KNIGHT NOTES – FIRST DAY OF PRACTICE:
The women’s basketball team took to the court of the RAC on Thursday for its first official practice of the 2013-14 season. The Scarlet Knights return eight letterwinners from last year’s squad and have their sights on returning to the NCAA Tournament.
LEADING LADY LANEY:
Of the five sophomores on last year’s roster, RU was led by forward Betnijah Laney (Clayton, Del.) , who averaged a team-third best 9.7 points and a team-leading 5.0 rebounds per game staring in all 30 games with 29 starts. She stepped up in BIG EAST action where she averaged 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game
“I’m really excited. It’s been something that’s been on my mind a lot,” said Laney after day one’s practice. “Everyone is excited. I think we’re off to a great start today and we’ll just keep getting better and better. “
Laney expressed the team’s desire to shoot the ball better this season and looking to score more in transition.
“Last year, we really weren’t a consistent shooting team,” noting that she would love to see the Scarlet Knights shooting above a 50 percent clip this season.
RU did have several notable games from the floor last season, including two that were among the best in recent memory. Against both Louisiana Tech at Madison Square Garden in the Maggie Dixon Classic and their first BIG EAST victory of the season against Providence, the Scarlet Knights shot a blistering 61.5 percent (32-of-52) from the floor. RU was shooting over 64 percent from the world’s most famous arena’s floor against the Lady Techsters until the final minute of the game and connected on 71 percent in the first half against the Friars.
When asked what she was most looking forward to this season, Laney exclaimed, “I can’t wait for the season to start. As a team, we want to make to make the tournament.”
Briyona Canty (Willingboro, N.J.) was a full go in practice for the first time since undergoing knee surgery last December.
Canty was hindered by a knee injury and only made seven appearances before being sidelined last season. However, after spending the winter and summer rehabbing, the Scarlet Knight is ready to return. As a freshman she showed flashes of what she can bring to the court with 2.9 points and 3.4 rebounds along with 31 steals. In her brief sophomore season, Canty averaged 1.1 points and 1.3 rebounds per appearance.
During the summer she spent time working on her shot and playing ball whenever her schedule would allow.
“It’s time for a new beginning,” said Canty said of both herself and the Scarlet Knights.
READY FOR PRIMETIME
Three new faces grace the Scarlet Knights’ roster in 2013-14.
While Alexis Burke (Bainbridge, Ga.) practiced with the team last year, this season will be her first on the court for the Scarlet Knights. Coming “to the Banks” after two seasons at Illinois, Burke had appeared in 61 games with the Fighting Illini averaging 6.9 points and 2.9 rebounds in 17.9 minutes per game as a sophomore. She had a breakout game against Clemson, setting a career-high with 26 points in only 20 minutes of action in a 61-50 Illinois win.
Burke was ranked No. 50 nationally and the 11th-best small forward by ESPNU HoopGurlz, following her scholastic career at Bainbridge High School. She was named Georgia Class 4A Player of the Year, first team All-State and Region Player of the Year, leading her squad to a 25-4 record as a senior.
Providing RU with a three-point threat is freshman Alex Alfano (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.) from Red Bank Catholic. Alfano averaged 10.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game and helped her teams to four Shore Conference Division. As a senior, she helped the Caseys to a 29-2 overall record, the Non-Public-A State Championship and semifinal round of the Tournament of Champions.
Adding to a long-line of Scarlet Knight floor generals is two-time Arkansas Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Tyler Scaife (Little Rock, Ark.). The 5-9 guard enters her freshman year at Rutgers this fall ranked as the top overall point guard in the nation and ninth-rated recruit overall by ESPNU HoopGulrz. Scaife led the Hall High School Warriors to a 30-2 record and the Class 6A state championship as a senior averaging 23.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.1 steals per game.
“It’s more in-depth now. Coach Stringer and the assistants definitely break down things a lot more at this level,” said Scaife of the biggest difference between high school and college.
However, the upperclassmen have made the transition smooth for the Little Rock native.
“They’ve been like big sisters. They help me out on the court and off the court whether it’s with plays or school work,” noted Scaife.
“We’re doing a good job with the upper classmen guiding them,” said Laney of Alfano and Scaife. “I think they are coming along really well.”
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