Tag Archives: Mary Taylor Cowles

Extras from Cowles, Lady Topper recruits

The Herald ran a story Friday about how the Lady Topper basketball program will look to overcome a shortage of depth at guard next season.

I had the chance to speak with both of Western’s signees for next year, Georgia standouts Mimi Hill and Chaney Means, along with their high school coaches over the last couple weeks.

I thought I would add a few more details from those interviews that couldn’t make it into print.

Hill has range

For starters, it seems pretty clear that both Hill and Means have the opportunity to make an impact as freshmen next season.

Hill, a 6-3 forward from Winder-Barrow High School in Watkinsville, Ga., averaged 16 points and nine rebounds per game as a senior, according to her mother and coach, Brenda Hill-Gilmore.

But Hill-Gilmore said her daughter can also surprise with her outside shooting.

“Mimi has a really good range,” she said. “She’s very capable of stepping out and shooting the 3 – she did that a lot for us this year. But she does have some good post moves as well, so she’ll have a good effect on the team with her abilities.”

Hill said she sprained her ankle two days before Winder-Barrow’s opening game in the Region 8-AAAA Tournament and wasn’t at her best when the Lady Doggs fell to Loganville.

But she was selected to compete in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association North-South All-Star game on March 21, scoring three points for a North team that lost, 82-79. Means also scored six points for the North.

Hill said she’s ready to get to Western and build on what she called “a pretty good senior season.”

“I didn’t really finish as well as I planned to, but I think I did well on my post moves, I think I played good defense, and I think showed some shooting ability out of the post,” Hill said. “I feel like that will set me in a different position than maybe the other post players, especially with two of their top-shooting guards leaving.”

Means ready to accept role

Means helped lead her Greater Atlanta Christian squad to a Final Four appearance in the Georgia High School Association Class AA Girls State Basketball tournament.

The Lady Spartans lost to eventual champion Vidalia in the semifinals on March 11.

GAC coach Cal Boyd said that Means’ intangibles as a leader and a point guard couldn’t be overstated, but that her statistics also speak for themselves.

Means averaged over 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals per game as a senior, according to Boyd.

“She’s all about her team, and whatever she can do to help her team be successful, she’ll do it,” Boyd said. “If it means scoring two points and getting nine rebounds and eight assists and five steals, then she’ll do that. If it means another night stepping up and scoring more points, she’ll do that as well.”

As of now, Means will be one of four true guards on Western’s roster next season, joining seniors-to-be Amy McNear and Hope Brown along with junior-to-be Vanessa Obafemi.

“I know that’s definitely a concern for the team next year – just the lack of guards,” Means said. “Hopefully I can make an impact, and Mimi is a really good post player and outside shooter. I’m definitely going to work on my shooting in July, since that’s an area where they need help.”

No matter how much playing time Means sees as a freshman, Boyd said his senior is the type to take the role she’s given.

“I think she’ll be able to bring quite a bit, even though she’s just a freshman,” he said. “She’s played a lot of basketball over the years and has been in a lot of situations where she’s been successful.”

Cowles excited about both

Western Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles seems to recognize all of the attention that has been paid to her recruiting efforts this spring. After all, there are only 10 Lady Toppers on scholarship right now.

But Cowles said that recruiting is always a 24/7 job, whether you have openings or not.

And Western has some openings. Four seniors graduated and three players – sophomore guard Caitlin House, as well as freshmen guards Lashay Davis and Courtney Clifton – all decided to leave the program during the season.

“When you put that much time and energy into recruiting, you hope those things don’t happen,” Cowles said. “But unfortunately when they do, you’ve got to go to your next game plan. You can never really predict what’s going to happen, but you’ve just got to make sure you’re prepared.”

As mentioned in Friday’s Herald, Cowles said that she hopes to add one or two more guards before next season begins.

But for now, she’s pleased with who she has on roster and the potential of her two incoming freshmen.

Cowles said she has spoken to Hill and Means since Davis and Clifton left the team two days before the Lady Toppers began postseason play, and that both of her signees seemed eager to get to Western and compete.

“I have no doubt that those two young ladies are going to buy in to what we ask of them and need them to do for the benefit of our program,” Cowles said.

-Zach Greenwell

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Cowles says recruiting for next year not yet complete

Although the Lady Toppers’ season had just ended Friday night, Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles was asked in her postgame news conference what next year might have in store.

And it appears if she has it her way, Western will try to enter next season with a few more new faces.

The Lady Toppers currently have two signees for next year in Georgia standouts Mimi Hill and Chaney Means, but Cowles said that there will likely be more to come.

“I’m very excited about next year’s team,” Cowles said. “I’m excited about what we’re bringing in, but I don’t think we’re finished with what we’re going to bring in as far as recruiting goes.”

Western has even more scholarships available because of the departures of freshmen Lashay Davis and Courtney Clifton this week. The two guards asked for their releases from the program in order to devote more time to academics.

Sophomore Caitlin House also left the team in February, and four seniors will be graduating.

With the additions of Hill and Means, along with Louisville transfer Janae Howard, the Lady Toppers now have 10 scholarship players for next season. Fifteen are allowed in Division I women’s basketball.

 Before House’s departure in February, Western was carrying a 16-player roster, including 15 on scholarship.

-Zach Greenwell

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More on Lady Toppers’ departures

Just got back from the Lady Toppers’ WNIT prep press conference, where we learned that freshmen guards Lashay Davis and Courtney Clifton are no longer with the team.

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles released a statement earlier today, stating that both players told her that they wished to pursue opportunities other than Division I basketball.

Here is the statement in full:

“Courtney Clifton and Lashay Davis are no longer members of the Lady Topper basketball team. I have spoken to each of them, and they both indicated a desire to leave the program. Lashay told me she no longer wants to compete at the Division I level and would like to focus on a career in medicine. Courtney told me that she wants to focus less on basketball and also go into the field of medicine. It takes a tremendous amount of dedication and hard work to be a member of our basketball program. We thank each of them for their contributions and wish them the best of luck with their future.”

Cowles didn’t have much to add to her statement during the press conference, but did use the phrase “Division I level” quite a bit. No way to know just yet, but her phrasing would seem to imply that Davis and Clifton might continue their basketball careers at a lower collegiate level.

“Each individual that comes in at the collegiate level has a commitment that’s required to be made,” Cowles said. “Obviously the Division I level being that ultimate level, there’s a lot of time, a lot of dedication, and a lot of commitment that’s required for a student-athlete to be able to juggle school and athletics.

“When they asked for their release and had made their decision that they wanted to focus more on their academic career path and had no desire to do it at the Division I level, obviously we’re going to grant that.”

Senior forward Dominique Duck said she was surprised by the announcement but said that it was probably the best decision if the freshmen’s hearts weren’t really in it.

“They kind of wanted to focus on education, which is a big part of going to college,” Duck said. “They wanted to focus on medicine, which is very time-consuming along with trying to keep up with basketball. I just wish them the best with their decision. No matter what, I’m still happy about them and their choice that they made because they made it for the best for them.”

Davis and Clifton’s departures will leave the Lady Toppers (21-10) a little shorthanded as they host Illinois in the first round of the WNIT Friday.

Davis averaged 7.4 points per game as Western’s biggest producer off the bench. She was second on the team in made three-pointers (40) and shot 38.1 percent from behind the arc.

Clifton started the season with a bang, leading the Lady Toppers with 22 points in a home win over Eastern Kentucky. But she only played in 18 games after that, averaging 4.1 points on the season.

Both Cowles and Duck said that junior guard Hope Brown and sophomore guard Vanessa Obafemi would be expected to help fill the void in bench production left by the departing freshmen.

Three players have now left the Lady Topper program this season. Sophomore guard Caitlin House also asked for her release in February.

There has been no word yet from Cowles on whether or not Western will try to fill the scholarship vacancies left by the departures.

-Zach Greenwell

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Lady Tops hope NIT comes calling, could potentially host

Since Monday’s loss to Middle Tennessee virtually ensures that the Lady Toppers won’t reach the NCAA Tournament, their postseason destination could be the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

The WNIT expanded its field this season from 48 teams to 64. Western was left out of the bracket after finishing 16-13 last year, but the Lady Toppers (21-10) seem to be a likely choice for one of the tournament’s 33 at-large bids this season.

The only requirements for receiving an invitation are Division-I affiliation and an overall record of .500 or better.

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles confirmed in her postgame news conference Monday that Western would accept a postseason bid, saying that the Lady Toppers are “ready to play ball” if anyone comes calling.

All games in the WNIT are hosted by participating schools, which means that the Lady Toppers could get a game (or more) in Diddle Arena.

Western media relations said late Monday that Diddle’s attendance numbers and availability would give the school a “decent chance” at hosting.

The WNIT will officially announce the field March 15 on its Web site.

Below is a tentative schedule for the tournament, according to the WNIT site:

Round 1: March 17-19
Round 2: March 20-23
Round 3: March 24-26
Quarterfinals: March 27-29
Semifinals: March 31-April 1
Championship: April 3

The Lady Toppers last competed in the WNIT during the 2006-07 season. They hosted and won their first three games of that tournament before falling in the semifinals at Wisconsin.

Western entered the WNIT that season with a record of 20-8.

-Zach Greenwell

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Lady Toppers see no “I” in team

Senior forward Arnika Brown and junior guard Amy McNear say they are grateful for their placement on the postseason All-Sun Belt Conference teams, but they have bigger things on their minds.

Like winning the Sun Belt Tournament this weekend in Hot Springs, Ark.

“I’m not really concerned about individual honors right now – I just want to win the tournament,” Brown said. “That’s the main thing, that’s my main focus, and I think Amy would say the same thing.”

McNear did admit that postseason accolades take a backseat during tournament time, when it’s all about surviving by any means necessary.

“I’m all about the team and helping the team as much as I can,” she said. “Anything I can do to help is a big thing for me.”

Brown, who is averaging 11.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, was named to the first team for the second straight year.

McNear was named to the second team – the first such honor of her career. She currently leads the Lady Toppers in scoring with 11.5 points per game and is fourth in the conference in assists (4.3 per game).

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said the selections show the respect others in the league have for the two players’ abilities, but that Brown and McNear are not the type to get caught up in the limelight.

“They realize that they play a sport where it takes a team to win,” Cowles said. “You’ve got to have each other to get it done, and they’re very focused right now. I think they’re probably very tickled about it, but at the same time, they realize that’s an individual thing, and we’re trying to compete win a team championship.”

-Zach Greenwell

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Lady Tops say Florida trip good change of pace before Sun Belt tourney

When senior forward Dominique Duck was asked about the Lady Toppers’ upcoming road trip to Florida Atlantic and Florida International this week, a big smile came across her face.

“We’re all excited to just get down into Florida and have fun with each other,” Duck said. “I think it’s really going to help the team bonding with this long trip late, right before Sun Belt.”

But the five-day trip is certainly more about business than it is about pleasure.

The Lady Toppers can secure a No. 3 seed in the Sun Belt Tournament and a first-round bye with a win Wednesday at FAU.

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said she’s pleased that the players are looking forward to the trip – as long as they take care of business first.

“I’m glad to hear them say that, but at the same time, I think they’re also smart enough to know that we’ve got two basketball games that we need to take care of on this road swing,” Cowles said.

That’s not to say Cowles doesn’t want the Lady Toppers to have fun in Florida – because she knows they will.

“It is a lot of fun. It’s a great opportunity for them to spend some time together away from Diddle, where pretty much all you have is each other,” Cowles said. “And even though it’s a long basketball season, they do have a lot of fun together, whether it’s out at dinner, whether it’s in the hotel or finishing up a film session. They’re always picking on each other or kind of jabbing at each other.”

Western tips at 6 p.m. Wednesday at FAU.

-Zach Greenwell

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Lady Toppers eyeing 20-win regular season

The Lady Toppers (18-9, 12-4 Sun Belt Conference) have a chance to finish the regular season with 20 wins if they can grab two victories at Florida Atlantic and Florida International this week.

20-win seasons wouldn’t normally mean a lot to a program as traditionally successful as Western, but Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said that with last year’s disappointing 16-13 record, the benchmark could be a confidence booster this season.

“It seems like the 20 mark is kind of that magical number that people talk about within a season,” Cowles said. “Obviously, we would have liked to be 29-0 at this point – ending up the regular season. But again, two more wins is the momentum and confidence we need to continue with to end our regular season.”

Senior forward Dominique Duck admitted that reaching 20 wins in the regular season was one of the Lady Toppers’ preseason goals, but Cowles said the most important thing for the team now is how it finishes.

“Whether it puts us at 20, or whether it had put us at 25, to end the regular season on wins is where we want to position ourselves as we get our minds set to go into the postseason tournament,” Cowles said.

-Zach Greenwell

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