Our Atlantic 10 previews continue with Rhode Island. The next preview will come from Nathan Strauss on Monday and feature Saint Joseph’s.
A year after earning a fourth seed in the Atlantic 10 Championship and improving by five wins in conference play, Rhode Island’s third-year head coach Tammi Reiss has made a clear statement towards her team’s goal this season.
The Rams want to be Atlantic 10 champions and the conference has now recognized this as the team placed second in the A-10 Preseason Poll, a year after being 11th in the same poll.
“Anything less in our opinion, and this is us, we didn’t meet our expectations because we feel we have enough to win the championship,” she said. “You’ve got to put it out there, you’ve got to say it, you can’t be scared of failure. Now that we’ve said it and everyone knows that’s what we’re doing, you’ve got to bring it every day and do it. We go to work because we want something we’ve never had.”
Why does Reiss feel this way?
Reiss, the A-10 2020-21 Coach of the Year, feels that Rhody has addressed last season’s shortcomings in addition to bringing almost all of last year’s team back.
Last season, Rhode Island was able to adjust its defense to a Syracuse style prior to conference play and a full buy in allowed, but in a COVID year also admittedly ran out of gas and suffered from injuries as its season reached a conclusion.
This season, Reiss brought in championship experience, something she felt her Rams were lacking. Now, the Rams have added Anna Dreimane, a center from Texas A&M, a team which last season bested South Carolina. Rebecca Demeke, a guard from NC State was added and the Wolfpack were ACC champions last season.
Two crucial newcomers also come to Kingston in the form of Preseason All-Conference Third Team selection Dez Elmore and another graduate student in Chanell Williams.
Elmore connected with Reiss at Syracuse, before the former transferred to Seton Hall. Reiss stated that everyone was after Elmore upon her graduation and she trusted that the coaching staff would give her everything needed to make her a pro.
“We’re very fortunate that she joined our team and she’s that piece you’re blessed to get,” said Reiss. “She is a blessed offensively skilled player and back in New York, she’s called a ‘hooper’. She just flat out can hoop. Having that added arsenal offensively has really helped our team.”
As far as Williams is concerned, Reiss stated she plays at the pace her team needs. Now, the Rams have found their transition offense, with her jet like speed.
These additions have been part of why Reiss feels Rhode Island is 14 players deep and why practices are both extremely competitive and essential.
Rhode Island is paced by Emmanuelle Tahane (14.8 ppg/10.2 rebs) who Reiss warns has become even more versatile and complete on the court with a tireless work ethic.
Tahane, an Preseason All Conference First Team selection, came to Rhode Island after being promised to be given guard skills and be able to face up and shoot three-point shots, to better her opportunity to play for France’s national team. Now, she moves like a guard and is a 4.0 student-athlete as well.
“I’m just a player who plays with a lot of energy every time,” Tahane said. “I want to bring energy every single day, bring hustle. I’m relentless, I’m trying to go to the ball hard and I just play hard. This is who I am and I want to do that every single day.”
Reiss likens Tahane and redshirt junior forward Marie-Paule Foppossi to Frick and Frack. The Frenchwomen are here thanks to associate head coach Adeniyi Amadou who Reiss credits for being able to compete for international recruits which has turned the program around at a quicker rate.
Foppossi (12.7 ppg/43% FG) was selected to the Preseason All-Conference Second Team, and now her health appears to be in order after a series of lower-back and hamstring injuries. Her fitness has allowed her to be present for the entirety of the off-and-pre season.
Sophomore guard Dolly Cairns (10.6 ppg/46 3-pt FG/93% FT) made a big contribution as first off the bench last season and figures to be an important piece as well.
Reiss appreciates her fearlessness and cites her winning six games last season with her big-shot making ability. Now, she able to get to the rim more and has not only earned the coaching staff’s trust, but will be crucial towards this team’s success. She also is someone that this program will be built around moving forward.
Also among those returning are graduate student guard Marta Vargas (9.4 ppg/41 3-pt FG/19 starts) who is the lone players remaining from prior to Reiss’s arrival and redshirt sophomore guard Yanni Hendley who started 18 of 19 games a season ago.
Assessing the A-10, Reiss believes there are six teams that possess the ability to win the conference and in order for her team to reach its goals, practices have become cutthroat with an emphasis on energy, communication and competition.
Now there is a clear excitement in the air with the program as there now is a demand for season tickets, which now include reserved courtside seats, and the team itself is poised to achieve its goals.
“We have shown what we can do in the conference and now we have expectations and obligations of what we can do,” said Vargas. “I feel like this is the year. We’re changing the culture. Last year we showed we could win, and now this year should be the year where we can show everyone what we do.”
VIDEOS (apologies for the technical difficulties)
Photo credit: Brian McWalters/Road Win Photos