Richmond, VA — A lot of times a foreign tour is good for a team to get out if its bubble, see some sights and grow closer as a team. For the Fordham women’s basketball team, this was a necessary experience.
Fordham has nine freshmen on this season, which has led to a more patient and simple approach for coach Stephanie Gaitley when it comes to leading the team.
This offseason, Fordham lost three players to graduation, Anna Kelly transferred to Central Florida and Kate Kreslina decided to go pro early.
Gaitley had counted on this trio still being on her team while making her most challenging non-conference schedule in 32 years as a coach.
One thing that certainly helps Fordham’s cause is double-double machine senior G’mrice Davis. Davis averaged career-highs with 14.6 points and 12.8 rebounds per game.
“It’s very unusual for someone who wasn’t even an all-rookie to then be one of the top players in the conference,” Gaitley said. “G and I have been a work in progress because after her sophomore year, during her postseason evaluation, I kind of laid into her. ‘Hey if you weren’t lazy you could be on the all-defensive team. Hey if you went hard all the time, you’d be all-conference.’ Her junior year she said ‘I just don’t know why I didn’t have a better attitude, I thought I was a better listener.’ Now you look at her as all-conference, all-defense, athlete of the year at Fordham so I think she has done a great job of building off that and I’m seeing some very special things from her in the gym right now.”
While the foreign tour helped so many of the new faces, it gave Davis quite a boost as well. It allowed for her to be more aggressive on the offensive boards.
“She obviously was dominant from a defensive standpoint, but she’s equally as dominant as an offensive rebounder,” said Gaitley. “We couldn’t let her be aggressive before because she would get into foul trouble and we had to be a little bit conservative. If she can add that to her game and add the same success she has on the defensive end, her goal is to be the number one rebounder in the nation and knowing her intensity and will power, I wouldn’t be surprised at the end of the year if she is at the top of that ranking.”
Gaitley has such belief in Davis that she has reached out to every WNBA team because she has a belief that her senior forward has a chance to play at the next level. Davis has made strides all the way to making the Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Conference First Team and the Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Defensive Team.
“She has to be versatile and she’s improved her range and gotten more confidence stepping out,” Gaitley said. “We added some size on our roster which will allow her to play some four and even some three at some points because she is so athletic. You could switch her and she could guard a guard. She’s a special talent and growing into a leadership role. We’ll kind of go how she goes.”
Though Fordham has several newcomers, there are some returnees as well.
Junior guard Lauren Holden has been a steady force at a guard position in each of her first two seasons and continues to grow as a leader. She was a starter in each of Fordham’s 33 games last season.
Junior forward Mary Goulding is in her second season with Fordham and Gaitley said she was probably was one of the team’s best preseason performers.
“I think she will build off the success she had at the end of the year,” said Gaitley. “We lost Kate Kreslina, so because of that, Mary will probably have to play some 3 and I think Mary is capable of coming in and replacing that immediately.”
Guard Asnate Fomina (2.0 ppg/2.1 rpg) joins Davis as the lone seniors on the team.
Redshirt freshman Breanna Cavanaugh transferred from California is projected to take Hannah Missry’s role in the lineup but adds the dimension of being off the dribble.
“It took her a few games to unwind but she is a special talent,” Gaitley said of Cavanaugh. “To me we had a lot of difficulty with some guards in the conference and one of them was Justine Lyon from Davidson because it’s a kid who can put the ball on the floor and pull the shot. That’s Breanna.”
With so many new faces, it is possible that Fordham starts as many as three freshman including forward Johanna Klug who lives in Nordlingen, Germany. Others pushing for positions are Zara Jillings and Kendell Heremaia, both of New Zealand and Ralene Kwiatkowski and Halei Gillis.
Fordham was picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic 10 Preseason Poll and though there are several new faces, there is plenty of talent to make a run this season.
“We will be tested early and often but we will be prepared for conference play,” said Gaitley.