By Pete Nakos
OhioBobcats.com Feature Writer
ATHENS, Ohio - As practice started for womenâs basketball at the Convocation Center on Nov. 9, fourth year coach Bob Boldon was walking around the court coaching his players on the sidelines and stopping practice to discuss rebounding and passing.
He has a lot he wants to work on, but he will be taking it on with some change he hasn't faced in recent years.
It will be the first season Boldon will be without guard Mariah Harris, forward Lexie Baldwin and star shooting guard Kiyanna Black.
With these three players he did the unthinkable, he took the Bobcats back to the NCAA Tournament and won the Mid-American Conference tournament for the first time since 1985-86 in just his second season.
The next season Ohio won the regular season MAC title and earned a berth in the WNIT. Ohio earned its first ever post season victories during their WNIT run, defeating Marshall 76-68 in round one and Virginia Tech 64-57 in round two until eventually losing to Temple in the Round of Sixteen.
Now, without the three pillars he used to rebuild the program, he will look to continue winning without them.
Ohio returns 11 players from last yearâs squad and adds two freshmen to the roster, guard Amani Burke and guard Mecheâla Cobb. Along with two new freshmen, Taylor Agler will return to the hardwood for the first time in over a year after sitting out last year due to a transfer redshirt.
Burke is the sister Trey Burke, who currently plays for the Washington Wizards. Like her brother, who is known for his prowess behind the 3-point line, Burke will hopefully grow into the go-to person for Ohio, a skill that Black had.
Agler, who transferred from Indiana after her sophomore year, will be a redshirt junior. With the Hoosiers, she played and started in all 34 games her freshman year, averaging 7.8 points per game and was second on the team in assets with 65.
âI tell my friends and my parents how excited I am to finally play everyday,â Agler said. âIt was a long 20 months, but Iâm just really excited to get back on the floor. I think my first game will be an adrenaline rush because I haven't been out there so long.â
The Bobcats also have Quiera Lampkins, the reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year, as she came down with 115 defensive rebounds and 72 steals. She averaged 14.8 points per game and led the team with 124 assists.
She was also named to the Second Team All-MAC and All-MAC Defensive Team.
âLong offseason, just not being able to play a game,â Lampkins said. âJust going up and down has been a process. Just rebuilding the team, we lost a couple of great players from last year, so everyone is just trying to find their roles. Itâs been long, but itâs been fun.â
âIâm really just ready to get out there and play. To get out there and where the Ohio logo and represent the university in the best way that I can. As a team, I think we need to work on chemistry and getting to know each other on the court and learn, and know, and want to do.â
Ohioâs 2016-17 season will begin on Sunday, Nov. 13 at High Point, with the first regular home game scheduled for Nov. 18 against Tennessee-Martin.
MAC play starts Jan. 4 against Buffalo at home.
In an exhibition game between Thomas More on Nov. 5, Ohio won 87-50. Senior forward Jasmine Weatherspoon dished out a double-doubleâ 21 points and 12 rebounds. Her hopes; to put up a double-double at least every game.
The Bobcats will take on a Panthers team that only lost one senior and lost in the quarterfinals of the Big South Conference Tournament.
âWinning,â Boldon said about the challenge this yearâs team faces. âDealing with the expectations of winning. Having a senior class that has tasted the postseason and the NCAA Tournament and trying to figure out how to get back there.â