By: Steve Boltri – Staff Writer
This fall has been a period of change and newness for UD’s women’s basketball program. Long-time head coach Jim Jabir stepped down after 13 seasons as the winningest coach in the modern era of the program with a record of 252-155, along with six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances between 2010 and 2015.
With Jabir’s style and philosophy ingrained in the women’s basketball program for so long, it was vital to find a new coach that would be able build on the foundation that Jabir laid for the program.
The choice of coach was Shauna Green, former recruiting coordinator for UD women’s basketball, who spent last season as an assistant coach at Northwestern University. Along with a new fast-paced style, Green brought with her to Dayton a few new players who have potential to be a huge part of the team’s success.
Two of these players are Alex Harris, a redshirt junior who transferred from Penn State University, and Jayla Scaife, a true freshman.
Harris has appeared in all seven games so far this season, averaging 24.1 minutes and 7.3 points per game, and is leading the team in rebounds with 8.1 per game.
Harris decided to make the switch to UD from Penn State for a number of different reasons. She said, “I’m from near Cleveland Ohio so it’s a lot closer to home. And I love the program and the family atmosphere.” She also commented on how meeting a couple members of the team was influential in her decision to transfer from Penn State.
Comparing Dayton to Penn State, Harris said, “[UD] is a lot more close-knit, the classes are a lot smaller, and the team is just a lot closer.” As far as playing style goes, Harris said, “The playing style isn’t that much different here [than at Penn State]. It’s still fast-paced. The A10 is a little bit less physical than the Big 10…but the playing style is still aggressive.”
Green commented on Harris and her contribution to the team as well as possible areas for improvement. “Alex has been huge. She still has a lot of areas that we’re focusing on and trying to work with her to improve [on]. But even from this past week, to tonight, some of the stuff she worked on…she made some big strides so that was great to see,” Green said after Friday’s win over Morgan State in which Harris grabbed 11 rebounds. “ I love her energy. I love her toughness…So we need her to continue to improve and make strides, because she still has a lot of potential left.”
Despite not having started a game yet this season and only having appeared in five of seven games so far, Scaife is averaging 21.4 minutes in the games in which she has appeared, as well as 10.4 points and 1.6 assists, which are second and third on the team, respectively.
Scaife came to Dayton for reasons similar to those of Harris. “[I came to UD because] it has a family atmosphere; not just between the team but all throughout campus. Similarly to Harris, Scaife commented on the fast-paced style of play that Coach Green advocates for the team. “The transition, in terms of basketball, from high school to college is a lot faster in pace.”
The fastness of pace hasn’t seemed to be an issue yet for Scaife this season and she has even set a lofty but achievable goal for herself for the year. “My personal goal for this year is to be A10 Rookie of the Year,” she said. As her playing time continues to increase and her play itself continues to improve, Scaife will hope to turn her goal into reality.
As individuals, Harris and Scaife are both incredibly talented players. Harris is taller and stronger than Scaife and plays down low as a forward or center, while Scaife is smaller and quicker and plays around the perimeter as a guard. As the season progresses and Harris and Scaife grow more comfortable with Green’s style of play, and as they gain more chemistry with each other, they have potential to be a very dangerous duo.
The Flyers currently have a 3-5 record with one A10 game under their belts, Sunday’s loss to La Salle. In 2015, the Flyers made a run to the elite 8 after starting the season 2-3. A similar scenario could be in place this season, but will likely be reliant, in part, on the continued contributions of Harris and Scaife.