Basketball program adds depth to young core
by Corey LeBlanc
StFX X-Women basketball head coach Lee Anna Osei predicts her team will be "better in every way" this season.
"I am really proud of what we are doing," the third-year White and Blue bench boss says.
While starting five freshmen for the bulk of their games last season, the X-Women posted a 3-17 record in Atlantic University Sport (AUS) competition. That improved record came on the heels of capturing only two regular-season victories in the previous three conference campaigns.
Last season, rather than focus on wins and losses as part of the rebuilding process, Osei notes the program placed an emphasis on "positivity and [focusing on] the next play."
"We worked on being there for each other," she says.
Osei adds this season it is "now about competing."
She explains, as part of a re-branding of the program, the X-Women have adopted the acronym PACE, which stands for 'positivity,' accountability,' 'communication' and 'effort.'
"Those are our core values," Osei says.
As they begin preparations for an abbreviated AUS regular season, which is tentatively scheduled to get underway in early 2021 – due to the continuing Covid-19 global pandemic, she says her student-athletes have been putting in the work to get "bigger and better."
Forward Marley Bonnick, who is starting her sophomore campaign, agrees.
"We are putting the effort in to get better," the Brampton, Ont. native says, adding she expects the X-Women to be "much improved" this season – both offensively and defensively.
She points to the combination of returnees and newcomers on the roster as one of the key ingredients to the team making strides in the standings.
"We have another strong rookie class," Bonnick says, noting their versatility and ability to play multiple positions.
Osei says improved depth – coupled with the seasoning their young line-up received last season – bodes well for the upcoming campaign.
"That experience is starting to show [in practice]," she notes.
Osei explains that will be beneficial because the X-Women "left a lot of games out there" last season – their lack of experience playing a prominent role in tight match-ups down stretch, which contributed greatly to close losses.
Led by Kimberly Kingsbury – their lone senior – she adds the returning players will have to help "set the tone."
Osei says the White and Blue want to "play faster" this season, while taking better advantage of their size – both offensively and defensively.
"We want to be grinders, be gritty," she adds, noting they will focus greatly on "defending, competing and being unselfish."
She adds the X-Women must take many more charges – they were last in the AUS last season – and take more shots, which is another category where they occupied the conference basement.
Because of the continuing provincial restrictions on organized sports – one of the measures implemented to prevent any spread of Covid-19 – the X-Women have been limited in what they can do during practices.
"We have been focusing on fundamental skills," Osei says, such as screening and shooting.
Bonnick adds the X-Women have been "working on the small stuff that will help make us a better team."
She notes there has been "a lot of compete" in those early practices, including during elements such as one-on-one drills.
"Everyone is working really hard," Bonnick says.
With the widening of provincial restrictions scheduled for October 1, the X-Women are looking forward to starting scrimmages, where Osei notes they can put in more work on "game-like settings."
"It will be great to have more of an opportunity to work on things together," she says.
Bonnick suggests having the opportunity to simulate game-like situations "will help give us an idea of where we are at as a team."
Whatever happens – considering the continuing uncertainty with an already shortened regular season schedule – she says the X-Women will "make the best of what we have."
"Everyone is excited and anxious to get the chance to play," Bonnick says.
When it comes to being positive about dealing with a delayed start to the conference campaign, Osei suggests it will give her team "an opportunity to work on our cohesiveness."
As the X-Women move forward with an eye on reaching a level where they need to be when an AUS season launches, the White and Blue head coach says "I love where we are at as a team."