By DANNY P. SMITH
It could be difficult to identify the entire starting lineup for the Mississippi State women's basketball team this season without the use of a scorecard.
There's a possibility that one or two freshmen may play significant roles or even start for Lady Bulldogs with others newcomers getting time in their first seasons.
Mississippi State women's basketball coach Sharon Fanning-Otis likes the way the young players are catching on to the system.
"They have a good basketball IQ, ask good questions, have a feel for the game and are good athletes," Fanning-Otis said at Tuesday's media day. "They are players who can make something happen on the floor."
The freshmen that have caught the eye of Fanning-Otis are Martha Alwal, Kendra Grant, Jerica James, Shamia Robinson and redshirt Carnecia Williams.
Even though those players are young, Fanning-Otis said they already seem to know how to penetrate in the lane and find the open person, grab a rebound, take it to a second gear and can change speeds.
"They are really responding to us and that's why they are in the rotation," Fanning-Otis said.
Robinson, who played at nearby West Oktibbeha High School in Maben and is a two-time Starkville Daily News Girls Player of the Year, is recovering from offseason knee surgery and said she's about 80 percent.
She has been impressed with the way the freshman class has bought into the system with the Lady Bulldogs.
"The freshmen have come in and fit right into things," Robinson said, who has only been able to practice for about a week. "We seem to have a better team and during practice, we see so many things change. We seem dedicated and really want it."
Robinson averaged 18.9 points per game as a senior and 18.8 points per outing as a junior with the Lady Timberwolves.
Fanning-Otis believes she can bring that same production to MSU.
"Shamia is a very explosive player and adds a lot coming back from the surgery she had, but athletically, she makes a difference when she is on the floor and can make a lot of things happen," Fanning-Otis said.
Fanning-Otis said there's a good chance that Grant and Alwal could find their way into the starting lineup.
When it comes to Grant, Fanning-Otis went as far to say that "she's a player who can really develop into a special player at Mississippi State."
As far as why Fanning-Otis thinks that way, Grant accepts teaching and coaching well.
Fanning-Otis lists Grant's strengths as shooting the 3-point field goal, driving to the rim left or right, finishing at the rim left or right, using passing skills and her understanding of passing angles.
The Lady Bulldogs were picked to finish 11th in the Southeastern Conference race this season.
With question marks still existing for her squad, Fanning-Otis hopes it will accept the challenge to be better than any preseason prediction.
"Whatever it is, let's go with it and be the best we can be," Fanning-Otis said. "Every year you want to compete for a championship so that's where we leave it."