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Lady Titans set for giant leap

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

ALBANY -- Baby steps?

That's child's play.

The Albany Technical College women's basketball team has bigger strides in mind for its second season as a program.

"First thing's first, we have to win the conference. That's our biggest goal for the season, short-term (anyway). Our long-term goal is to make it to the national championship," said head coach Kenneth Williams, whose team went 11-15 last year in its first season of existence. "I think we're really going to be improved this year,"

They're the Lady Titans after all, so it's only fitting Williams & Co. are having giant thoughts.

And why not?

They have plenty of reasons to be optimistic heading into their season-opener today against Central Georgia Tech at 5:30 p.m. at Albany State's HPER Gym.

"I think we're going to be a whole lot better than we were last year," said Williams, who was an assistant coach for the men's team before taking over for the women. "We have our defense concepts down. We (also) have some players coming in that I think are going to help a lot.

"We have Monshay Thomas as well as Shayla Jester -- both of them played at Darton -- so I think they're going to provide a whole lot of help off the bench."

They also have returning starters Ann Wilcher, Quanesha Smith and Jasmine Thomas. Those three alone are enough reason to be confident, as Wilcher led the league in rebounding and blocked shots -- she averaged a double-double in points and rebounds -- while Thomas finished in the top three in blocks.

"They've been in the system for a year, so I look for them to actually provide a whole lot of leadership," Williams said. "And they know the offense, so I think they're going to help out a lot this year."

Add newcomer Brittany Thornton -- also from Darton -- and Chicago-native Bianca Fenwick, and it's easy to see why Williams thinks he has a contender-in-the-making on his hands, despite the team's lackluster preseason.

"We'll be totally better from last year. We've progressed (a lot)," said Smith, the team's starting small forward. "(We just have to) work hard, (play with) a lot of energy and try to keep the team (playing with confidence)."

And the team's secret weapon? That'd be Monshay Thomas.

"She was actually player of the year for our conference her freshman year (at Darton)," Williams said. "She sat out last year and she's back this year, so hopefully she can get back into form, (since) she hasn't played in a year. It's going to take a while to (do that), but she's a really good player."

Williams said she, along with Deja Cooper -- a talented athlete who hasn't played in two years -- will try to get back on track today.

"We really want to work on our defense a whole lot. We want our offense to feed off our defense," Williams said. "When we play good defense and get stops and get deflections, the offense is going to come. So basically we're going to concentrate on our man-to-man defense and getting in the right spot and just get out of there (with a win)."