In building a successful basketball team, you need players. You need size and speed. You need good shooters and fearless defenders.
But success isn’t only built on talent and athleticism. In order for those qualities to bloom into something special, they need to be developed within the right culture. While there’s no magic formula for creating that culture, it’s been the key component for success at every level of women’s basketball, including the spectacular seasons of Dayton and Erie Community College.
Both have former Big 4 players on their coaching staffs – Shauna Geronzin Green is an assistant at Dayton while Natosha Cummings-Price is the head coach at ECC. And both are enjoying unprecedented levels of winning this season.
For Green, it’s been a refreshing season as she joined Jim Jabir’s staff at Dayton. The former Canisius standout was inducted in January to the college’s athletic Hall of Fame. She is the Griffs’ all-time leading scorer and her 2,012 career points ranks sixth in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference history.
“Because it was in the midst of this season, I think it will hit me later,” Green said of the honor. “It’s very, very humbling. Really, you don’t think about that when you’re playing. You just try to win games and be the best that you can be. I just felt very fortunate and blessed. It was awesome being back. I had a really good time. It was good to go back.”
Green took a day away from Dayton for the Hall of Fame ceremonies, but her head was certainly with the Flyers. The team, which defeated St. Bonaventure in the Atlantic 10 Conference final last season, has been ranked for 15 straight weeks. This week, Dayton achieved its highest ranking in school history, reaching No. 12.
It’s been an amazing ride for Green, who joined the Dayton staff this year after spending five seasons as an assistant at Providence.
“It’s really refreshing to come here,” Green said. “It’s a winning culture. You hear people say that, but it really is. You can feel it. As soon as I got there, you could feel it in the program, the support staff, the community.
“The biggest thing, I think, is the culture that [Jabir] has cultivated. It’s a winning culture and the job he does with what he demands on a daily basis. He’s always preaching how to be great on and off the floor. I think that culture, that’s why they’ve had success the past four or five years.”
Cummings-Price, who played for the University at Buffalo from 1993-95, has made the ECC women’s basketball program relevant. Last year marked the first time the Kats advanced to the National Junior College Tournament. This season, the team went undefeated in the Western New York Athletic Conference and is hosting the Region III Tournament this weekend, with the winner getting an automatic berth into the national field.
The Kats enter Saturday’s 1 p.m. semifinal matchup with a 19-5 overall record. Those 19 wins are the most since ECC won 20 games in 1988-89. With five players back from last year’s national tournament run, this year’s success is no surprise.
Cummings-Price builds her teams on an uptempo style of game. She wants her players to run and fastbreak.
“That’s not something a lot of college teams in Upstate New York do,” she said. “Most of them like to slow the game down and play a halfcourt set.”
But to take success at the regional level and translate that into good showings at the national level meant Cummings-Price had to do a bit of learning herself.
“We couldn’t compare to teams at the national tournament last year,” she said. “They were bigger, they had more depth coming off the bench and for me it was a learning experience. It educated me as to what we needed to have in the near future in order to be competitive at the national level. We need to have height and size and speed and depth.”
And while ECC addressed those needs, there’s something to be said for the experience the returning players enjoyed, one that opened their eyes to the possibilities for their team and for their basketball and academic futures.
“The returning players are more hungry than any team I’ve coached,” Cummings-Price said. “There are so many great players in Western New York but women’s basketball doesn’t get that much exposure. So the players see that the national tournament is an opportunity to be seen not just by coaches in the Northeast but by coaches across the country. They’re hungry for that exposure. They want to win a national championship and they want the opportunity to go on to a four-year school and play for someone else.”
Key players for the Kats include sophomore Charmaine Weaver (Cheektowaga) who was named the Region III Female Athlete of the Week. Weaver is averaging 9.5 points and 7.4 rebounds a game for the Kats. Sophomore Alexis Gray (West Seneca) leads the team with a 13.1 scoring average while freshman Bethany Hall is distributing the ball (3.1 assists per game) while netting 7.2 points.