COLUMBIA — When MU women’s basketball fans listen as the starting lineup is announced before the team’s Nov. 9 season opener, only one name will be held over from last season’s introductions: Alyssa Hollins.
Hollins is the only returning starter from last year’s team, and the junior guard’s name is the only one written in ink in coach Cindy Stein’s starting lineup.
The Tigers lost the vast majority of last season’s production, including the team’s top two scorers and top two rebounders, and will look to mostly underclassmen to fill the starting lineup and the stat sheet.
Stein isn’t ready to name her starters after just one week of practice, but she is particularly impressed with Hollins’ play and the job sophomore guard Toy Richbow freshman guard Bekah Mills have done running the point in practice.
“We’re still trying to work out a few kinks, but I feel good about Alyssa’s spot and I feel like our point guard spot is going to be pretty solid,” Stein said. “We’re just trying to get everybody else knowing what we need.”
Richbow is the only player other than Hollins who has started for the Tigers, as she started three games last season including the season opener. But the sophomore isn’t concerned with seeing that number rise this season.
“It doesn’t matter if you start the game, the most important part is the finish,” Richbow said. “It would be great to start, but it doesn’t matter because we have Bekah Mills coming in and she’s a pretty good guard. It doesn’t matter if me or her start because I think we can both fill the position.”
Freshman forward Shakara Jones or sophomore forward Jessra Johnson will most likely be the starting center, Stein said. Johnson played in 30 games for the Tigers last season, while Jones earned Miss Show-Me Basketball honors while attending Francis Howell Central High School.
Even if Jones earns that spot, Johnson could work herself into the starting lineup because she is able to play different forward positions. Still, the chance to crack the starting five isn’t something she’s worrying about.
“I haven’t really thought too much about starting ever, in my career,” Johnson said. “It’s more about having someone out there who can play.”
TIME WELL SPENT: The team scrimmaged as part of the Brewer Breakfast on Saturday, and Stein said the event was good for the Tigers because it was a chance for fans to see the team and a chance for the team to play in front of fans.
“This isn’t just a fun thing we’re doing,” Stein said. “It gets them playing in public and overcoming those types of nerves.”
YOUNG LEADERS: Eight of MU’s 11 players are freshmen and sophomores, so younger players like Richbow are thrust into leadership positions. It’s a role Richbow has accepted.
“I have to come in and be more vocal and lead these freshmen,” Richbow said.
HANNEMAN RECOVERING: Sophomore forward Amanda Hanneman wore a protective boot on her right foot and walked on crutches after suffering a stress fracture in her right foot. Stein said she is “a couple of weeks” away from practicing and is expected to be ready to play when the season starts.