McKeesport, Pa. – Under newly appointed head coach Chrissy French, the Penn State Greater Allegheny women's basketball team look forward to getting started with the 2016-17 regular season.
French comes to the team after leading the Woodland Hills High School Girls Varsity Basketball team for the past two seasons. Along with Coach French comes two new assistant coaches: Charles Shealey and Amy Johns.
"Coach Taylor left us with a strong foundation of both returning student-athletes and eager recruits," said French. Previous player turned into head coach Taylor Fulton led the GA Lions for one season after assisting a season before moving on this year to NCAA Division II University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
Key returning members of the Lion hoop team are junior guard Mandi Johnston (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin), senior guard Jess Manfredi (Pittsburgh, Pa./Serra Catholic), senior guard Tra-Esha Carswell (Homestead, Pa./Steel Valley) and sophomore forward Andrea Burroughs (New Rochelle, N.Y./New Rochelle).
Johnston returns to the team for her third season with the blue-and-white, as the guard is on pace to bucket 1,000 points in her jersey. With two seasons, Johnston has 821 points with 212 assists and 217 rebounds in 46 games played. Not only was she named to the Penn State University Athletic Conference Player of the Week twice last season, Mandi was also named United States Collegiate Athletic Association Player of the Week once and honored as PSUAC First-Team All-Conference.
Carswell is ready for her fourth and final season with GA, as the senior has recorded 278 total points so far alongside 234 boards, 54 steals and 38 assists in 59 games.
Manfredi comes back as team captain for her second and final season with Greater Allegheny. In just one season, Jess has noted 231 points, 114 rebounds, 97 assists and 51 steals in 24 games played. Jess just ended her soccer season in the fall for GA, where she was also team captain. Manfredi earned the USCAA Student-Athlete of the Year award in 2015.
Burroughs returns to the squad as a power forward, as the freshman posted 136 points, 211 boards, 17 steals, 14 blocks and ten assists in her freshman season with the squad.
"These four ladies are major contributors to the overall picture this season," said coach French. "Mandi and Jess were chosen to be team captains this season after an awesome team dinner at Coach Shealey's moms house this past week. We are really looking to these ladies to lead on and off the court with not only the basketball aspect but also and most importantly their academics. We are looking to create the most well-rounded ladies as possible with the time we have together," extended French.
"Two key factors to the Lion freshmen class are freshman guard Ronnie Upsher (Pittsburgh, Pa./McKeesport) and freshman forward Destanie Grayson (Pittsburgh, Pa./Taylor Allderdice). These two ladies were weapons at their respective high schools and I am looking forward to continuing to watch them grow as student-athletes and stride on with their hard-work," said Coach.
Three additional incomers by the way of freshman guard Tess Fukuyama (Honolulu, Hawaii/Lutheran High School of Hawaii), freshman forward Miarei Harris (Pittsburgh, Pa./Brashear and Pittsburgh CAPA) and junior forward Shakeria Carter (Pittsburgh, Pa./Pittsburgh CAPA).
"These three ladies are so special to me and the team because they did not come to school planning on participating in collegiate athletics. These ladies are coming out, working hard and educating themselves on the game we have at hand and I truly commend them for their efforts. We are all a family," continued French. I am very excited about the program ahead and look forward to a hopeful PSUAC play-off berth."
Greater Allegheny has a pair of scrimmages under their belts this season; a 86-71 drop over Butler County Community College and a drop over Geneva.
"The first scrimmages of the season are the best because it shows where we all stand as a team. We all know now that we can shoot and score. We just have to work more on our defensive strategy. The ladies responded well to the conversations proceeding the contests and I am excited to see how it shows on the court. We are all in," concluded French.
For Coach Chrissy, it is a little bit of a change adjusting from the high school tempo up to the collegiate level. "Not much is different from the way of teaching the game, not everyone is on the same page skill wise. The energy is very much the same between the players. The players along with the coaching staff are beyond excited to kick the season off right," ended Coach French.
The Greater Allegheny Lions are set to open up their regular season on Wednesday November 9th against CCAC-Allegheny. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.