Women’s basketball: Outlaw accepts new role as senior

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Anthony Sambrotto @asambrotto95

Imani Outlaw fully accepted the new role that was handed to her.

As one of only two seniors on the 2016-2017 St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team, Outlaw has to be the leader not only on the court, but off of it as well.

The Bonnies are still trying to cope with the losses of their top three leading scorers from last season, including Katie Healy, the fourth-leading scorer in program history.

Also among the losses was point guard Emily Michael. Although not a dangerous scoring threat, Michael was a coach on the floor and knew where her teammates should be at all times.

That role now belongs to Outlaw.

Outlaw played a limited part in the offense last season, averaging 1.8 points per game and only scoring in 14 of the 31 games she played in. She did, however, contribute in conference games against VCU and Richmond, where she averaged 20 minutes on the floor.

“Imani is going to have a big, big step up in her role,” first-year head coach Jesse Fleming said. “We are going to ask Imani to lead our team as a point guard and we are going to be running more stuff than we have in the past so she has to put people in the right spots. Imani is going to have to be a creator for us and really step up her game. She is just a willing person in practice, and she has to keep going and keep getting better, but I like what I’ve seen so far.”

The Bonnies have five freshmen on the roster this season, and with a team of only 10 eligible players, they are all going to have to step up at some point this season. Fleming said that Outlaw’s attitude has not only helped the freshmen acclimate to Division One basketball, but also to their fellow teammates.

“Imani is such a people connector,” Fleming said. “Everybody loves her. If we had homecoming queen, I think she’d win it. You can go down the line- if you don’t like Imani, there is probably something wrong with you.”

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Outlaw has also been a part of some of the best defenses in St. Bonaventure history. Last year, Bona ranked second in the Atlantic 10 in scoring defense and 28th in the nation. Fleming was part of Bowling Green’s best defensive season in program history, surrendering just 51.9 points per game last year. Fleming knows that the defensive success starts with Outlaw, but the chemistry is still a work in progress.

“Some days are good and some days are bad,” Fleming said. “As far as a team themselves, they definitely have meshed and I think they get along great. They spend time with each other, and they respect each other. We focus on being a connected team and they really have taken that to heart. The basketball stuff, especially with our system and having five players moving constantly and having to read off of each other, having five newcomers that really will take a lot to mesh.”

Outlaw, who has been playing basketball since the third grade, just wants to end her career on a high note.

“I want to go out with a bang,” Outlaw said. “We obviously had a really good season last year and we want to continue that success this year. I would say that I’m the vocal leader. I’m the energy-bringer to practice and games.”

She said that Fleming isn’t a big believer in setting expectations, but as a leader of the team, Outlaw knows that after reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament last season and going 16-0 at home, there are a lot of eyes on the Bonnies.

“We set our own personal goals,” Outlaw said. “Coach isn’t really too big into that, he just wants us to go hard everyday.

“But we have goals. We want to be one of the top teams in the A-10 and we want to get to a postseason tournament. Those are teams goals that we came up with ourselves as players.”

Women’s basketball: Outlaw hopes for a top-three A-10 finish

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

The St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team may have been picked ninth by Atlantic 10 coaches at the conference’s media day last month, but junior guard Imani Outlaw is thinking much bigger.

“We definitely want to be one of the top four teams in the A-10 this year,” Outlaw said.

The Cincinnati, Ohio native’s goal isn’t all that unattainable if the team plays up to its potential. Bona is deep, with 12 scholarship players capable of earning playing time and producing.

To be one of those three at the top of the league heading into March Madness, head coach Jim Crowley will rely on Outlaw to continue her progression. The 5-foot-8 guard played 267 more minutes and 10 more games than she did in her freshman year, scoring 81 more points, grabbing 31 more rebounds and dishing out 21 more assists.

“Imani had a really good summer; she worked really hard,” Crowley said. “We need her to get to the paint (offensively) and we need her to play good ball pressure defense. If we can get those two things, good things are going to happen.

“When she’s ready on catches and attacks, she’s as good as anyone. It’s just being consistent with that, being a playmaker and creating things for herself and her teammates. She has the ability, now it’s just incorporating it every day.”

Outlaw, an elementary education major, had the best offensive game of her career so far at Fordham on Feb. 5, when she scored 14 points on six-of-nine shooting from the floor. Eight of those points, all on jump shots, came in a four-minute stretch where it seemed like she just couldn’t miss, and the performance showed that she was more than just an exceptional driver offensively.

Outlaw said she worked on that jumper a lot during the offseason.

“Over the summer I definitely worked on my 15-footer a lot, and I think I find confidence in my shot when I get to the rim a couple times,” she said. “If I get a couple of drives early, I think it’s more likely that I take that 15-footer and be confident with it.”

In Outlaw’s freshman season in 2013-14, the Bonnies were a borderline NCAA Tournament team, making the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) instead. SBU won the first tournament game against Charlotte before falling at Bowling Green. Overall, the team finished at 24-11, with an 11-5 conference record.

Last season, however, Bona experienced a significant dropoff, finishing at 15-15 and going 5-11 in A-10 play. It was a disappointing year for a program that had made a postseason tournament in five of the previous six seasons.

Outlaw noticed a lack of team unity from 2014 to 2015, which she acknowledged the team needs to focus on this season.

“(Our focus is) definitely playing together,” she said. “My sophomore year we didn’t do as well because we all went our individual ways. We did so well my freshman year because we all played for each other and together and I think that’s why we were so successful.”

One way college teams work togetherness as a group is staying on campus for most of the summer, training and taking classes. Outlaw felt that this summer’s sessions helped the Bonnies as a unit.

“We get to work with our coaches over the summer and it really helps our team chemistry and bonding,” she said. “We’re the only ones on campus, so we only spend time with each other and we really get close over the summer.

In addition to working on her jumper a lot in the offseason, Outlaw knows her defense is a main priority.

“Individually, I definitely want to be a better defender,” she said. I want people to be scared to come against me; I don’t want anyone to get in the paint.

“I want to get lots of stops defensively because I know that will help our team.”

Outlaw, Bona women put losing streak in rearview mirror

(Image courtesy of St. Bonaventure athletics)

By Katie Faulkner

Did the seven-game losing streak crush the confidence of the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team, or was it a mere stumbling block?

Sophomore guard Imani Outlaw said the losing streak was unexpected. The Atlantic 10 website had previously announced that the team was predicted to finish fourth in the conference this season.

Outlaw acknowledges the lack of consistent effort during the 40 minutes of play as the main reason for dropping seven straight.

“We would have three or four minute droughts where we would play awful,” said the Cincinnati native.  “I think if we can just eliminate those droughts we will be better off.”

Any losing streak would surely bring feelings of defeat, but the only solution can be found in the gym.

Individually, the 5’8 Outlaw focused on establishing a better pace to help set the tone early and reduce the amount of turnovers, which is currently at 16 per game as a team.

As a guard known for her physicality around the rim, her mindset to constantly attack the basket was now anticipated throughout the league.

“I’ve worked on my mid-range shot because everyone in the conference knows ’22’ is a driver, so sometimes my drives aren’t there.  If I can hit a 15-footer here or there, they’ll have to respect it.”

Outlaw becoming a dual threat on the floor will ultimately force opponents to close out on her, opening things up underneath for the dominant Katie Healy.

Outlaw believes that incorporating a more team-driven mentality will help the team begin to focus on togetherness and unity, a key element they have been lacking.

“As a team we just focused on playing together and playing for one another,” Outlaw said.

With an A-10 record of 2-7, Outlaw’s attitude seemed optimistic. Then again, when doesn’t it?

“I don’t really look at standings or stats. The season is very long and we still have a lot to go,” she said.

The women are set to take on the 15-7 Fordham Rams tomorrow night. Bonaventure fell to Fordham in the semi-finals of the A-10 tournament in the 2013-2014 season.

Outlaw stressed the importance of mental toughness one last time, then sprang from the couch, hurled her backpack over her shoulder and hurried off to practice.

The season isn’t over quite yet.