September 28, 2016

Webster men and women’s basketball teams prepare for the new season

The Webster University Women’s Basketball team will begin life without two of the most productive players in school history. Courtney Pursley, who is fifth all-time in rebounds, and Kaliann Rikard, who is first all-time in games played and third all-time in assists, both graduated in 2014, leaving the Gorloks with a hole in their lineup.

With a recruiting class of seven freshmen and three transfers, Head Women’s Basketball Coach Jordan Olufson said he believes the team can fill the void.

Kristen Pruser / The Journal Junior DeRita Silas drives to the basket during a practice on Oct. 29.

Kristen Pruser / The Journal
Junior DeRita Silas drives to the basket during a practice on Oct. 29.

“We have a great freshman and transfer class,” Olufson said. “It may not be by one person, but I think our depth is going to make up for the loss of what Kaliann and Courtney could do.”

He has been impressed with transfer junior DeRita Silas at the wing position, freshman guards Kiley Guerue and Britney Zipprich and freshman twins Aley and Taylor Lucas so far this preseason.

In addition to the large recruiting class, Olufson will be relying on the veteran leadership on the team. The team is returning three starters — senior Cassie Endicott and juniors Brittany Harris-Conway and Ashley Brooks — who were selected as team captains.

The three returning starters and all of the returning players are looking to go beyond their record last season, especially with the way the season ended. In the finals of last year’s St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) tournament, Webster lost by just two points to Spalding University, and Olufson said the team still has that loss on their minds.

“There is a sour taste in our mouth,” said Olufson. “If we do a drill in practice and it’s not going the way we need it to go, [the returning players] will bring it up and say, ‘Hey this is where we were; we’re unsatisfied.’ And so we’ve got this team motto of ‘unfinished business.’”

Webster University women’s basketball will get back to business November 4, at Southwest Baptist University.

Men’s

The Webster Men’s Basketball team is returning four of their five starters from their SLIAC championship winning team last season, but Men’s Basketball Head Coach Chris Bunch said it will not be as easy as picking up where they left off last season.

“People say ‘Oh, you were good last year, you’ve got a lot of guys back this year, you’ll be good again,’” Bunch said. “But with each new year, even though you have the same players, they’re at a different place in their career and they’re development, so we’re still working out the kinks.”

And a major part of those kinks early on in this season have been injuries. Senior Aaron Griffin sprained his shoulder in the first week of practice and will be out three to five more weeks. Senior Ahmad Smith, who led the team in scoring last season, has a back injury and will not be cleared to practice until Nov. 10.

Bunch is hoping their transfer class will help fill the injury hole, with Kenan Haywood, a transfer from St. Catherine’s College in California, Joseph Henry, from Johnson County Community College in Kansas, and Tevin Evans, from St. Louis Community College.

They will begin the season with an exhibition game against  NCAA Division I Austin Peay State University on Nov. 1 in Clarksville, Tennessee.

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