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SUNY Brockport women’s basketball season preview: the Golden Eagles are eager to compete


On Feb. 25, 2020, the SUNY Brockport women’s basketball team fell to the SUNY Geneseo Knights 66-52 in the first round of the SUNYAC Tournament. Shortly after, the world went into lockdown due to COVID-19, making that loss the last time the Golden Eagles would suit up for competition for over a year.

This long and painful drought will be over on Friday, Nov. 12 at the Brockport Tip Off Tournament. The Golden Eagles will return to their home court to face the Medaille College Mavericks, who were 3-22 in the 2019-20 season.

During the canceled 2020-21 season, SUNY Brockport was only allowed to practice three days a week for 60 minutes at a time. Their practices were limited by COVID-19 restrictions, and they never got the chance to compete against another team. This was a frustrating and unexpected challenge for many student-athletes and coaches.

Head Coach Corinne Jones said her athletes are more than eager to get back on the court with regular practices and games. One of the biggest challenges coming off such a long break will be dialing the players’ eagerness to play in a healthy way by gradually transitioning back to a regular, more demanding training style than seen in 2020-21. With the postseason in mind, Jones doesn’t want her athletes to push themselves too hard in the first weeks of practice.

“We want to be playing in February, so if we go three-hour practices, I’m going to lose them,” Jones said. “We’ll go short time compared to 2019, but longer than the COVID-19 practices.”

Additionally, Jones believes student-athletes should be shown patience as they transition back into a life with their sport. Although returning to competition is exciting, it is also nerve wracking as they juggle academics and the pressure to perform. The key to success this season will be keeping the team mentally and physically healthy.

Throughout the past year, the Golden Eagles found ways to work on the intangible side of their game. Because of what the team was able to accomplish virtually, Jones predicts they will come out of the gates stronger than in 2019-20, where they finished 11-15.

“We spent a lot of time developing relationships and working on leadership, so I think we’re actually going to win more games because of that,” Jones said.

The program welcomes some new faces to the locker room who are expected to play crucial roles. Most notably, a Division II transfer from Bentley College, center Erin Nolan. Jones expects Nolan to be a large part of their offense. She saw time in 23 games for Bentley College for a total of 225 minutes, averaging 3.1 points per game.

Junior Erin Radack is projected to follow up her impressive freshman debut as another game leader. In 2019-20, she saw 468 minutes and averaged 6.6 points per game for the Golden Eagles. Jones believes the Radack and Nolan duo will fill the shoes of their departing All-Conference star Julianna Taylor. Taylor was a steady scorer for the Golden Eagles, averaging 11.1 points per game.

Jones said Taylor’s decision to forego her extra year of eligibility granted from the COVID-19 2020-21 season cancellation was disappointing. In the same way, Zaria McCullough is another graduate who did not to take her extra year and will not be returning this season.

This year’s seniors will have the choice to return for the 2022-23 season. Players to watch for a decision in that class are forward Kylee Rosbrook and guard Chelsea Henry. Rosbrook was named to the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Rochester Area NCAA Division II-III [USBWA] First Team in 2020. She was a key player during her sophomore season averaging 10.4 points per game.

Extra eligibility from COVID-19 has complicated the recruiting process, however there is a silver lining. According to Jones, the Golden Eagles will welcome graduate transfers and junior college transfers. These players already have experience at the collegiate level, which will help the Golden Eagles in their SUNYAC run.

The program will be adding to their staff this season with new assistant coach, Mary Mazzella. Mazzella spent a year with Southern Utah University as an assistant coach. She had a stellar collegiate career in the SUNYAC at SUNY Oswego, where she was the team’s most valuable player in 2015-16 s and was a two-time captain.

“The players really love her, so I think that’s a good sign I made the right hire,” Jones said. “To hire someone who’s played point guard in the SUNYAC is a home run.”

The Golden Eagles are aiming for a top four finish this season. In the past, they have started slowly and barely clawed their way into playoffs at the end of the season. Jones is hoping to get an early and dominant start this year. This will be no easy task in the SUNYAC.

“[The conference] is tough from top to bottom. We call it a dog fight every night; we can’t take any time off,” Jones said. “It doesn’t matter where we’re going or who we’re playing, but for 18 games we have to be on.”

Jones is entering her seventh year with the Golden Eagles. During this time, she has watched the program evolve. In her first season as head coach, SUNY Brockport upset SUNY Geneseo with a buzzer beater 66-64. The team charged the floor and tackled each other to celebrate this unexpected victory. Fast forward to their 63-54 win over SUNY Geneseo in 2019, a simple fist pump would suffice.

“At this point in our program I feel like we should beat them. We’re supposed to beat them. We know what we are capable of,” Jones said.

As the SUNY Brockport women’s basketball team prepares to start their season, Jones has her eye on the bigger picture- creating a winning culture by recruiting high-achieving players.

“We look for that blue collar gym rat; that really hard worker that’s going to get in the gym at 6 a.m.,” Jones said.

Jones believes this year’s team will be stronger and more talented than ever thanks to the relational development they underwent during COVID-19 and the urgency her players feel to get back on the court after a several month layoff. Their conference opener will be at home against Fredonia Tuesday, Nov. 30.

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