Shontae McCall is the South Georgia Tech women's basketball team's top returner from a team that went 29-4 last year.
AMERICUS -- Don't expect to see the Lady Jets near the top of the nation in scoring defense this season.
But that doesn't mean coach Brandan Harrell won't harp defense until he's blue in the face as he always has during his tenure at South Georgia Tech.
WHO: Tallahassee Community College at South Georgia Tech.
WHAT: 2011-12 season opener for the Lady Jets.
WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Darton College.
It's going to be a different style of play at The Hangar this year. The Lady Jets don't have the size of last year, neither the scoring punch of an Ophelia McMath, who left SGTC with numerous single-season and career records.
Harrell said he wont be surprised by a slow start with the inexperience on the team.
"They all had a pretty good October (of practice)," said Harrell, who has led the Lady Jets to the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association championship game in three of the last four years. "We've played good at times, and we've played like a bunch of freshmen at times."
SGTC was 29-4 last season, losing three times to Georgia Perimeter. Post players Naima Garcia and Miriam Seale have gone on to Division I Long Island and Division II Alaska Anchorage, respectively, leaving a big hole in the middle.
Harrell has added seven players to the roster, including freshmen Shanique Holston out of Taylor County and Manon Cherubini from France.
Holston has the ability to score a lot of points, and Cherubini is the team's best 3-point threat.
Harrell said the grind-it-out days of a halfcourt offense are over this year, and that could work to Holston's and Cherubini's advantage. It will also affect the stats for a defense that has been near the top in points allowed and field-goal percentage.
"We're trying to play a little more up-tempo," he said. "Offensively, we're going to look a lot different. It's going to be a spread-type offense. There wont be a lot of back-to-the-basket type stuff. We're going to try to use our quickness to hound people as they come down the floor. There will be more possessions, but we hope to still be near the top in shooting percentage."
SGTC returns five players from last year, including All-Tournament Team performer Shontae McCall, who averaged 11.9 points, 9. 7 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 3.6 steals.
"I think she's starting to mature a little bit," Harrell said. "Her immaturity caught up with us in the tournament with silly fouls. She had to sit a lot of minutes in the championship game. She's a double-double kid, and she can't sit that many minutes. I think her ability to play through some stuff and some mistakes has gotten better. She's not in a position where she has to carry us like (Ophelia) did, but she's got to do her part and play through her mistakes. She has the potential to put up the best numbers, and she'll be the one other teams try to stop first."
The Lady Jets are already down two players as Kadriana Howard is out this semester because of academics, and Arlicia Turner has just returned to practice from a knee injury.
Sophomores Kayla Ritchie, Inna Leja, CaNesha Coley and Anete Erdmane are all expected to play bigger roles this year. But without size in the post, the 5-foot-11 Holston will see plenty of time down low.
"She's a phenomenal athlete," said Harrell. "She's undersized, but she makes up for it athletically. She still plays like a freshman, too; she plays defense like a high school kid. Were trying to get her to grow up fast, and before it's all said and done, she's going to put up some huge numbers."
Central Georgia Tech and Chattahoochee Tech are new to the GCAA this season. Harrell expects the Lady Jets to be in the mix at the top, along with Perimeter and Darton. He said Atlanta Metro and Andrew College could have their best seasons ever, and his team will have a lot to learn by the time conference play begins.
SGTC opens the year at 2 p.m. Saturday against Tallahassee Community College at Darton.
"We're going to take our lumps early because we're having to learn," Harrell said. "We're doing something totally different offensively, and defensively, were doing a lot of the same things, but were extending it a little more. The competition will be so tough early.
"I don't see us just coming out and setting the world on fire the first couple of weeks. We're going to need some time. We'll try to use the lumps to grow a little bit and by the time January and February gets here, hopefully we'll be a little more comfortable in what we're trying to do."