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Scovel: newcomers bring ‘much-needed’ depth to GC

By DUSTIN KENT 
News Herald Assistant Sports Editor 
Posted Aug 10, 2018 at 6:38 PM

Gulf Coast coach Roonie Scovel will bring back a strong nucleus of six sophomores next season that got playing time for the Lady Commodores in the 2017-18 season. However, with nearly 70 percent of that team’s offensive production gone, Gulf Coast will need some big contributions from its freshman class.

 

Scovel has completed a nine-player incoming class led by former Mississippi State commit Brittany Davis and French national Naomi Mbandu, but the coach said she’s going to need several players from the class to make an impact if the Lady Commodores are to win a fourth straight Panhandle Conference crown.

 

“The sophomores are going to have to give us some leadership, but some of the freshmen will have to give us some much-needed depth and quality of play to be competitive,” she said. “We do have some size and some speed and quickness, as well as some perimeter shooting, but it’s all relative to your competition.

 

“When you look at (what GC returns), Astou (Gaye) and (Diéné Diané) are the only two starters we have back, so there’s a lot of open space for freshmen to come in and contribute right away. We lost a lot of offensive production, so everything is wide open.”

Gulf Coast will have to replace its top four scorers from a season ago, including a pair of 20-point per game scorers in Shayla Bennett and Kionna Jeter. Fortunately for the Lady Commodores, producing offense is what Davis does best.

 

The 5-foot-9 shooting guard put up 32 points per game as a senior for Greenville (Ga.) High School in leading the school to its first-ever state title earlier this year. The left-hander also averaged 11 rebounds, four assists, and seven steals, and made 97 3-pointers on a whopping 51 percent accuracy.

 

“Brittany is a tremendous long range shooter,” Scovel said. “She led her team to the state title and has just a tremendous ability to shoot the long ball. She’s a great basketball player and we’re expecting some great things from her.”

 

Mbandu is one of two French players in this class along with 5-7 point guard Lya Farcy, which along with Gaye and Diané gives Gulf Coast four French women on the roster. While Gaye is a versatile post player and Diané a reliable spot-up shooter, the 6-2 Mbandu has a unique style of her own that allows her to be score from the paint and the perimeter while also serving as an effective playmaker with the size of a frontcourt player.

 

Scovel said that Mbandu can help the Lady Commodores in a variety of ways, but she wants to take advantage of Mbandu’s size by matching her against opposing guards and wing players.

 

“That was the goal when we signed her, for her to primarily be a perimeter player,” she said. “She can shoot the long ball, is a good defender, and a tremendous passer. To have that length and skill on the perimeter would be a great advantage for us.”

Farcy will be among three players battling for playing time at the point guard position along with Kincey, who played limited minutes last season, and Fort Walton Beach freshman Reanesha “P-Nut” Payton. Port St. Joe’s Teiyahna Hutchinson will also compete at both guard positions.

 

Kaitlyn Watts of Baker and Devany Beard of South Walton also add depth in the backcourt, while 5-10 Nadia Marshall of Bainbridge (Ga.) is a combo forward who 19 points and 10 rebounds last season for the Bearcats.

 

Former South Walton star Savannah Slade comes to Gulf Coast via transfer from North Florida, and at 6-3 with 3-point range, gives the Lady Commodores another versatile frontcourt player who can space the floor as a shooter.

 

“We like to have frontcourt players who can stretch the floor and make 3-pointers and Savannah is someone who can do that,” Scovel said. “She’s worked really hard in the weight room this summer and has also gotten a lot stronger.”

 

Scovel said she likes the overall skill level and shooting potential of this group of incoming players, but it’s the intangible qualities they’ve displayed in practice thus far that have stood out.

 

“It’s work ethic,” she said. “I think they’re blue collar kids that every day in practice want to work harder. We’ll have to work really hard to overcome some weaknesses we have compared to other rosters, but I think the culture will be very good and hopefully some of that can outweigh some of the other things that could be a disadvantage for us against some of our opponents. We probably don’t look as talented on paper as some of our opponents, so we’re going to have to work harder.”

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