With the departure of Antiesha Brown, New Mexico is in search of leadership.
Brown’s offensive presence led UNM to the longest winning streak in UNM women’s basketball history. In last season’s campaign, Brown led the team in games played, minutes played, points, free throws and free throw percentage.
“You have a leader that’s been here for three years,” head coach Yvonne Sanchez said. “She was a very good basketball player, number one -- but she was a phenomenal leader.”
Sanchez said she doesn’t know who will take over the shooting guard’s place, but she is confident that she will find players to fill the leadership void. Sanchez said she expects big things from her three seniors: guard Bryce Owens, alongside posts Khadijah Shumpert and Alexa Chavez.
“Bryce and Khadijah right now are our captains, but just because Alexa is not a captain doesn’t mean she can’t be a leader,” Sanchez said. “They have to bring leadership in along with experience.”
Shumpert said she is ready to fill the role of captain following last year’s junior campaign. The post took a larger role last season after the departure of Ebony Walker before the start of the 2014-2015 season.
“Without having Antiesha, we’re going to miss her, but a lot of people have been stepping up to the plate,” Shumpert said. “Someone has to fill that role, so why not all of us?”
The Lobos certainly have the weapons to take on the conference this season. Although Brown will certainly be a noticeable absence, the Lobos are returning four starters, three of which are entering their senior years.
UNM also said goodbye to Brea Mitchell and Brooke Allemand, both weapons off of the Lobo bench.
However, to replace the play of Brown, Mitchell and Allemand, New Mexico added two freshman guards to the mix in Jannon Otto and Emily Lines, both of whom have the opportunity to replace Brown at shooter.
The Lobos also reactivated Alex Lapeyrolerie after missing last year’s sophomore campaign, who will add yet another shooter to the mix of potential starters at the three-spot.
“We’re a lot deeper than we have been in years past. We’re a lot more athletic than we have been,” Sanchez said. “We just have basketball players.”
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In just the first two practices of the season, Shumpert said she is seeing a lot of talent out of the new faces, which include two true centers, freshman Jaisa Nunn and redshirt junior transfer Whitney Johnson.
“Just from these last two days, the bar has been set high,” Shumpert said. “We came in at a level ready to compete. I am expecting good things.”
With new faces comes a lot of responsibility from returning players. Shumpert said she has already felt her role increase despite the wake of the season. The captain said the seniors need to set the tone for the rest of the group.
Sanchez said she has felt the intensity during the early phases of practice.
“I don’t have to coach effort. As a coach you never want to have to coach effort,” Sanchez said. “...The group we finally have in, they just really want to be here, they want to play, and they want to win. It’s really a fun group.
Liam Cary-Eaves is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @Liam_CE.