After finishing 6-13 last season, CSM Women's Head Basketball Coach Ardell Jackson is looking for a better start in 2018-19. With five returning players from last year's team, he expects that their leadership can guide the Hawks to a successful campaign this year.
"We have five returners that came back from last year's team" said Jackson. "They are a solid piece to the puzzle because they understand what it's like to be a student athlete. It was a good learning year for us (last year), which is what every program needs. Watching us in the last four scrimmages, they have matured as players and young ladies as well. The biggest plus that their maturity level has really grown."
One of the headlining returners is guard Jannifer Nanosi. The 5'6 sophomore from Bladensburg, MD can handle both point and shooting guard duties and brings a ton of experience. Last season she averaged 15.4 points and 3.4 assists per game while shooting the ball at 44.6%, 49.3% behind the arc. Jackson loves the toughness that she brings on the court and demands her teammates to do the right thing, returning as a captain on the team this year. Her ability to shoot the ball will help the Hawks a great deal this season.
Alexandria Allen returns as the starting center for the Hawks, averaging 5.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. The 6'2 sophomore from Billings, MT will provide the height the Hawks need in order to be successful on the glass. Another captain on the Hawks this year, Jackson endorses how big of a communicator she is to her teammates on and off the court, promoting the team's philosophy as one big family.
Sophomore guard Courtney Herbert provides toughness and grit on the court, which is a trait that can help the success of any basketball team. Despite her height at 5'2, the transfer from Greensboro College brings energy and positive attitude on the court. As a third captain on the Hawks this season, she brings a spark to the team when she enters the game, shooting 35.8% from the field and 33.3% behind the arc last season.
In order for the Hawks to succeed, Jackson is going to rely on the leadership from his captains.
"I've always said to my staff, it's always good to have those leaders" said Jackson. "You need to have players that have been around the program, have been around players that are used to the coaches and know what to expect from the academic side, and teach the freshman what they need to do, not just the basketball court but academics as well and how to conduct themselves each and every day and understanding the collegiate environment. Most of the teams that have won in our league, they always had that sophomore leadership; so to have that coming back is a big plus for us."
Similar to the men's team, Jackson likes to play an up-tempo style of basketball. On offense he likes his team to push the ball, score in transition, and make the opposing defenses fall out of position.
"A lot of people say I am not a traditional basketball coach," said Jackson, "because I do allow my players a lot of movement, a lot of freedom to do things, that's why I run a motion offense. It's a motion, a combination of a dribble-drive and kick. I make up my own offensive schemes and steps based off of what I have seen in the league. We are up tempo, fast pace, shoot three's in transition and we never slow down; just keep going. 40 minutes of speed, that's how we play."
In order for his offense to be successful, moving without the ball is vital.
"Moving without the ball is key for our offense," said Jackson. "We set a lot of ball screens, but moving without the ball is very important. We want the defense to shift because we are constantly in attack mode. We like movement, we like swinging the ball quick, but I want us to attack at all times. We had 98 points in the scrimmage (against Trinity Washington University) and it was because our guards really understood what I meant by attacking the defense, never giving a rest."
On the defensive side of the ball, Jackson likes to play what he calls "40 Minutes of Havoc". He feels it's a benefit for his team to play man-man full court pressure because of his "40 Minutes of Speed" style overall. Creating turnovers and turning them into easy points in transition.
"We are a fast paced, up tempo team, constant pressure, and we call it 40 minutes of Havoc" said Jackson. "We want to cause a lot of chaos on the court. We don't want to foul, but we want to play up in the players and wear our opponents out. We practice in a certain kind of way, in our pace and no one practices the way we practice. Conditioning is key, we are an up tempo type team."
With an emphasis on conditioning, it's an important ingredient to the successful formula that Jackson has for his team. When teams get tired in the second half, the Hawks should catch their second wind in the third quarter and have the energy to close out the fourth.
"We want our second wind to kick in the third and fourth quarter," said Jackson. "Those are key quarters for any team. Third quarter because if you have separation, you take advantage of it and close out the fourth quarter. We break one game into four games. Each quarter is 0-0. It gives our girls a sense not to play to score, but to play the game."
Through his style of play and philosophy of the game, Jackson hopes to develop his players so they can be successful in their current season and in the future. Player development is something he emphasizes in order to have consistency in his program.
"It's something that we preach, something that we do, and we really focus on that throughout the course of the year" said Jackson. "We want our players to improve and get better as the season goes along. Our philosophy isn't just to give players a couple plays and say here you go, and you go play. We want to develop you the right way."
A prime example this year will be current volleyball player Katelyn Kluh. Standing at 6'3, she has the height and length that can add to the rebounding margin and converting easy buckets this season off the bench. For a player to not have played high caliber high school basketball, Jackson is excited to work with Kluh throughout the season.
"We got her four practices ago, and I like that she has a lot of upside" said Jackson. "She has all the tools, knows how to finish a right handed lay-up and a jump shot. It's just developing her and getting her to understand the basketball IQ portion of the sport, movements and those types of things. She's a great kid and means well. She had nine points (against Trinity Washington), and for a kid who didn't play for a top program and see her develop in a short amount of time, it was a great feeling for us and her teammates. She has so much potential and can help the team in so many different ways."
While the up-tempo style of play may be tiring, and the intensity of play can add up, Jackson really harps that everyone in his program is one big family. They like to laugh on the bench, they like to be loud, because it's important for his players to have fun.
"You got to have fun" said Jackson. "I tell my players that our philosophy is: you work hard in practice, the game should be fun. We are always laughing, always having a good time, but we are demanding of them, we want them to give us our best every night. We truly are a family, we take care of each other, we love each other, we want everyone to be successful, and we want everybody to have a good experience, we want everyone to have a good time."
The season tips off on Saturday, November 3rd against Patrick Henry CC at Potomac State College of WVU at 6pm.