ELON, N.C. – The Elon University women’s basketball team returns home on Monday, Nov. 14, to host Rutgers for its 2016-17 home opener at Alumni Gym. Tip is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Fans can watch the game exclusively on Phoenix All-Access or listen live on Elon’s student radio station, WSOE 89.3 FM.
Monday marks the first ever meeting between Elon and Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights enter Monday’s game with a 0-1 mark after dropping a 66-53 decision to Chattanooga to open the season. Rutgers went 19-15 last season and finished 10th in the Big Ten after an 8-10 record in conference play. The Scarlet Knights earned a bid to the WNIT, advancing to the second round after a 57-55 win against Georgetown. Virginia ended Rutgers season with a 71-55 final in Piscataway. C. Vivian Stringer is in her 22nd season as the head coach at Rutgers. The 2009 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, Stringer is first coach in NCAA history to lead three different women’s programs to the NCAA Final Four: Rutgers in 2000 and 2007, the University of Iowa in 1993, and Cheyney State College (now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania) in 1982.
Elon dropped a 71-56 decision at Green Bay in its season opener on Friday, Nov. 11, in the Preseason WNIT. Lauren Brown and Jada Graves were the lone Phoenix players in double figures, as the duo finished with 17 and 12 points, respectively. Brown knocked down four triples in a game for the fifth time in her career, tying a career-best mark.
On the Glass
Jenifer Rhodes hauled down a career-high 13 boards in Elon’s season opener at Green Bay. Elon has three players on its roster that have collected 10 or more rebounds in a game with Rhodes, Shay Burnett and Malaya Johnson.
Following Monday’s game against Rutgers, the Phoenix resumes play in the Preseason WNIT on Nov. 18-19 in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. Elon will face Eastern Washington on Nov. 18 at 4:30 p.m. before facing either CMU or Furman a day later.
Head Coach Charlotte Smith
Elon head coach Charlotte Smith is in her sixth season with the Phoenix and owns an 87-71 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.