After losses in both the postseason and offseason, the Belmont women’s basketball team is deciding to shift their focus towards a new season and a new beginning.
In a year full of unexpected challenges, such as the pandemic and welcoming five freshmen, the team has relied on its leadership and culture to help build towards the 2020 tip-off. The older players on the team are stepping up to make sure everyone is on the same page as the season is just around the corner.
“’I’ve already seen it. We’ve got an incredible group of older players on this roster. And we’ve got leaders in all different forms and fashion,” said Head Coach Bart Brooks.
Players have stepped up in ways that coach Brooks continues to be amazed by every day, he said. That leadership will be necessary if the Bruins hope to redeem last season’s loss to a skilled Southeast Missouri team in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.
He joked that “we might as well have been playing the Lakers that night.”
Brooks gave credit to SEMO for being a great team — but that hasn’t stopped him from dwelling on the loss, he said.
“There was a lot of time to reflect on that loss. And as a coach, you often remember the last game your team played the most. Unless you win the game at the end, you probably remember a loss,” said Brooks.
But headed into this season, Brooks and the team are choosing to focus on the good that came out of last year, as well as what they hope to accomplish now, he said.
In the OVC preseason poll, Belmont is projected to finish second in the conference to the University of Tennessee at Martin, which received 22 first-place votes. This is the first time in four years that Belmont has not been selected as the preseason conference champion.
But for players like junior forward Conley Chinn, preseason polls and rankings don’t dictate the effort that goes into every play for the Bruins.
“We are just focused on playing Belmont basketball. One thing you learn while you’re here is that you compete no matter what,” said Chinn. “Every year we just compete and build our own identity, no matter what.”
And for this season, Chinn is a player to watch. Last season she averaged 26 minutes a game while scoring 8 points per game and shooting 32 percent from three.
Brooks spoke extensively on the importance of Chinn’s energy and effort this season.
“She has been a rock-solid member of our team. She shows up every day, and I wish I could clone her energy and effort, and distribute it to everyone. She just brings it every single day. She is a player that always leads by example,” said Brooks.
Alongside Chinn are senior Madison Treece and junior Jamilyn Kinney. Both are set to be impact players for the Bruins. At 6 feet and 4 inches, Treece has the ability to guard the basket and produce under the bucket. Kinney is the offensive leader and point guard for the Bruins. She serves as Belmont’s sole representative on the All OVC team this preseason. In 2019 she averaged 8.2 points per game and 4.1 assists.
In terms of scheduling, the Bruins put together a four-game non-conference slate. The most notable games out of the four are against Kentucky University and Auburn University. Both of which will be played away from the Curb Event Center on Nov. 29 and Dec. 8.
This season, the OVC has raised the number of conference games from 18 to 20 in order to compensate for season delays and possible cancellations. The additional two games are called “Flex games,” which means the individual teams were given the flexibility of intertwining them into their non-conference schedule period.
Belmont’s conference schedule kicks off on Dec. 30 against the Murray State Racers at the Curb Event Center.
Although the Bruins are heading into an unprecedented season, there is excitement and motivation inside Belmont basketball.
“I’m very excited about our season and how we can come together and play well,” said Chinn.
This article written by Julieann Challacombe and Ian Kayanja. Contributory reporting by Hanley Riggs.