In one of the biggest turnarounds in women’s college basketball, Mercer head coach Janell Jones took a 4-26 team in 2007-'08 to a 17-14 finish a season later.
The unbelievable change in pace saw a tough team post a 9-2 record at home last year while eventually falling to ETSU in the A-Sun semifinal game, 82-60.
Led by senior guards LaToya Jackson and Courtney Ford, the Bears will have their work cut out for them as the "surprise factor" is no longer present.
With a total of three upperclassmen (Jackson, Ford, and junior Kourtney Carter), Jones may have her work cut out for her as she’ll need the team to gel quickly before conference play starts in December.
Graduates Dominique Chism, Natasha Doh, Cristin Seymour, Megan Lewis, and Nicole Leonard will be sorely missed on the floor this year as they provided key leadership in crucial games last season. After graduating in May, Chism decided to continue her basketball career by signing with club Baloncesto Conquero in Spain.
Picked fifth in the A-Sun media poll, Mercer will look to Jackson (13.2 ppg) and Ford (11.7 ppg) to shoulder most of the load offensively with a large percentage of its scoring from a year ago gone.
Jackson, known for her innate ability to score off the dribble, was named to the preseason all-conference team after two solid seasons at Mercer.
Also returning to the court this season will be guards Neicey Lewis, Kara Powell, and Lorin Hammer as well as interior players Lacy Ramon and Kourtney Carter.
Lewis, Ramon, and Carter saw plenty of time last season on the floor for Mercer, gathering experience that will be crucial with nine new faces on the roster this season.
Jones’ most recent recruiting class features a trio of 6' freshmen in Sharmesia Smith (6', Jonesboro, Ga.), Amber Coleman (6'2", Travelers Rest, S.C.), and Alex Phillips (6'3", Duluth, Ga.).
Expect all three to see the court over the course of the season as the Bears will look to fill the void left by Chism and Doh from last season.
Macon product Kendra Grant from nearby Rutland High School will also help Mercer from the guard position joined by fellow freshman guards Eryka Menzies, Lindsey Lowrie, Keema Blakney, and Amber Chatmon.
Samoana Ingram will look to get on the floor as a 5'1"1 forward from Stafford, Va.
Following the trend of years past, Jones will put her team to the test against top tier Division I schools such as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, College of Charleston, and Furman during non-conference action.
Unfortunately, few of the non-conference games will be in the friendly confines of the University Center with only one of their nine matchups in Macon.
The usual rugged Atlantic Sun schedule follows in January after the first two conference games in December against Lipscomb and Belmont at home. Big home games against Campbell, ETSU, Kennesaw State, North Florida, and Jacksonville are on tap for 2010.
For more information about the team, schedules, and statistics, visit MercerBears.com.