville '14, and one senior, co-captain Matt Labove '13. Important contributors from last season, guard R.J. Griffin '13 and forward Nick Jackson '14, left the team during the offseason.

"People are saying we're one of the youngest teams in the country, but I think we do have a lot of experience." Labove said. "Our sophomores are like juniors, our juniors are like seniors, and we pretty much have a mindset that after you play your first game, you're no longer a freshman."

Having finished last in the Ivy League last season with a 1-13 conference record, the Big Green hopes to improve this season in part by focusing on offensive execution, including finding good looks and easy baskets, according to Labove. The Big Green returns both of its leading scorers from last season Jvonte Brooks '15 and Gabas Maldunas '15.

If the offense sees success and the Big Green continues to build on its past defensive prowess, the team hopes to improve on last year's standing, despite having been picked in the Ivy League Preseason Media Poll to finish last.

"We definitely have an opinion in our locker room that we can be a top-four team in the league," Labove said. "We just have to play the way we're capable of and we can find ourselves in a good spot come the end of the season."

Outside of league play, the Big Green will travel to face several noteworthy opponents this winter, including a nationally televised game on ESPN3 at Boston College on Dec. 31. The Big Green's in-conference game against Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., will be televised on NBC Sports Network.

On the women's side, the Big Green also welcomes one of the largest recruiting classes in recent history, bringing in seven new freshmen to the squad. After graduating only one senior, Sasha Dosenko '12, last season, half of the Big Green roster has never played a collegiate game before.

"It's going to take us some time to adjust," head coach Chris Wielgus said. "It's a huge gap between playing high school and college basketball, up against some of the best players in the country."

Wielgus is entering her 30th season coaching at the Division-I level and her 28th season at the College. During that time, she has won 12 Ivy League championships.

While incorporating such a large incoming class is challenging, it is also exciting for the program, according to the Big Green's only senior and returning captain Faziah Steen '13.

"They bring new personalities and a lot of new skills to the team, and we're excited to have them," Steen said. "It's challenging, but they've been working hard over the summer."

In addition to the normal conference schedule, the Big Green will also play several of the nation's more impressive teams, welcoming Syracuse University to Hanover on the Nov. 29 and hosting the Blue Sky Classic, which will feature Villanova University, Duquesne University and the University of Delaware.

"It's one of the toughest non conference schedules in the country, to be honest," Wielgus said.

Far from being intimidated, the Big Green women look forward to playing top-notch opposition, according to Steen.

"To compete against the best in a game you love is always something to look forward to," Steen said.

Moving forward into the season, the Big Green hopes to focus on rebounding, boxing out and cutting down on turnovers, according to Steen.

"As far as team goals, we want to be one of the best defensive teams in the league," Steen said. "I'd really like to see us solidify as a unit, both on and off the court."

The Big Green was selected by the Ivy League Preseason Media Poll to finish seventh, as it did last season after compiling a 4-10 league record.

Both teams this season will need to adjust to a new academic calendar, which expanded winter break to six weeks.

"A lot of non-athletes say, Oh no, you can't be home,' but we kind of look forward to it," Steen said. "We get to hang out as a team a lot and bond as well as play basketball without the stress of Dartmouth life."

The men's team will open its season at home against the University of Maine on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Big Green women will open on the road at Bryant University on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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