Basketball Preview: Women’s team relies on returning starters to lead Pitt into ACC

The Pitt women’s basketball team is going to have to adjust to a number of changes this season.

First, the team will need to adjust to new head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio and the implementation of an up-tempo, transition-style system. Next, they’ll have to adapt to the fresh faces of Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. And finally, the Panthers face rule changes in women’s basketball that will give offensive players more freedom of movement, with hopes the changes will lead to increased scoring.

With the Panthers making all kinds of adjustments ahead of their regular season opener at the Petersen Events Center against Bucknell on Nov. 8, The Pitt News has an inside look into which Panthers you should keep an eye on in each position.

Center — Cora McManus (junior), Marvadene “Bubbles” Anderson (redshirt freshman)

McManus returns to the lineup one year after she made major strides on the court, working her way into a starting position in the frontcourt. While averaging less than 15 minutes per game, McManus finished fourth on the team in rebounds and averaged 4.4 points per game. The junior forward showed the ability to score in the paint in quick flashes, but foul trouble and conditioning limited her ability to stay on the court at times.

McManus will partner in the low-post with Marvadene “Bubbles” Anderson, a 6-foot-11 redshirt freshman who spent her first season on campus grasping a better understanding of the game and working on her conditioning.

Anderson is the biggest wild card on the Panthers squad, because her 6-foot-11 frame causes mismatches for almost every team on the schedule. After redshirting last season, Bubbles is expected to play and be counted on, according to McConnell-Serio.

“She is going to be able to play in short spurts and in certain situations, maybe out-of-bounds plays and certain matchups,” McConnell-Serio said. “You can’t teach 6-foot-10 [sic]. She brings a different element to our team that no one else has, so we are going to try to utilize it every way we can.”

Fellow forward Asia Logan said she has seen progressive strides and a better feel about Anderson’s game.

“Bubbles can bring a lot to the team,” Logan said, “of course with rebounding and blocking. All we have to do is throw the ball up and she will lay it in. We are still working with her on the plays and such, but she is doing a really good job when she gets doubled and finds the open player.”

Forward — Asia Logan (junior), Chyna Golden (junior)

Both forward positions will have an interesting storyline to follow as the season goes on and the Panthers move to a more up-tempo style of play. This change could cause Logan, who averaged 14 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last season, to move to any of the guard or forward positions, depending on the situation.

“With Asia Logan, I think she gives us versatility with being able to do different things for us at [power forward],” McConnell-Serio said.

Logan said she has been working on her low-post game and approach while facing the basket, and is ready to perform in any position McConnell-Serio puts her.

Golden (3.1 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game) will be counted on for minutes at both forward spots and brings experience to a group of relatively young frontcourt players.

Guard — Ashlee Anderson (redshirt senior), Marquel Davis (senior), Brianna Kiesel (junior), Loliya Briggs (redshirt sophomore), Brittany Gordon (sophomore), Frederique Potvin (freshman), Chelsea Welch (freshman)

Kiesel, the unquestioned leader of the team and crowded backcourt, led the team in scoring (14.9 points per game), assists and steals a year ago. She said she has found a way to channel any pressure of leading the team on the court into excitement just for having that opportunity.

“I don’t feel any added pressure,” Kiesel said. “As a point guard, you are the coach on the court and you go through whatever the coaches say. But, no added pressure, it is actually more excitement than anything.”

Anderson will be counted on at all three guard spots and potentially the four when matchups and game situations demand, and she said she is open to the change.

“She is moving everyone around,” Anderson said of McConnell-Serio. “Some people are playing the one, some people are playing the four, as far as the guards go.”

McConnell-Serio said regardless of the personnel group on the court, everyone will be held accountable in terms of rebounding the basketball and getting out in transition.

Newcomers Potvin and Welch will be asked to contribute right away — especially from beyond the arc, where the Panthers struggled mightily last season, converting just 26 percent of their attempts.

Seven of the 11 players are slotted into just three guard positions, but spreading out playing time to a group that is mostly on the same skill level shouldn’t be a problem, according to McConnell-Serio.

“I think there are a lot of minutes to be had,” McConnell-Serio said. “I think when you look at the length of the season, trying to keep people healthy and keep them fresh, we talk about each player bringing something different to the table.