Whitney looks like a big gain after a big loss

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The former Charleston player could help fill the vacancy left by Conceicao.

Southeast Missouri State women's basketball coach B.J. Smith doesn't hold back when talking about the potential -- and expected contributions -- of junior college transfer Missy Whitney.

In fact, Smith thinks so highly of Whitney, he believes she'll have every bit the career of Tatiana Conceicao, another juco transfer who led the Redhawks to unprecedented Division I heights the last two years.

"I have really high hopes for Missy," Smith said during the Redhawks' annual media day Monday evening at the Show Me Center. "I don't want to put too much pressure on her, but she's very talented.

"She's a different kind of player than Tatiana. She won't be as much of a post player. But her production can be just as good."

Whitney, a former Charleston High School star, is being counted on for plenty of production after the Redhawks lost most of their scoring from last year's NCAA tournament team that featured six key seniors.

The 6-foot-2 junior forward/center believes she'll be up to the task.

"I'm not trying to replace anybody, I'm just trying to do the job," Whitney said. "I think I can do what coach wants me to do. I'm ready to live up to it."

Whitney certainly comes to Southeast with impressive credentials, including a two-year stint at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff.

After earning honorable-mention All-American honors as a TRCC freshman, Whitney was a second-team All-American last year as she averaged 14.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for a 22-6 team.

Prior to that, Whitney was a two-time all-stater for Charleston, averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds as a senior. She actually signed with Southeast out of high school but did not qualify academically and instead headed to junior college.

"I was a little disappointed I couldn't come here after high school, but I'm finally glad to be here," Whitney said. "And playing junior college was a great experience. It really helped me develop my game."

Smith expects Whitney to be an all-around player for the Redhawks, as comfortable shooting 3-pointers as she is putting the ball on the floor and driving to the basket.

"She shoots the three, she handles it well," Smith said. "She's got a lot of skills."

Whitney is by far the headliner of Smith's five-player recruiting class, with Mineral Area College guard Ashley Lovelady the only other juco transfer.

Southeast returns six players from last year's OVC regular-season and tournament championship team, but only two -- senior center Lachelle Lyles and sophomore guard Tarina Nixon -- saw considerable action and both averaged less than six points per game.

Smith likes the talent he has among those returnees -- which includes senior center Joiceline Thesing, sophomore forward Rachel Blunt, sophomore guard Sonya Daugherty and sophomore guard Szandra Pal -- but knows at least some of the newcomers will have to contribute.

Whitney figures to lead the way in that department -- and she's ready for the challenge.

"Since the team lost so many people from last year, I know we're not picked to do that well," she said. "But I think we'll surprise a lot of people and I'm going to try to do my part."

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