Gifford should adjust solidly at Husson

Posted Nov. 18, 2009, at 10:14 p.m.

The arrival of a new point guard can mean an adjustment period for both the incoming player and her team.

Husson University coach Kissy Walker instead expects a relatively smooth transition this season with Amanda Gifford of Lee.

The sophomore transfer from Bates College is among six newcomers who hope to help the Eagles make a run for the North Atlantic Conference title.

Husson, which won 12 straight last season before losing to Castleton State in the NAC championship, is the coaches’ pick to win the league.

Husson features some outstanding building blocks in senior forward Shelby Bradford of Lee, the reigning NAC Player of the Year, and sophomore forward Bree Hanscom of Mattawamkeag, the 2009 NAC Rookie of the Year.

“I think it’s going to be getting them to understand when to run and when to work for a good shot,” Walker said of a key for this team. “We have, I believe, quickness to run the floor; we’ve got good shooters who like to shoot the 3; but we have a strong inside game in our conference.”

Gifford will try to help Husson mesh after the loss of eight players, including three seniors among five regulars.

“I think the biggest thing for me is, at Bates I played more of a two guard, so coming into the season I knew that there were a few things that I needed to work on, (including) leadership on the floor,” Gifford said. “I’ve just been trying to prepare mentally for what that role is.”

Gifford has a comfort level as she is reunited with a former Lee teammate (Bradford) and a one-time AAU teammate (Hanscom). Gifford played in 23 games for the Bobcats and averaged 2.9 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.0 assist.

She has a special chemistry playing with Bradford.

“To grow as people and have matured in the game and then be able to come back together and play is awesome,” Gifford said. “We know our styles of play.”

Walker again expects a challenging first semester. Bradford (17 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 2.6 apg, 2.6 spg), senior forward Lindsay Barnes of Owls Head (2.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg), junior guard Caitlyn Butterfield of Gorham (1.6 ppg, 1.2 apg) and sophomore transfer point guard Amanda Gifford of Lee all were involved in successful fall sports and only Sunday joined the hoop team.

“They’re pretty smart players, so they’ll pick things up quick,” Walker said.

Husson’s other veterans include junior guards Bethany Sevey of Skowhegan (6.5 ppg) Noelle Lincoln of Dixmont (6.3 ppg), both of whom are expected to start, with sophomore guard Marissa Albert of Fort Kent, sophomore forward Katie Kenney of Orrington and senior swing player Alex Huffman.

Freshman guard/forward Erica Lyford of La Grange and first-year guard Kelli Murray of Shawmut have shown promise.

The Eagles also welcome freshman guard Katie Durgin of Levant, freshman swing player Megan Murray of Embden and frosh forward Floreka Malual of Portland.

“This year I think we’ll have different motivation,” Bradford said. “It’s more of a driven team that’s going to want to play hard all the time.”

The Eagles have a grueling nonleague schedule that includes the likes of nationally-regarded Bowdoin, Southern Maine and Kean University, along with Bates, the University of New England and Colby.

“We have a tough first-semester schedule,” Walker said. “It helped us last year because we went undefeated [in 12 NAC games] until that last game.”

Husson opens the season Saturday at Kean.

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