Freshmen playing key role early on to Eastern’s success

JJ Bullock, Women's Basketball Reporter

In just the first month of play, the Eastern women’s basketball team has eclipsed their entire win total from last season, and much of the credit for that can be handed to the strong play of the freshman class.

With two in the starting lineup and two playing key roles off the bench, the freshmen on Eastern coach Debbie Black’s squad have earned their keep.

“To tell you the truth they have all been doing a great job. I mean they have all earned it because I certainly tried other people,” Black said. “They’re (the freshman) not afraid. They want to win, they bring winning attitudes to this team and I think that’s the big thing.”

The decision to put two freshmen in the starting lineup is not typically an easy one, but Black knew early on it was the right call.

“(In the preseason), my best lineup was when Allison (Van Dyke) and Jen (Nehls) were on the wing,” she said. “I probably knew midway through preseason (that Van Dyke and Nehls would start), but I let it ride, I started other people in the exhibition games, but these two came to the top.”

Headlining the newcomers for Eastern, Van Dyke, was just awarded her second-straight Ohio Valley Conference freshman of the week honor. Van Dyke is second on the team in points-per-game (12), and is the only freshman in the top-30 leaderboard in the conference for scoring.

“She is uncanny,” Black said of Van Dyke. “Probably her best asset, which most people don’t know, is the fact that she has a basketball IQ that’s hard to teach. You can coach your butt off, but when you have kids that know how to play the game that really helps.”

Van Dyke’s size at the guard position brings an element to the court that Black has been hunting for sometime. 

“She brings a level of confidence to us, and its kind of what I’ve been missing in a guard,” Black said. “I’ve wanted, I told my staff, a guard that’s big and that can play. She is a 5’11” guard, that’s really made an impact for this team.”

Although it is just her first month playing in the NCAA, Van Dyke has not missed a beat in shouldering her offensive responsibilities, something she became used to at the high school level.

“I’ve sort of always had that on every team I have been on, so it doesn’t really feel like anything different for me,” she said. “I am just trying to help out in anyway I can.” 

Along with Van Dyke, freshman Jennifer Nehls has made strides in the starting lineup, doing extra work after practice to improve her ball handling, playing both the guard and the forward position for Black.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]