|Seniors aim to lead ISU to success|
|Written by Tawni Ricketts, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Sunday, 11 November 2012 16:44|
Senior and leader are two terms that are virtually synonymous in the sports world. But in the case of the 2012-2013 Illinois State women’s basketball team, the seniors are not leadership rookies.
While showcasing just one senior in the 2011-2012 season, Katie Broadway, the role of being a leader was also taken on by players that resided outside of the senior class, so it is no surprise that this season’s batch of seniors is well versed in leadership.
The Redbirds sport a cabinet of four seniors this year including Jamie Russell at guard, Alexis Jenkins at guard, Jaz Green at guard and Megan Grace at center.
Russell, a well-seasoned veteran who enters her second year as a Redbird starter and sports multiple accolades including the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year and the Most Valuable Player award (along with Broadway), was seen as a crucial leader for the Redbirds last year, but as a senior she has upped the ante for her personal expectations.
“[Being a senior] on the team, there’s definitely a sense of respect that I get from underclassmen, and I also have higher expectations for myself,” Russell said. “Becoming more vocal as a leader for me was something I really needed to work on, and I think I’ve kind of accomplished that this year.”
Jenkins has also seen significant playing time on the court since her Redbird career began, appearing in 103 out of 104 games in her career, including 17 starts last year.
“Being a senior, I like to mentor the younger players, and I think it’s going pretty well,” Jenkins said. “My freshman and sophomore year I had some good leaders, so I understand what I need to step up to. It’s definitely different, but I grew a lot over the years, so a lot of people look up to me and I just want to keep that going and be a leader and grow on the team.”
Grace appeared in 12 games last year, while Green played in 10 after transferring from Santa Fe College at the start of last year’s season.
Broadway’s graduation left large shoes to fill for the Redbirds, as she led the team last year in scoring with 518 points cumulatively, averaging 16.2 points per game.
“Katie [Broadway] was a huge scorer for us, and [her graduating] was a little bit of a personal concern for me, but we’ve had so many people step up,” Russell said. “We have multiple people scoring now … it’s going to be so much harder to guard us for other teams.
“I am so impressed by [the new freshman]. During the summer, their work ethic was phenomenal. The way the play with us — they’re such competitors … and each of them have grown so much from the summer to now,” Russell said.
As a veteran team ranked third in the Missouri Valley Conference in the preseason polls, the Redbirds have high hopes for the season.
“Of course we want to win a championship. It’s something we’ve been hungry for for a very long time,” Russell said.
“[The third ranking] is good, but of course I want to be first. I don’t really take those pre-season polls seriously, just because anything can happen. So I just take it as a challenge,” Jenkins said.
In her final season as a Redbird, Jenkins, a Chicago native, is looking forward to ISU’s matchup against Illinois-Chicago.
“[I’m looking forward to] UIC just because it’s in my hometown and it’s my last year, so all of my family is going to get to come down and watch. I’m excited.”
The Redbirds are currently without senior Candace Sykes due to an indefinite suspension for reasons which are unknown. Sykes was a full-time starter in the 2011-2012 season, and her absence leaves Russell as the lone full-time starter returning from the 2011-2012 season.