Heading into the 2012-13 season his Lady Flames have posted 357 wins against just 114 defeats.
Rowe’s club is gunning for nine consecutive 20-win seasons and they are off to a 4-1 start. No Rowe-coached Lee team has ever lost more than 12 games in one season. In fact, since 2004-05, no Rowe team has lost more than seven times in a year.
“This year’s team has a chance to be really good,” Rowe said. “We want to continue to strive to take our program to that next level. Without a doubt winning the SSAC regular season and tournament will mean an awful lot to our team, but I think just continuing on daily improvements will let this team function at a very high level. That’s what it is all about, peaking in March!”
KEY PLAYERS LOST
The Lady Flames lost two veteran starters from the 2011-12 team. Kally Eldridge (SSAC All-Division) and Angela Spann (honorable mention NAIA All-American) will be hard to replace.
Spann, a talented wing player, scored more than 1,000 points during her career.
Both Eldridge and Spann were defensive standouts. Eldridge ranked No. 4 in the NAIA with 71 steals last year.
Spann averaged 13 points per game and shot 37 percent from 3-point range.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING
The Lady Flames have three players returning who started the majority of the games last season and the top reserve is also back.
NAIA Second-team All-American guard Hollie German established herself as one of the NAIA’s best last season and continues to work on her game daily.
She averaged almost 17 points per game in 2011-12 and has scored 872 points in just two seasons. She was No. 4 in the NAIA in 3-point percentage (.431) and No. 8 in 3-pointers made (78).
Jenna Adams, like most freshmen, was up and down last season.
The 6-foot-2 post player could be a key in helping the Lady Flames make a deep run in post-season play. She was named to the All-SSAC Freshmen team and rejected 34 shots during the 2011-12 campaign.
Senior Brooke Hamby can best be described as a blue-collar worker. She has given Rowe valuable minutes off the bench for two straight years and will not back away from any challenge. Hamby can play any of Lee’s three guard positions.
KEY NEW RECRUITS
Rowe expects three freshmen: Melanie Barker, a 5-foot-11 guard from Sequatchie Country, Caroline Smith, a 5-8 guard from Bradley Central and Christina Johnson, a 5-9 forward from Suwanee, Ga., to move in and challenge for serious playing time.
“We will use Barker everywhere from the point guard position to the four spot,” said Rowe. “She loves to compete and comes from a great basketball family, so we are looking forward to coaching her for the next four years.”
The coach noted that “Johnson is a super athletic, but is also skilled from the perimeter and we feel she fits exactly into the way we play.”
Rowe added he likes Smith’s versatility and notes she’s going to be able to play a couple of different spots for his Lady Flames.
STRENGTHS OF THE CLUB
Rowe points out that depth will be a big key for his club, especially with players he has returning for another year.
“Obviously, we feel like we have one of the best players in the country in Hollie (German), and we have her surrounded with a quality supporting cast,” said Rowe.
The roster shows nine letter winners back from last season, including juniors Rachel Lockhart, Myriah Iles and Karley Miller. Also, senior Julia Zimmerman is a deadly outside shooter. Sophomores Madison Lee and Jordan Neuharth will be redshirted. Lee was injured in preseason workouts and had to undergo knee surgery.
AREAS WHERE THE
TEAM MUST IMPROVE
Rowe says his post players must continue to get better on both ends of the court. “We have players who will have to ultimately assume different roles from last year and that transition will certainly be a key for us.”
TEAMS TO WATCH
IN THE NAIA
With clubs like Union University, Azusa Pacific and Shorter University already departed for the NCAA, Rowe says the competition will still be as rugged as ever. “Westmont (Calif.) and Lubbock Christian (Texas) return the core from last year’s teams and I’d give them the nod, but no one can ever overlook teams like Freed-Hardeman, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho), Vanguard (Calif.), Oklahoma City and several other Mid-South (Ky.) clubs that play at a high level.”
Caleb Hindman worked under Rowe for several years as a student assistant and graduate assistant. He has completed his graduate work and has moved on to Cleveland High where he’s serving as the boys’ junior varsity coach.
Rowe replaced Hindman with former Lady Flames’ standout Angela Spann, while Jan Spangler returns as the top assistant.
“I’m very excited about my staff, he added. “They know what to expect and are excellent teachers of the game, especially when it comes to dealing with our younger group.”