Lincoln women’s hoops squad boasts nine new faces

Lincoln’s Nesha Wright (44) goes up for a shot against Missouri-St. Louis’ Devonna Smith during a game last season at Jason Gym. Wright is one of just three returning players for Lincoln this year.

Lincoln’s Nesha Wright (44) goes up for a shot against Missouri-St. Louis’ Devonna Smith during a game last season at Jason Gym. Wright is one of just three returning players for Lincoln this year. Photo by News Tribune.

Out with the old, in with the new.

After a 2012-13 campaign Lincoln women’s basketball coach Nicole Collier dubbed “disappointing,” the second-year head coach brought in a whopping nine newcomers to go along with just three returnees heading into the 2013-14 season.

Lincoln gets a fresh start as it opens the season in the Central Methodist Eagles Classic at 8 p.m. today against Trinity International.

“It’s a lot of ironing out the wrinkles,” Collier said. “We have a lot of new kids we’re trying to put together. We’re deeper than we’ve ever been. We have 12 on the roster.

“Last year we ran three kids for 30-plus minutes. We won’t have that problem this year. We’ll have better rotations and we’ll be deeper at each spot as soon as we get healthy.”

That’s the big issue. At least at point guard.

Projected starter Kelsey Williams, a junior-college transfer, is out with a joint issue in her back.

“She’s been out seven weeks, can’t move, it’s not getting any better,” Collier said of Williams’ status. “Doctors can’t figure out how to fix it. She is just a kid that’s tough as nails, very good. She’s a leader, she knows exactly where everybody is on the floor, she knows exactly how to get what we’re looking out of our offense. We’re definitely struggling at our point-guard position.”

To make matters worse, seasoned veteran Jackeya Mitchell, who started 77-of-78 games heading into her senior season, suffered a concussion during practice Tuesday.

So that slots Kelsey Griffin, a shooting guard by trade, into the point-guard role.

“We’ve given her some reps in practice just in case anything happens because (Williams) has been out so long,” Collier said. “We’re looking at her probably taking over the point spot for us this weekend.”

Great way to begin the season, right?

“We just need to toughen up a little bit,” Collier said. “We’ll be all right. We have numbers. It’s just putting the right group together and then being strong enough to fight through a little adversity.”

Lincoln will need to replace quite a bit of scoring from last season’s squad that finished 11-16 overall and 6-12 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, coming in 11th in the 15-team league.

The Blue Tigers lost their top three scorers from last year — Arriana Walker, Freddie Sims and Dahlia Booker — a trio that combined for more than 39 points per game.

“We have a more-rounded team,” Collier said of year’s squad. “Everybody can score.”

That might start with shooting guard Hunter Yoakum, a freshman from Dixon who scored 2,578 points in her high-school career.

“Hunter can score in bunches, she can score at will,” Collier said.

Jennifer Rosado or Lizzie Nessling will start at the other wing spot, with the starting forward positions up in the air.

Katie Frazier, Quiessence Price and former Jefferson City Lady Jay Nesha Wright look like strong candidates at those posts.

“Quiessence Price is really playing well right now for an undersized kid,” Collier said of Lincoln’s top healthy returnee in terms of scoring, averaging 5.9 points per game last season. “She’s getting the hang of things.

“Nesha brings a little bit of heart. With the right group she’s really good. ... She’s actually getting better at extending her game, she’s getting more comfortable at stepping out and shooting the 3. It looks better.”

Wright averaged 3.7 points and 4.8 rebounds last season. Mitchell is the top returning scorer at 6.3 points per game.

“Jackeya has been around for three years, she knows what we’re looking for,” Collier said. “She’s definitely going to be our leader. It’s obvious in practice they look for her to do big things. The rest of us still have a lot of growing to do.”

Experienced or not, Collier believes big things are still in store.

“We have better players, but playing in our league is an adjustment for everybody,” she said. “They all look at it like it’s Division II, but we’re clearly not just a Division II. You’re playing against the best at this level. It’s always a learning experience your first year in the league. We’re going to have to start playing well and figuring what our roles are.”

The journey starts today with Trinity International and continues Saturday with Hannibal-LaGrange.

“We’re going to be challenged because we don’t really know how to play together yet,” Collier said. “I definitely am shooting for two wins. We’ll learn a lot about each other this weekend on gut-check and making adjustments.”

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