James Madison University women look to move on without Hall

JMU's Jazmon Gwathmey, the preseason CAA Player of the Year, shoots during a game last season. The Dukes start their season Sunday by hosting Longwood University. Courtesy photo/JMU Athletics Communications

HARRISONBURG — Kenny Brooks had a plan, a vision of what his team would look like this season. Then a week before the preseason started — everything changed.

The Jamed Madison University women’s basketball head coach had to scrap his plans after the team’s leading scorer Precious Hall suffered a season-ending injury.

“If my team was a piece of paper it would be a bunch of pieces of paper balled up in my trash can,” Brooks said in a press conference on Monday. “All summer we were so excited about the prospects of Precious Hall returning and (Angela) ‘Muff’ Mickens and Ashley Perez in a more prominent role and Jazmon Gwathmey going to her senior year. We wrote down a lot of different things we wanted to do. …Then one week before the season started you lose a main cog in that plan, and that’s Precious Hall. We had to revamp.”

Hall suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear, and Brooks said his team has handled things well as they prepare for Sunday’s season opener at home against Longwood University.

Fortunately for Brooks and the Dukes, they can replace Hall, last year’s Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year, with Gwathmey, who was voted this year’s Preseason CAA Player of the Year.

JMU's Jazmon Gwathmey drives to the basket during a game last season. Gwathmey and the Dukes open their season on Sunday against Longwood University. Courtesy photo/JMU Athletics Communications

Gwathmey, a senior, averaged 9.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season.

“I’ve said all along Jazmon has always been one of the most talented players I’ve ever coached,” Brooks said. “We’ve had some very good ones here. Her skill level is probably better than any one I’ve ever coached. It’s just a matter of her having to do it.”

Gwathmey, Mickens and Perez are the seniors on the squad, and each will be asked to do a little more with Hall out for the season.

Mickens averaged 7.6 points and 7.5 assists per contest. Perez averaged 9.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season.

In JMU’s opening exhibition against Davis & Elkins, the Dukes had four players in double figures. Junior Da’Lisha Griffin had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and freshman Kayla Cooper-Williams had seven points and 11 rebounds.

Brooks said he was excited about freshmen Logan Reynolds, Cooper-Williams and Savannah Felgemacher.

“They’re all going to be contributors for us, and I think they’re going to be major contributors for us,” Brooks said.

JMU will be at home for its first two games against Longwood on Sunday and then Morgan State on Nov. 17. The Dukes then travel to Los Angeles to take on UCLA on Nov. 20.

JMU’s toughest challenges will likely come in the Florida Sunshine Classic on Dec. 20-21 in Winter Park, Florida. The Dukes will play West Virginia and Baylor in the tournament.

The Dukes advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season for the second straight year and finished with a 29-4 record.

Brooks said that the players know that even without Hall they can still have a great season.

“They understand the importance of Precious, and what she’s done for us and how she’s helped mold this program into what we are,” Brooks said. But they also understand that we can win without her. No one person is going to make or break our program. We’re going to miss her dearly, but we also have the same expectations, the same goals.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com