Coming off of an injury-riddled season, which netted the Knights a 9-21 record, the UCF women’s basketball team looks to rebound to build a winning atmosphere.
“Defensively we have to improve. We gave up too many points. The thing that probably led to that was we turned the ball over too much on offense,” head coach Joi Williams said.
A contributing factor to the Knights’ rough year was injuries. With the injuries of redshirt junior Makenzie Reasor (ACL) and redshirt freshman Nyala Shuler (lisfranc-foot), the team lost its ability to space the floor, which hurt it offensively.
To prevent future injuries, Williams said she got the women in the weight room during the summer to help combat pounding, which occurs in a lengthy schedule.
Although one of the primary factors for last season’s abysmal record was, in part, due to the loss of key players, the 18.6 turnovers per game played a role.
With the help of five freshmen and young but experienced leaders, Williams is looking to turn things around.
“A lot of our players that were freshmen last year got a lot of experience,” Williams said. “Zykira Lewis actually obviously heads our group as an all-conference player.”
As one of the leaders of the team, junior guard Lewis focused on improving her overall game after tallying 18.9 points per game as a sophomore.
“This year I wanted to focus on dribbling, getting my shot better and also getting my passes up.” Lewis said.
She is also focused on helping her teammates gel together and helping lead the new freshmen.
“They’re going to have to learn the offense and defense, so I’m trying to talk them through it because I know they’re young,” Lewis said.
Lewis’ backcourt mate, sophomore guard Aliyah Gregory, seemed to understand Williams’ message and how to build as a team.
“My individual goal is to be the best leader I can on the floor; help lead my team in any way that it can be,” Gregory said. “The team goal of course is to win some games and contend for a conference championship.”
The upperclassmen aren’t the only ones focused on a conference championship. Freshmen forward and two-time high-school state champion Tolulope Omokore said going all the way in the conference tournament was an obvious teal goal.
The Knights will tip off their season Oct. 14 on the road at Nebraska-Omaha and will host their home opener against FIU Oct. 17. The road to a conference championship won’t be easy as the Knights are scheduled to face 11 programs that advanced to the NCAA or WNIT tournament last season.
Christopher Davis is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.