Phoenix Women’s Basketball Opens Season in WNIT at Green Bay

ELON, N.C. – The Elon women’s basketball team officially kicks off the 2016-17 season on Friday, Nov. 11, at Green Bay as part of the Preseason WNIT in Green Bay, Wis., at 8 p.m. (EST) in the Kress Center.


Last Time Out
Elon unofficially began its season in impressive fashion with a 74-42 final against Wingate on Oct. 29 in Alumni Gym in its lone exhibition game of the season. The Phoenix finished 30-of-72 from the field for a 42 percent mark, while hitting nine threes, scoring 34 points in the paint and 27 points off turnovers. The Bulldogs were held to 24.5 percent from the field (13-of-53) and only scored 12 points in the paint, while turning the ball over 19 times. Elon dominated on the glass, 53-31, and held a 20-4 advantage in second-chance points. Shay Burnett led the way for the maroon and gold after a double-double with 20 points and 11 boards to go along with four assists and six steals. The Preseason All-CAA First Team selection went 8-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-4 from three. Jenifer Rhodes, a preseason honorable mention selection, also tallied a double-double after 10 points and a game-high 12 boards. Malaya Johnson tallied another 11 points and four assists for Elon, while rookie Ra’Shika White made her presence known on defense with three blocks. The Phoenix saw baskets from nine of the 10 players that played in the game, including 25 points from the bench.

Scouting the (other) Phoenix
Green Bay finished 28-5 last season and clinched its 18th consecutive regular-season Horizon League championship after a 16-2 record in conference play. Green Bay also advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 16th time in program history after winning the league tournament title, defeating in-state rival Milwaukee, 64-32. The Phoenix fell to seventh-seed Tennessee in the first round of the tournament, 59-53, in Tempe, Ariz., to close out the season. For the ninth-consecutive year, Green Bay enters the season as the Horizon League favorite, as announced by the league office during its preseason media day. The Phoenix returns four starters from last season, including Allie LeClaire, Jessica Lindstrom and Mehryn Kraker. LeClaire averaged 12.5 points per game last year, while Lindstrom, an all-league second team and all-defensive team selection in 2016, returns her 8.8 boards per game. Kraker, the 2016 conference tournament MVP, was a preseason first team selection, while Lindstrom and LeClaire both earned second team recognition. GB defeated UW-Oshkosh, 79-35, in an exhibition game on Oct. 29 before a 76-34 final over Northern Michigan on Nov. 3 in its final tune-up.

The Series
The game marks the first meeting between Elon and Green Bay and the first meeting between the two matching Phoenix mascots.

Elon in Season Openers
The Phoenix is 29-17 overall in season openers and 21-4 when opening the season in Alumni Gym. Elon has won its last three straight season openers after a 67-29 win over Lenoir-Rhyne on Nov. 14, 2015, and has won its last six season openers that were played on its home court. The last time the maroon and gold opened the season on the road was in 2012 at South Carolina where the Gamecocks claimed a 77-44 win. This year marks only the second time the Phoenix has opened the season outside Alumni Gym under Charlotte Smith.

Head Coach Charlotte Smith
Elon head coach Charlotte Smith is in her sixth season with the Phoenix and owns an 87-70 career record. Smith has led Elon to two straight WNIT appearances and three overall post-season appearances in the last five seasons.

Wealth of Experience
Elon returns a very experienced group to the hard wood for the 2016-17 season. The Phoenix returns four starters from last year – Essence Baucom, Shay Burnett, Malaya Johnson and Maddie McCallie – along with three others – Lauren Brown, Jenifer Rhodes and Lenaira Ruffin – who have all seen extensive playing time over the last three seasons. No returnee this season has averaged less than 12 minutes per game in their career. All of Elon’s returners this year are upperclassmen comprised of five seniors and two juniors.

Newcomer in Name Only
While Phoenix fans will see junior Meme Garner on the court for the first time this season, she is hardly a newcomer. Garner was inactive last year due to the NCAA’s residence regulations for transfers. While she never saw any minutes in uniform, she was an integral team member at team practices and meetings throughout the 2015-16 season.

Fresh Faces
The Phoenix welcomes four new faces to the program this year – Jada Graves, Lexi Mercer, Madison Wilder and Ra’Shika White. All four are all highly touted freshmen expected to make an impact on the court in the maroon and gold this season.

Preseason Predictions
The Phoenix was selected to finish second in the 2016-17 CAA Women’s Basketball Predicted Order of Finish that was released on Oct. 25 at the league’s annual media day. It marked Elon’s highest selection in the preseason poll since joining the league. James Madison, the reigning conference tournament champion, was picked to repeat, while Drexel, Hofstra, Delaware, William & Mary, Northeastern, College of Charleston, UNCW and Towson were all selected to finish behind Elon.

Preseason Selections
Elon’s Shay Burnett and Jenifer Rhodes both earned recognition on the 2016-17 CAA Women’s Basketball Preseason All-Conference Teams. Burnett was selected to the Preseason All-CAA First Team, while Rhodes earned honorable mention. A junior guard from Graham, N.C., Burnett averaged 12.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game en route to All-CAA First Team honors last year. Rhodes, a senior forward from North Charleston, S.C., returns for her final year after posting 8.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game off the bench a season ago.

Road to the CAA Championship
The 2016 Colonial Athletic Association Women’s Basketball Championship will take place in Harrisonburg, Va., at the JMU Convocation Center for the first time this year. The tournament begins on Wednesday, March 8, and concludes with the championship game on Saturday, March 11. Seeding for the tournament will be finalized on Wednesday, March 1, after all regular-season games have been completed.

Golden Coach
Elon head coach Charlotte Smith helped lead the 2016 USA Women’s National Team to a gold medal in the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Valdivia, Chile, over the summer. Serving as one of the assistant coaches, Smith coached Team USA to the title, defeating Canada, 109-62, in the tournament final.

Elon in Italia
In August, the Elon women’s basketball team spent 11 days in Italy for an overseas learning and playing experience. As part of the Elon Commitment to diversity and global engagement for its students, the team traveled cities in Italy like Milan, Lake Como, San Marino, Pesaro, Florence, Pisa and Rome during the trip. Aside for gaining international playing experience, the team also completed the course ‘Globalization of Contemporary Sport’ that studied the effects of globalization on sport and explored Italy’s diverse geography, history, society and culture.

A Look Back at 2015-16
The Phoenix had another successful year in 2015-16 under head coach Charlotte Smith, going 18-13 overall, 11-7 in CAA play and earning a bid to the WNIT for the second straight season. Both Shay Burnett and Lauren Brown were named CAA Player of the Week over the course of the season and both earned all-conference recognition. Burnett was named to the All-CAA First Team, making her the youngest player in the league to earn first-team honors and one of only two sophomores to receive a spot on any of the three All-CAA teams for the season. Brown earned a spot on the All-Academic Team after her strong work on the court and in the classroom. The 2015-16 season was highlighted by Elon’s first ever win over NC State after a 69-66 final in Raleigh, N.C. on Dec. 13, 2015.

Home-Court Advantage
Alumni Gym has proven to be tough place to play for opponents under head coach Charlotte Smith. The maroon and gold is 53-18 in Alumni Gym in six seasons under Coach Smith. The Phoenix went 10-3 at home during the 2015-16 season after a 10-5 record during the 2014-15 season. The Phoenix has lost no more than five games at home in a season under Smith.

Double Trouble
Elon saw 14 double-doubles from four different players last season. Shay Burnett posted the most with nine, including one near triple-double, followed by Malaya Johnson with three.

Elon in Overtime
After its overtime game at Delaware on Feb. 7, 2016, Elon is 17-11 all-time in overtime games and 1-3 when the overtime goes past one period. The Phoenix played three overtime games during the 2015-16 season, two of which went to double overtime. The maroon and gold fell in double overtime at Navy on Nov. 24, 2015, and to James Madison in single overtime on Jan. 10, 2016, before winning its first OT game of that season against the Blue Hens. Elon’s double overtime game at Navy on marked the first time the maroon and gold played more than one overtime period since a four-overtime game against Western Carolina in 2008.

Off the Bench
The depth of the Elon bench has been a contributor to the maroon and gold’s recent success. The Phoenix bench outscored opponents, 676-476, and averaged 21.8 points per game last season.

Looking Ahead
If the Phoenix claims a win in Green Bay, the team will move on to play either Little Rock or North Texas on Sunday, Nov. 13, with the game site TBD. Elon returns to Alumni Gym to host Rutgers in its home opener on Monday, Nov. 14, at 5:30 p.m. as part of an Elon basketball doubleheader.