OCALA--The College of Central Florida women's basketball team tips off the 2016-2017 season tonight against Florida Southwestern State College at Patriot Gym.
CF comes into the season ranked No. 8 in the FCSAA preseason polls. The Lady Patriots graduated seven players from last year's squad, returning only four. Head coach Tommy Jones has a contingent of nine freshman he will look to lead the Lady Patriots to its third-straight state tournament appearance.
"We have a lot of talent coming into this season. We've got some size, some shooting and kids with good IQ," said Jones, who enters his third season at the helm. "Biggest thing is that we are young…being young, they're adjusting to the different pace in game and still trying to put the pieces together.
"They just need experience. There's no replacement for experience."
Former Trinity Catholic standout and Ocala Star Banner Player of the Year Shambria Washington highlights the contingent of freshman. Washington recorded over 1,400 career points, leading the Celtics to three consecutive district titles and back-to-back Elite 8 appearances in 2012 and 2013.
Other freshman to watch include Gianni Ruemmeley and Shakarri Mack, both from Orange Park High School in Jacksonville, Fla., who will play at the two and three spots for the Lady Patriots this season.
Amanda Melosky is the lone, returning starter for CF. Melosky averaged 8.4 points per game a year ago. Returning point guard Kiarah Mallory and guard Fernanda Midaglia will also provide depth and experience to a young Patriot roster.
CF will face their share of challenging games this season, including defending NJCAA national champions Gulf Coast State College, Chipola College and Northwest Florida State College. All three teams are ranked Top 4 in the state and Top 15 in the nation.
"The first part of our schedule won't be easy, but it's going to be great experience for our young squad," said Jones. "It'll help prepare us for conference play."
CF tips off against Florida Southwestern State College, formerly Edison College, tonight at 6 p.m. in its first home game.