This preseason has brought new experiences for the entire Florida State women’s basketball team.
The loss of all five starters off last year’s team left a gap in leadership and playing time that would need to be filled.
FSU head coach Sue Semrau admitted that she entered preseason concerned about how well FSU’s new leaders would be able to connect with the freshmen being thrust into early action.
So far, it has exceeded her wildest expectations.
“I was fearful that we would have a break, kind of a skip of a beat and that hasn’t happened. We named Kiah Gillespie, Nicki Ekhomu and Nausia Woolfolk team captains and they have stepped up and made it their team, but have made everybody a part of that team,” Semrau said.
“I’ve been so impressed with not only the young players, but how the juniors have really lifted and built up those young players.”
Those three captains made a combined seven starts last season, buried down the depth chart by FSU’s five seniors.
Ekhomu and Woolfolk combined to average 18.7 points and 10.4 assists in reserve roles while Gillespie is in her first year of eligibility at FSU. She sat out last season after transferring from Maryland.
“It has been remarkable to watch them step up and to really take control of the situation that they’re not comfortable with. They’re young, they’re new. There’s only two of them that have ever played any kind of significant minutes with ACC basketball,” Semrau said.
“The three of them together make up a collective unit that we’re looking for a lot in this coming year, but the rest of the team has been tremendous in their supporting roles.”
The leadership roles Ekhomu, Woolfolk and Gillespie have quickly adapted into will be crucial for the Seminoles this season.
The Seminoles signed five highly-touted freshmen this year, many of whom will be asked to take on playing time from day one.
Point guard Izabela Nicoletti was the most highly-rated incoming recruit, but she will be sidelined this season with a knee injury suffered during summer workouts.
The remaining four — forward Valencia Myers and guards Amaya Brown, Kourtney Weber and Morgan Jones — have risen to the call this preseason.
“They have really grown up. They’re a mature group anyways, but I think playing with the older players and giving themselves so much responsibility and expectations, they’ve had to mature really quickly,” FSU sophomore Savannah Wilkinson said.
“They’ve done an amazing job of it. They’re all great players, which was expected anyway, but they have impressed all of us.”
This is a season with slightly different expectations for the Seminoles.
FSU was picked to finish seventh in the ACC by the Blue Ribbon Panel and eighth in the conference by the coaches.
Still, Semrau has liked what she’s seen from all involved this fall.
“I think my coaching staff has done an amazing job to step up and to teach,” Semrau said.
“It’s a team that’s been hungry to learn and a staff that’s been really eager to pour into them.”
The Seminoles participated in a closed scrimmage against another Division-I opponent Sunday and welcome in Flagler College for their sole preseason exhibition inside the Tucker Civic Center Sunday.
Just over a week later, FSU kicks off its regular season on Tuesday, Nov. 6 against Troy at 11 a.m.
Florida State vs. Flagler College
When: Sunday, 2 p.m.
Where: Tucker Civic Center