Lady Barons mix returning talent with newcomers in new facility
By Terry Gaston
MT.VERNON -- The facilities are new, and so are many of the faces that will represent the Brewton-Parker College Lady Barons on the basketball court this season.
One element fourth-year head coach Tommy Dalley hopes will remain intact is the Lady Barons' on-court success, which has resulted in successive 20-win seasons after a 20-11 campaign in 2001-02.
"Fans might think the cupboard would be bare with the graduation of five players from last year's squad, but the returning six players and the addition of solid freshman talent may prove to be enough for the Lady Barons to have yet another successful season," Dalley said.
Having a facility like the Student Activities Center, where the Lady Barons open their 2002-03 campaign Friday, Nov. 8, against Morris College (S.C.) in the Brewton-Parker Tip-Off Classic, might be a contributing factor to the team's continued successes.
"Our excitement is raised exponentially at the sight of Brewton-Parker's newest facility," Dalley said. "The Student Activities Center is definitely a sight to be seen. The BPC family has a facility of which we are to be proud. With a state-of-the-art weight room, cardio room, aerobics area, roomy locker rooms and a gymnasium to house 1,500 spectators, Brewton-Parker will be able to put its facility up against those of all the conference foes."
Also generating excitement is the Lady Barons' earning three votes for the NAIA Division I preseason ratings released Oct. 29, which would rank Brewton-Parker 32nd if the Top 25 extended that far.
"I'm glad we made it, although we would rather be there in the final rankings," Dalley said. "It puts us in a good position if we can win some early then we can start climbing and then maintain it."
With the combination of youth and a difficult schedule may put the pressure on the Lady Barons during the early season, so Dalley is looking for the right combination of players to get off to the right start.
"Our six returning players are ready," Dalley said. "It is just a matter of finding freshman that can step in and play right away.
"We have a tremendous amount of talent, but you have to worry about chemistry early. We have 15 freshmen in our program, including junior varsity players. This year will be exciting and challenging."
Tameka Oliver, a 6-foot-1 senior center from Savannah, looks to pace the Lady Barons by returning after she was an all-conference selection in 2001-02.
"Tameka brings size and scoring ability to Brewton-Parker," Dalley said of Oliver, who averaged 10.3 points and 7.4 rebounds as a junior. "She is one of the best players in the GACC (Georgia-Alabama-Carolina Conference). She has developed into a great perimeter shooter and has the ability to score in the low post."
Lucinda Lessington, a 5-7 senior from Sylvania, is one of the conference's top guards. She battled a knee injury for most of 2001-02, but she still helped lead the Lady Barons on the perimeter with a team-high 85 assists (3.0 average) and 5.6 points per game.
"'Lulu' can really handle the ball and does a terrific job of finding the open teammate," Dalley said. "She is relentless on defense and should set the tone for BPC."
Takara Solomon, a senior guard from Eustis, Fla., begins her second year at Brewton-Parker after transferring from Daytona Beach Community College.
"At 5-10, she can play inside or out," Dalley said. "We will need 'TK' to have a great senior year in order to compete in the conference." Toya Rogers, a 6-1 junior guard from Vidalia, has a plethora of talent, Dalley said.
"Her long-range shooting ability will keep her on the floor. She is a tremendous competitor as well as a tenacious defender. We will look to Toya to lead by example," Dalley added.
Trudie Ridley, a 5-4 junior guard, is a spark plug from Richmond Hill who looks to improve on her 2.5-point average from last season.
"She carries a big punch," Dalley said. "She is extremely quick and has tremendous defensive ability. Her personality is contagious and that is why she is a favorite on campus. We look for Trudie to help lead us."
Melody Walker, a 5-7 junior from Statesboro, can play a number of positions but is listed as a guard.
"She is a true athlete and understands the game," Dalley said. "Her ability to make plays on defense should help the Lady Barons throughout the season. Mel's play will be a huge part of our success."
Dalley's freshmen range from 5-4 to 6-2 and consist of various positions and talent levels. "We will count on them early and often to win games," Dalley said.
Ashley Little should see a great amount of playing time, Dalley added. The 5-4 sharpshooter from Lawrenceville can play the point or off-guard positions.
At Central Gwinnett High School, Little scored over 1,000 career points and is the all-time leader in 3-point field-goal percentage. "Ashley has a real understanding of the game and will be a great player at BPC," Dalley said.
Tori Williams, a 5-8 guard from Valdosta, brings a wealth of talent to the table, Dalley said. She is still adjusting to playing the guard spot after playing inside in high school.
"She has the potential to develop into one of the top guards at BPC," Dalley said. "She can score and defend, which will get her on the floor as a freshman."
Dalley also expects Montgomery County product Tamika Drinks to see plenty of action as a freshman. "She has a true understanding of the game," he added of the 5-10 guard. "'Meka' is a terrific passer and knows how to score. We are excited about her future."
Ashley Pettis, a 6-2 forward from Danville, won a state championship while at Twiggs Academy and should see plenty of action her freshman year. "She is still learning and adjusting to a much quicker game, but expect to see her on the floor often," Dalley said.
Dalley has two freshmen who are graduates of East Laurens High School in Dublin.
Trivia Richardson, a 5-7 guard, is a left-hander and the ability to play either the point or off-guard position, which Dalley said should help her adjust to BPC's style of play. "She can score, but she can really defend," he added. "We will look to Trivia to contribute early."
Vontrecia Walker, a 6-1 post, is the second of the pair signed form East Laurens who Dalley said could develop into a terrific player.
"We are still working with her to overcome a knee injury that limited her action during her senior campaign," Dalley said. "Vontrecia will see action and hopefully have her knee ready for the season."
K.C. Cheshire is an addition to the Lady Barons on the basketball court but is no stranger to Brewton-Parker as a two-year volleyball standout. A 6-0 product from McEachern High School in Marietta, Cheshire will suit up for the Lady Barons basketball team as soon as volleyball season is complete.
"K.C. knows the game and can play inside or out," Dalley said. "She has solid post moves, but is probably a better 3-point shooter. We are excited about this two-sport athlete."
Teanna Broussard, a 5-10 forward from Westover High in Albany, will red-shirt this season after she suffered a preseason knee injury. Once Broussard is healthy for next year, Dalley said, "She has a lot of raw talent and will figure to be a big part of BPC's success. She is a relentless rebounder and an aggressive defender."
Several other players in the Lady Barons program, all of whom are currently slated to play on the first ever junior varsity women's basketball team, may also see action on the varsity.
Vonique Tellis, Andrea Gaston, Patricia "Trixie" Villanueva, Stacie Norton, Meashell Bowen, Jessica Williams and Tanjala Coley will compete against several junior college teams across the state.
"We look forward to seeing these young players grow and develop into terrific players for BPC," Dalley said.
If a schedule in what Dalley calls the NAIA's toughest conference is not challenging enough for the Lady Barons, BPC has non-conference games against solid opponents like Spring Hill College (Ala.), Edward Waters College (Fla.), Flagler College (Fla.), Webber International University (Fla.), Valdosta State University and Cumberland College (Ky.).
"Word is still out on how successful this year's team will be, but you can count on two things for sure: the Lady Barons will compete every night and they will play hard," Dalley said.
Members of the 2002-03 Brewton-Parker College Lady Barons basketball team are: (front row, from left) Teanna Broussard, Ashley Little, Trudie Ridley, Trivia Richardson, Lucinda Lessington, (middle row) Head Coach Tommy Dalley, Melody Walker, Tamika Drinks, Tameka Oliver, Tori Williams, Assistant Coach Deon Clemons, (back row) Ashley Pettis, Toya Rogers, Vontrecia Walker, Takara Solomon and K.C. Cheshire.