Babson 2011-12 season preview
BABSON PARK, Mass. -- Coming off the greatest season in program
history, the Babson College women's basketball team has been ranked
fifth in the nation in the D3hoops.com Preseason poll. The Beavers,
who finished last season ranked eighth in the country after goign
30-1, are seeking their fourth straight New England Women's and
Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) crown and hope to challenge for
a National Championship after making back-to-back trips to the
Elite 8 in 2010 and 2011.
Babson will once again be led by what is perhaps the finest front court combination in the country, including a pair of Preseason All-Americans. Senior captain Nicki Wurdeman (Rowley, Mass.) was named to D3hoops.com's Preseason All-American First Team this past week after garnering a spot on the website's All-America Second Team as well as her second straight WBCA All-America Honorable Mention honor last winter. The superstar forward already ranks third on Babson's all-time scoring list with 1,520 career points and is coming off a brilliant junior campaign in which she averaged career-highs of 18.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 2.2 steals per game while shooting 50.7 percent from the field (223-440), 41.2 percent from three-point range (35-85), and 77.0 percent from the line (97-126).
Joining Wurdeman up front will be fellow captain and 1,000-point scorer Kathleen King (Framingham, Mass.). Although not as decorated as Wurdeman in terms of individual awards, King has been equally vital to the Beavers' success over the last three years - particularly in their biggest games. Featuring a lethal combination of scoring ability, tremendous passing skills, a ferocious defensive mentality, and a refusal to lose that sets the tone for the entire team, King ranks fifth on both the program's career scoring list with 1,332 points and career rebounding list with 822 caroms. She also checks in at 16th with 198 career assists - a remarkable total from the power forward position. Last winter, she collected her second D3hoops.com All-Northeast honor after averaging 15.1 points, a team-high 9.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 2.0 steals per contest.
The third member of Babson's "Big Three" will be junior center Sarah Collins (Weymouth, Mass.), who was recently named to the D3hoops.com Preseason All-America Fourth Team. Despite missing six games with a broken shooting hand and playing the team's final two contests with a cast, Collins still averaged 14.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 3.6 blocked shots per game while shooting 53.8 percent from the field (163-303). She also passed well, averaging 2.2 assists per game, and added 2.4 steals per outing. Among her biggest performances was a memorable effort in the NCAA Tournament Sectional Semifinal, when she recorded 10 points, nine boards, and three blocks while hitting the eventual game-winning free throws with her left hand in the Beavers' 61-58 overtime victory over nationally-ranked Bowdoin. She was later named to the D3hoops.com All-Northeast Second Team for her efforts.
With the loss of reserve forward Damisi Adewumi '11 to graduation, Babson will rely on returning senior captain Kelly McKenna (Shrewsbury, Mass.) for key minutes and leadership off the bench this winter. The veteran forward has played in 72 games in her collegiate career, averaging 1.3 points and 1.9 rebounds per contest.
Babson's back court suffered the biggest losses due to graduation, as starter Becky Bowman '11 and reserves Amanda Grammel '11 and Renay Hamilton '11 all departed. Returning to anchor the group will be junior Allanah Wynn (Quincy, Mass.), who started 23 of the 28 games in which she played a year ago and averaged 3.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per contest. She will be joined by junior Katerina Mallios (Winthrop, Mass.) and sophomores Caitlin O'Connell (Framingham, Mass.) and Liz Trainor (Beverly, Mass.), who all look to expand their roles in 2011-12. Mallios played in 28 game last winter and contributed 23 points and 32 rebounds, O'Connell played in 24 games and scored 47 points while shooting 40.7 percent (11-27) from long range, and Trainor playing in 13 contests and tallied seven points, eight boards, and five assists after battling back from an early-season injury.
This year's team also features a talented group of newcomers. First-years Nikki Heavern (Hull, Mass.) and Alyssa Rimsa (Andover, Conn.) will add depth to the front court while sophomore transfer Kaitlyn Smith (Hingham, Mass.) and first-years Erin Young (Westwood, Mass.) and Mary O'Connor (Middletown, R.I.) will vie for time at the guard positions.
"We're very excited about this year's team," said legendary head coach and Babson Athletics Hall of Famer Judy Blinstrub, now in her 28th season at the helm of the program. "We've gained a ton of valuable experience over the last few years, and hopefully that will continue to serve us well throughout the coming season. Both our conference and non-conference schedules will be much tougher this year, but if our younger players can make a smooth transition to this level of play and our team stays healthy, we have a chance to do great things this winter."
Last season saw Babson win its first 30 games of the season before suffering its lone defeat to eventual National Champion Amherst in the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament. Prior to that defeat, the Beavers were ranked fifth in the country – their highest ranking ever – and were the lone unbeaten team in all of women's college basketball. However, despite a 58-5 record over the last two seasons, Babson has yet to host an NCAA Tournament game – a fact that led Blinstrub to beef up her schedule this winter. In addition to a NEWMAC slate that features at least two teams – Smith and Springfield – who seem poised for spectacular seasons this year, the Beavers have added regional powers Colby, Williams, and Tufts, as well as Wisconsin-Stout and either MCLA or Southern Maine to their out-of-conference schedule.
Babson tips off its season on Tuesday, November 15, when the Beavers welcome Salem State for a 7 p.m. contest.