Last season was a learning experience for Georgetown. But with five new eligible players this season and only two players with more than one year of experience, there is still no shortage of questions.

“[We’re a] little older but not with as much experience as we need,” Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We’ve got kids who got minutes last year but not as many as we’d like to. You’d like to go eight or nine deep. Right now we’re starting off with four starters returning then building up from there.”

Losing a starter – Katrina Wheeler, a sophomore last year who transferred to Towson over the summer – and graduating a senior, Kate Carlin, who saw significant minutes, leaves Georgetown with very few players who have considerable experience.

Georgetown is not only young, but small. With nine guards on a 13-woman roster, and junior Krystle Hatton and sophomore Jaleesa Butler the only backup options in the low post, Georgetown may face some of the same problems it did last year when bigger opposing players hurt them inside.

Senior center Aminata Diop may be the key that unlocks Georgetown’s inside issues. In her second year of Division-I play after transferring from junior college, Diop will need to pick up fewer fouls than the 81 she picked up in 636 minutes last season when she fouled out of five games.

Williams-Flournoy believes her Senegalese center has made long strides since last year.

“She’s adjusted very well, and we plan to get a lot of minutes and a whole different game from her this year. She came back with an unbelievable confidence. She’ll be a little bit more productive this year.”

Last season, Diop hesitated at times with the ball in her hands and played passively despite her significant size advantage. Despite her timid nature, Diop is capable of playing efficiently, scoring 13 points on just five shots last year against Providence.

While Diop is the question mark that could make a big difference, senior Kieraah Marlow is expected to be the forward Georgetown can rely on game in and game out. Without Wheeler leaping for rebounds and putting away second-chance opportunities, arlow’s role inside the paint is all the more clear.

“Ki is Ki,” Williams-Flournoy says. “She’s athletic, she’s tough, she makes plays for us.”

Williams-Flournoy’s simple assessment could not be more accurate. As Marlow goes, the team goes. Last year, Marlow was Georgetown’s most reliable and productive scorer.

With an assortment of low-post moves, a fadeaway jump shot and a work-in-progress three-pointer, Marlow has created ways to put points on the board for Georgetown. She finished eighth in the Big East in scoring at 16.0 points per game and 15th in field goal percentage at .479.

According to one WNBA scout, Marlow is talented enough to play at the next level but faces a significant challenge as a 5-foot-10 forward.

With a bevy of young guards with different talents, Georgetown will rely heavily on untested players.

Meredith Cox and Shanice Fuller are two guards that did see significant playing time last year, as freshmen. Fuller started every game and was put in the difficult position of running an offense in her first year.

“Shanice had typical freshman mistakes,” Williams-Flournoy told THE HOYA after Fuller’s first start last season, where she did not score a point and had seven turnovers to one assist. “Shanice did not play to her abilities at all.”

Fuller was more composed at the end of last season, cutting down on turnovers and settling into the offense. She took the summer to work on her own offense, something that never got going last year.

“My biggest thing coming in was to lose weight and work on my jump shot because I know a lot of people play me for the drive,” she said. Last year she shot at a .296 clip and was just 5-of-32 from behind the arc.

Cox, on the other hand, is someone Williams-Flournoy wants shooting more often.

“She’s definitely a shooting guard,” Williams-Flournoy said. “Get in there, get ready and knock it down.”

Cox made 33 percent of her three-pointers last year, taking 107 three-pointers and 24 two-point shots.

“I also worked on my shot [this summer], shooting quicker, coming off of screens. [Coach] wants me to be a shooter so that’s really what I worked on,” Cox said.

Williams-Flournoy often said last season that she wished Cox had shot more instead of looking to make the extra pass or hesitating before committing to shoot.

While Cox is expected to score and Fuller to pass, sophomore guard Kenya Kirkland will fill in every other intangible. She saw playing time last season despite not being a real offensive threat.

“You could say her offensive output wasn’t that great,” Williams-Flournoy said, “but she was a kid we just had to have on the floor because she would just make something happen.”

Kirkland dislocated her elbow midseason and regressed afterwards, according to Williams-Flournoy. The fourth-year head coach expects Kirkland to be an energy player, making steals and playing defense, things she excelled at before being injured.

Leading the inexperienced guard corps is senior Kristin Heidloff. The 5-foot-5 Chicagoan was a consistent ball handler last season, making just 60 turnovers in 900 minutes of play. While she shot poorly in some games, she countered 2-for-10 games with games like her 18-point performance in a loss to West Virginia.

Whatever Heidloff’s role on the court may be, she has clearly defined what she must do off of it.

“I think that what we need to do every day, as seniors, is lead the way by how we work and what we do in practice and what we do in the games,” she said. “There’s been a definite change in attitude from last year to this year. Everyone on our team can feel that change and it’s a much more upbeat and positive season.”

Heidloff talks of keeping that positive energy running through arch. To be playing in March, Georgetown will have to do better than 16th in the conference – where they were picked to finish by the league’s coaches -and better than last year’s 13th-place finish.

“I think being ranked last gives our team motivation,” Marlow said. “No one wants to be last.”

Georgetown opens its season tonight at 7 p.m. against the EAC’s Hampton in Hampton, Va.

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