Wash. U. basketball teams open season on Saturday

| Senior Sports Editor

Washington University’s basketball teams both kick off their 2013-14 seasons on Saturday. Here’s what to expect from these two highly ranked teams:

Women’s basketball

Eric Chalifour | Student Life

Junior Melissa Gilkey dribbles up the floor against Case Western Reserve University on Feb. 3. Gilkey had 14 points and eight rebounds in the Bears’ 58-35 victory.

The Breakdown

Returning their top nine scorers from a squad that advanced to the third round of the 2013 NCAA tournament, the Bears enter this season ranked No. 2 in Division III. The offseason and practices have mostly consisted of growing more accustomed to head coach Nancy Fahey’s system.

“We have far fewer actual plays to memorize, and it’s more reads off of what your teammate is doing,” senior guard Lucy Montgomery said. “So it’s definitely more freedom in chances to take what the defense is giving us rather than running a very rigid system.”

The Bears boast a balanced attack outside of star forward Melissa Gilkey, a junior, but they will look for other players to step up alongside the honorable mention All-American.

Preseason All-American

Melissa Gilkey, junior forward

A second-team Preseason All-America selection, Gilkey led the Bears in scoring (15.4 points per game) and rebounding (7.3 rebounds per game) last year. She has started all 55 games in her first two years playing for Fahey.

Other Key Players:

Maddy Scheppers, junior guard; Jordan Rettig, senior forward; Alyssa Johanson, junior guard

Scheppers brings a well-rounded skill set, having averaged a team-high 2.1 steals per game in 2012-13 while grabbing 5.8 rebounds per game as a guard. Her shooting percentage dipped below 34 percent, so she will be counted on for more efficient scoring this season. Rettig is a rugged rebounder and scoring option while Johanson tied with Scheppers for second on the team in points per game last year at 8.3.

X-Factor:

F Kristin Anda, graduate

A fifth-year player, Anda’s numbers last season saw a slight drop from her limited totals in 2011-12, when she missed all but nine games with an injury, and 2010-11. Still, Anda was a potent rebounder and adept passing forward off the bench, and those will be valuable assets for this year’s Bears.

Opening Game:

Saturday vs. Spalding University, 1 p.m. EDT, Louisville, Ky.

Opening Home Game:

Dec. 6 vs. Augustana College, 7 p.m., Field House

Men’s basketball

Sahil Patel | Student Life

Senior Alan Aboona dribbles up the floor in the second half of the Washington University men’s basketball game against Case Western Reserve University on Feb. 3. Aboona scored 18 points in the Bears’ 78-57 victory.

The Breakdown

The No. 11 Bears are again favored to win the University Athletic Association title, which they have claimed the last two years. However, the Red and Green expect to get past the second round of the NCAA tournament, where they have been halted both of those seasons. The Bears must sort out their backcourt rotation after the losses of guards Ben Hoener (graduated) and Kevin Bischoff (quit team). Junior David Fatoki will back up senior Alan Aboona at point guard, but younger players like sophomore Luke Silverman-Lloyd and freshman Michael Bregman could see minutes.

“More than any other year, we’re very versatile with positions, and everyone can slide in,” Aboona said. “We can go small or we can go big. I think our depth is still there—it’s just our experience isn’t, so we have a bunch of young guys that are going to come in and play.”

Preseason All-American

Chris Klimek, senior forward

A bruising forward, Klimek was the Bears’ leading scorer last season at 15.4 points per game and also pulled down 5.7 rebounds per game. Klimek enters the season as a preseason second-team All-American.

Other Key Players:

Alan Aboona, senior guard; Tim Cooney, senior guard/forward; Matt Palucki, junior forward

Aboona is Wash. U.’s primary ballhandler and scorer from the perimeter. Flashing an improved three-point shot, he dropped 35 points in a conference game last season and led the team with 4.7 assists-per-game. Cooney is a staunch defender and is working on his outside shooting after a down year from beyond the arc. Palucki has double-double potential and will pair with Klimek to form arguably the best big-man combo in the UAA.

X-Factor:

Nick Burt, junior forward

A rotation player in his first two seasons, Burt has the opportunity to make a major impact this year following the graduation of center Rob Burnett. Burt averaged 6.0 points and 3.8 rebounds last season in just fewer than 17 minutes per game. If Burt can maintain the same production with added minutes, the Bears could have an intimidating frontcourt of him, Klimek and Palucki.

Opening Game:

Saturday vs. Rhodes College, 8 p.m., Field House