The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

COURTSIDE: Loaded with Experience

Joe Tartamella only has three new faces

Torch Photo/Amanda Negretti
Last season was a successful one for Head Coach Joe Tartamella and the Red Storm. The team won 19 games despite new faces and a hard non-conference schedule. This season, they return with a roster loaded with talent and experience. They’ll carry a smaller squad of only 10 players, six of whom are upperclassmen.

The only freshman on the roster is guard Kadaja Bailey, who set a school record by scoring over 2,000 points during her playing time at St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, N.Y.

The Johnnies return with most of their roster, although they lost Maya Singleton and Imani Littleton, who both averaged over 25 minutes a game.

The Red Storm are relying on many players to take that next step and assume bigger roles. One of those players is forward Kayla Charles.

The 6-foot-3 sophomore averaged two points and 2.9 rebounds in her freshman campaign. Her versatility allows her to score from different spots on the floor.

“I am stepping into a position where I have to show up and give it my all every day after losing Maya and Imani,” Charles said. “It’s tough but it will have to be done in order for us to win.”

As a coach who’s made it to the postseason every year that he’s been at the helm, Tartamella knows what it takes to get it done.

He noted that his team would once again be strong on the defensive end. However, even an accomplished coach needs to make changes.

“We’re trying to play a little quicker, so we’re playing a little bit smaller,” Tartamella said.

One of the benefits of  a smaller lineup is being able to stretch the floor. Tartamella wants his team to push the pace and focus on those first seven to eight seconds of each possession.

The key in executing this new style of play will be point guard Tiana England.

The redshirt sophomore started 32 of 34 games in her first season and led the team with five assists per game. The Red Storm will need similar numbers from England, and she believes that she, along with the rest of the team, is focused on the right things to make them even better this season.

“This year, definitely, our defense is important,” England said. “We were a little shaky last year. Good defense creates offense, so I’ve been working this offseason improving in that area, as well as less turnovers.”

Experience isn’t just about the players. The coaching staff welcomed new Assistant Coach Shenneika Smith this season. Smith was St. John’s second ever WNBA draft pick back in 2013, and returns to Queens after having played two professional seasons and seven seasons on the Jamaican national team.

“I’ve been able to learn a lot from her, whether it’s preparing me the opportunity to play professionally or in-game scenarios,” senior guard Akina Wellere said. “She motivates me to be better every day.”

The Red Storm won’t play at Carnesecca Arena until Nov. 29 against Delaware State. Their first three games will be on the road, including a matchup against the vaunted UConn Huskies. Progress is being made, but we’ll see just how far they’ve come when they face some tough tests early on in the season.


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