In his second year as coach, Greg Wilson has cleaned house and is looking for a fresh start.
The Augusta State women's basketball coach has replaced eight players from last year's team with nine newcomers. Those newcomers give the Lady Jaguars more size inside and added perimeter shooting.
Tonight, Augusta State plays host to Morris College in its season opener at 8 p.m.
"I think we're largely moving in a positive direction," Wilson said. "We addressed our needs over the summer. The league is moving in a more athletic direction. So we wanted to get some athletes we thought would be competitive in this league."
On Thursday afternoon, Wilson received news that junior forward Katie Lawrence, who was returning after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury with 10 games remaining last season, is leaving the team.
Last season, she led the Lady Jaguars in points (12.5) and rebounds (5.3).
"Katie was a huge part of our success for the past two years, and we'll definitely miss her," Wilson said. "But we have three players waiting in the wings who are ready to play."
It's likely junior transfer Donna Hanson will get the start at small forward in place of Lawrence, while senior Kristina Smith and freshman Shundra Johnson also will see time there.
Last season, Augusta State went 10-15 for its second straight losing season. The team shot 39 percent from the floor, 26 percent from 3-point range and 66 percent from the free throw line.
So Wilson added freshman guard Stephanie Edgerton and Hanson as 3-point threats. Also, the team now has quality depth at the guard position with junior Tameika Bridges, freshman Ernesia Wideman and sophomore Shemeika Henry.
In addition, the team upgraded its size with 5-foot-11 Johnson, 6-1 freshman Karlena Barron and 6-4 freshman Alycia Rogers.
Columbus State transfer Sharon Taylor, though, is the diamond of the recruits. The 6-1 center, who started seven of 33 games for the Lady Cougars last season, averaged 7.4 points and seven rebounds a game.
She played on a Columbus State team that advanced to the Division II Elite Eight the past three seasons.
"I know I can help them because they went 10-15," Taylor said. "I didn't think they had good post players (last year). I think I'll be a good help."
Wilson hopes that Taylor will be a mentor for sophomore forward Sabrina Jones. Last season, Jones averaged nine points and 3.2 rebounds a game.
Senior guards Amy Frantz and Krystal Edwards and junior Faith Nixon return.
Nixon played under Wilson at Middle Georgia during the 1998-99 season when the team went 31-2. She expects the Lady Jaguars to grasp his system a little better this year.
"Last year was the exact opposite of how it was at Middle Georgia," Nixon said. "It's a lot more fun this year because we have more of a run-and-gun style of team."
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