The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Senior class determined to defy expectations

Last year they were Conference USA Champions. The year before they played in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2000-01 season. So what’s next for the SMU basketball team?

For one, the team has never won the regular season championship or the Conference USA Tournament. Nor has the team made it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

“We kept our core players,” head coach Rhonda Rompola said. “We’ve got our whole starting five returning and honestly we expect our seniors to lead us this year. They want to do something that SMU women’s basketball has never done here before. We’ve never gotten past the second round.”

The Mustangs did not expect a long run in the post season last year. After losing five seniors, most of whom were regular starters, the team was back to learning the basics, teaching freshmen how to adapt to college ball and further educating the veterans on how to become leaders.

Last season’s quintessential group of leaders were fueled by desire and competition. After a run in the NCAA Tournament, they wanted another shot. Instead, a loss in the semis of the Conference USA Tournament cut their dreams short, but did not dampen their spirits.

The team that defied their own expectations is back.

“I want [the seniors] to go out being proud of what they left with our program and the mark they left on this program,” Rompola said. “I want them to be proud to walk away and say ‘We have done this. We have done what we could and now we’re leaving it to the younger ones.”

This year, with the three true freshmen able to gradually mature on the court, experience will be one of the team’s strengths. Sarah Shelton, a 6-foot-3-inch post player is expected to be redshirted if “everything stays in place,” according to Rompola.

Jasmine Davis, signed as a defender still needs time to develop in the SMU system, Rompola said. Alicia Fillmore, could see minutes this season based on her ability to improve in the guard position. “The more she can improve at the point the more she’s going to play,” Rompola said.

“The beauty of our freshmen is they don’t have to come in and make an impact right away,” Rompola explained. “They can come in and go at their own pace.”

Along with Wills, seniors Brittany Gilliam, Alice Severin and Jillian Samuels all return to the court, as does junior Haley Day and sophomores Christine Elliott and Samantha Mahnesmith.

With one year of experience under her belt, and a strong finish to last season, Rompola believes Elliott can truly excel this year and become as Rompola says, “one of the best post players at SMU.”

Gilliam started all but one game last season, averaging 14.7 points per game and putting her as the No.9 scorer in the conference. The 5-foot-11-inch forward from Tyler, Texas shot a career-best .415 field goal percentage, adding 11 points to the team’s loss to the University of Central Florida in the semi-final round of the conference tournament.

Transfer Heidi Bradenburg saw playing time in 15 games last season after sitting out the year before due to NCAA regulations. Now, hitting the court for the first time as a Mustang will be Texas Tech transfer, Raquel Christian.

“Keep an eye on Raquel,” Rompola said. “She is a very explosive player. She’s going to be out on the floor quote a bit.”

Rompola also signed two transfer players from Oklahoma State University, Kristin Hernandez and Kelsey Heather who will be a great benefit in practices. Neither player will see any minutes this season, however, as NCAA rules require transfer students to sit out the season. Both players will have two years of eligibility remaining, starting next year.

“I want this team to exceed expectations,” Rompola said. “I want them to do something that has never been done in SMU women’s basketball.”

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