Women’s basketball is primed for a successful new year

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by Joe Huss

Last year the Radford women’s basketball team battled through numerous injuries and tied for third place in the Big South conference with a record of 18-13 with a conference record of 13-7. The Highlanders look to continue their dominance at home after posting a record of 11-3 while looking to improve on the road after going 6-9. The season would end for them in the Big South Tournament in the semifinals against Liberty University.

This year the ceiling is higher for the Highlanders after being projected to finish second only to last year’s eventual tournament and conference champions, UNC Asheville. It is the highest preseason ranking the Highlanders have had since the 2007-08 season when they were projected to finish first in the conference.

Head coach Mike McGuire said of the ranking, “This is an exciting time for our program in being picked second, which I think is a sign of respect for what our returning players have done and what they had to battle last season. At the same time, we have to understand that this ranking does not guarantee anything in terms of the success that we can have.”

The team will be sporting a mostly identical roster to last year, but the losses it did have are big. Seniors Aisha Foy and Gaby Gilmore both graduated in the spring, and both provided valuable roles and experience. Foy was the undisputed leader of the Highlanders in 2015-2016, leading the team in points and representing one of the few three-point threats Radford had. Gilmore was the lockdown perimeter defender of the squad, leading the team with just over two steals a game—almost double the average of her next highest teammate.

But for this year, they will be led by junior forward Janayla White, who was named to the preseason all-conference first team. Last season she was the only player in the entire Big South to average a double-double. She finished second in scoring (11.9) behind Foy (12.2). White also averaged 10 rebounds a game and was their top scorer 10 times.

Another junior returning this season is Jayda Worthy, who competed in 28 games last season. She was a key component in the comeback of the Big South tournament quarterfinals against High Point University. Worthy shot over 50 percent from the floor which placed her second on the team last year. She was the top scorer for the Highlanders eight times and tied her career high of 19 points twice. She also scored in double figures in 17 of the games she appeared in. The front court duo of White and Worthy will undoubtedly be the focal point of the Highlanders offense this year.

A new crop of freshmen joins the team this year. Charnissa Chillers of Williamsburg, Va comes from Williamsburg Christian Academy where she was named the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISSA) player of the year. She averaged over 14 points a game, 5.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists a game as a senior. She leaves WCA as a 1,000 point scorer and led them to a championship game as a sophomore and junior. Another freshman this year is Khiana Johnson of Chesapeake, Va from Western Branch High School. As a senior she averaged 14.4 points a game, six rebounds a game, 4.7 assists a game and 4.9 steals a game. Those numbers helped her be named the Monitor-Merrimac Conference Player of the Year.

The Highlanders open up their season in Fairfax, Va for a game against George Mason University on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m.

Janayla White was named to the Big South preseason all-conference first team. Courtesy of Radford Athletics
Janayla White was named to the Big South preseason all-conference first team. Courtesy of Radford Athletics