In the annual C-USA preseason coaches’ poll released by the conference office on Wednesday afternoon, two-time reigning C-USA Tournament champion WKU has been tabbed fourth, while 2017-18 regular season champion UAB has been picked as the favorite to win the league.
Coming off a 24-9 season and its fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament over the last six seasons, WKU will be led by first-year head coach Greg Collins in 2018-19, who took over after six years as an assistant and associate head coach under Michelle Clark-Heard. Collins will be faced with the task of replacing two of the program’s all-time great players, Tashia and Ivy Brown, in his first season at the helm.
Despite losing the Browns, WKU returns both the C-USA Freshman and Sixth Player of the Year from a season ago in Raneem Elgedawy and Dee Givens. Elgedawy, in her first season on The Hill, made an instant impact in the post for the Lady Toppers, starting all 33 games and averaging nine points and 7.1 rebounds per game. The Egyptian native totaled five double-doubles, the most by a WKU freshman since Crystal Kelly in 2004-05, and had 23 rebounds in a single game against FIU on Jan. 11, the most boards by any Division I freshman in a game since 2015-16.
After exploding for 20 points in last year’s season-opening upset of then-No. 16 Missouri, Givens settled into her role as WKU’s offensive spark off the bench, averaging 8.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. The redshirt junior was instrumental in conference play, hitting double digits in nine C-USA contests and sporting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.43 across the 16 games. Givens also took her game to a different level against WKU’s five Power 5 opponents in 2017-18, averaging 11.6 points per game in those matchups.
Also back for the Lady Toppers will be point guard Whitney Creech, combo guard Kayla Smith, three-point specialists Sidnee Bopp and Terri Smith and sophomore Sherry Porter, who started 15 games and gained valuable experience in her first season on The Hill.
The Lady Toppers will also have both Alexis Brewer and Arame Niang eligible after the duo sat out the 2017-18 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. They will be joined by graduate transfer Jae’Lisa Allen, who comes to WKU from the University of Virginia, and freshmen Myriah Noodel-Haywood, Kallie Searcy and Meral Abdelgawad. Sandra Skinner, a transfer from VCU, will also be on the roster, but must sit out this season due to transfer rules.
WKU will open its 2018-19 season with an exhibition matchup against West Virginia State at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1, before tipping off against 2018 Final Four participant Louisville in the regular season opener inside E.A. Diddle Arena on Tuesday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m.
2018-19 C-USA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PRESEASON COACHES’ POLL
1. UAB (8)
2. Rice (5)
3. Middle Tennessee (1)
6. Louisiana Tech
7. North Texas
8. Southern Miss
9. Florida Atlantic
11. Old Dominion
2018-19 C-USA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PRESEASON TEAM
Erica Ogwumike, Rice – Preseason Player of the Year
Laia Raventos, Charlotte
Kierra Anthony, Louisiana Tech
Alex Johnson, Middle Tennessee
Terriell Bradley, North Texas
Shonte Hailes, Southern Miss
Deanna Kuzmanic, UAB
Rachael Childress, UAB
– @WKUSports –
Currie P. McFayden
WKU Associate Director of Athletic Communications