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HCC women are puzzle in need of assembly

November 02, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

The upcoming season has a Sudoku kind of feel for Hagerstown Community College coach Marlys Palmer.

She has 13 players on the 2006-07 team and she is trying to find a way to number them 1-to-13 on offense and 1-to-13 on defense for the right answer for a successful season.

"It's a big puzzle," said Palmer, who enters her 28th season as HCC's coach. "The key is putting everything together."

Palmer and the Hawks make their first move Saturday at 1 p.m. in a nonconference game with Montgomery-Rockville. HCC seems to have a little bit of everything it needs to make a run in the Maryland JuCo Conference and possibly Region XX.

But the Hawks might have "some assembly required" and Palmer has to follow the directions.

"Wow, we will probably be a fun team to watch," Palmer said. "We have a lot of athleticism and speed and height. We have some of it all. We can shoot, we have speed and we have ball handlers. It's probably one of the most talented groups we have had here since 2002."

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Palmer had been puzzled. HCC started out the decade as one of the better teams in the JuCo Conference, but had leveled off. This year's team was a search to change fortunes and fill specific needs.

"We have been hovering around the sixth and seventh seeds in the JuCo Tournament," Palmer said. "We'd like to get higher in the standings. When we recruited, we said we wanted each player we brought in to bring us something we didn't have - like ball handling, strength or defense. I think we did that.

"We were 18-11 last season and played without a point guard. That's good, but we'd like to do better."

The starting point for HCC is six returning players, a diverse group of talent to build on.

Southern Fulton's Sam Cain is the top returning scorer at 14 points per game. Jamie Robinson (Martinsburg) anchored the swing forward spot while Chrissy Minnick (Williamsport) labored in the paint. Erika Williams (Martinsburg), Sara Davidson (Martinsburg) and Marisa Elliott also added stability.

Each will be called on to give the Hawks something they didn't have last season.

"All six of these girls played significant minutes last season, so they bring us the experience factor," Palmer said. "Sometimes, experience beats athleticism. It's always nice to have sophomores. Last year, we only had two sophomores, but neither one were in the program before. It was like having a full team of freshmen."

The freshman class is coming in to lock all the puzzle pieces together.

HCC picked up Teonna Jewell (Smithsburg) to fill the void at point guard, while Alicia Myers (James Buchanan) adds another scorer.

"I haven't had a true point guard in a while and I appreciate that," Palmer said. "(Jewell) is everything you want in that position."

"Davidson will help, too, because of her sophomore leadership. She's going to be a combo guard for us who could play the 2 or 3 spots. Myers was a 1,000-point scorer at James Buchanan."

HCC brought in size and strength in 6-foot-3 Shuashanna Faulkner (Hedgesville), Latoya Buckner (Martinsburg) and Heather Shaw (Berkeley Springs). Robinson may help if she moves into the power forward slot.

More outside help will come from Sade Williams (South Hagerstown), who can play guard or forward, and Shavaughn McKenney.

With all the options, Palmer finds herself looking for pieces and combinations to make everything work. She admits the Hawks are still a work in progress because some health and administrative hurdles have put them a behind schedule.

But Saturday's game will start it all, ready or not. Palmer isn't promising all the answers to the puzzle, but the first game could provide a few clues.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions on roles," Palmer said. "We are trying to encourage the freshmen along and we need to see people in some trial and error. It remains to be seen how all the talent fits together."

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