New Coach, Experienced Players Lead Hoyas
The Georgetown women’s basketball team’s senior class has led the team to a steady rise over their four years on the Hilltop.
In their freshman season in 2014-15, the Hoyas struggled to a dismal 4-27 record before rebounding to earn back-to-back Women’s National Invitation Tournament bids in the next two seasons.
Now, under first-year Head Coach James Howard, the team is relying heavily on its experienced seniors as it aims to make the next step: earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“What I want to be able to give them as graduating seniors is three straight years of postseason play,” Howard said. “They can leave their legacy behind, and they can hang their hat when they come back and say, ‘We put those three banners up there.’ We would love to try to reach for that NCAA banner up there, but I know it’s going to take chemistry. It’s going to take health, but I think they’re on board, and they want that as well.”
Georgetown’s senior class includes three regular starters from last season in forward Cynthia Petke and guards DiDi Burton and Dorothy Adomako and will also add high-scoring senior guard Mikayla Venson, a transfer from the University of Virginia. These players, in addition to making up 80 percent of the Hoyas’ projected starting lineup, also provide invaluable leadership to their younger teammates.
“[That is really important just because they have the experience to coach the younger players,” junior guard Dionna White said. “With a new coach it can be hard to try to adjust, so just having that person that you can talk to other than a coach is very helpful.”
The Hoyas are built around their guards, led by White, Burton, Venson and Adomako, three of whom are seniors. White and Burton, both Baltimore natives, will begin their third straight season as Georgetown’s starting backcourt. White, a two-time All-Big East Second Team nominee, led last year’s squad with 15.2 points per game and 46 three-pointers last season, and her 3.3 steals per game led the Big East and ranked seventh in the nation. Burton, a four-year starter at point guard, led last year’s team with 3.4 assists per game.
“DiDi and Dionna played together I think since they were seven years old,” Howard said. “So the chemistry that they have is great. They’re two young women from Baltimore that have a tough mentality when they come on the floor, and we all know that their speed is really great. And it really helps us because they push the ball, and we can get into our transition game with both of them.”
Venson played two seasons at Virginia before transferring to Georgetown and sitting out last season under NCAA transfer rules. As a sophomore, she led the Cavaliers with 15.1 points per game and set a single-season school record with 70 three-pointers at a 41.2 percent conversion rate. She is expected to be a dynamic addition alongside White and Burton.
Adomako, a three-year starter, is currently battling an injury but will bring a skilled scoring presence when she returns to the court. A 6-foot-1-inch wing player with athleticism and versatility, Adomako has already piled up 1,228 points in her three seasons at Georgetown.
Alongside Georgetown’s cache of talented guards, Howard expects Petke, another senior, to be this season’s breakout player. Last year, in her first season after transferring from Chipola College in Florida, Petke displayed significant improvement down the stretch of the Big East slate and has continued that improvement in offseason workouts and practices.
“Cynthia Petke is really, really playing well,” Howard said. “She had an outstanding summer. She went out and worked on some things that’s really going to enhance her game. She could be the sleeper in the Big East this year, barring no injuries and she stays healthy.”
Freshman forward Tatiana Thompson, a 6-footer forward out of Winter Haven, Fla., is also expected to make an immediate impact in her debut season.
“Tat has the ability to make a major impact here during her four years at GU in the Big East conference,” Howard said. “She’s a high-skilled player. At 6-foot-0, 6-foot-1, that can do a lot of different things. I think the fans will enjoy watching her play.”
The Big East preseason poll listed Georgetown at No. 5 out of 10 teams in the Big East, which includes two nationally ranked teams in No. 17 Marquette and No. 25 DePaul. However, built around an experienced core, the team has higher expectations for its potential. The Hoya projects Georgetown to finish fifth in the conference.
“We don’t get caught up into that, but definitely I think we should be No. 1 in that,” Venson said of the team’s Big East preseason ranking. “We have a lot of people who have come in who are really going to be strong for us, and just with our backcourt and pushing the pace and everything, we should be No. 1.”
(File Photo: Derrick Arthur-Cudjoe/The Hoya)