SU women’s basketball ready to start a new season

SU women’s basketball ready to start a new season

Season Preview: Head coach Felisha Legette-Jack’s roster features both returning players and fresh faces.

Coach Felisha Legette-Jack celebrating during the University of Miami game Sunday afternoon.
Head coach Felisha Legette-Jack, seen here celebrating after a game last season, returns for her second year with the Orange, armed with old and new faces.

November in Central New York brings optimism with the beginning of basketball season. That is certainly the case for Syracuse women’s basketball, which is set to begin its season today, against Lafayette.

The new season marks the return of head coach Felisha Legette-Jack. Legette-Jack led the team to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament and a 20-13 final record in just her first season in charge. The Orange finished 9-9 in ACC play in 2022-23.

With another chance to build on last season’s success, SU was picked to finish ninth in the conference in this season’s preseason poll. Though last season was a step in the right direction, last year’s leading scorer, graduate guard Dyaisha Fair, has higher expectations for 2023-24.

“This year is definitely a comeback season for me,” said Fair. “Last year, we learned a lot … we didn’t know what we didn’t know and now we have the experience under our belt.”

Fair transferred to Syracuse last year from Buffalo, following Legette-Jack. Fair led the ACC in points per game last season, averaging 20 in her first season. The guard shot 40% from the floor, 36% from three, and 82% from the free-throw line. On the defensive end, she led the ACC with 79 steals.

Dyaisha Fair takes a corner three at the start of the scrimmage during the Orange Tipoff event at the JMA Wireless Dome on Oct. 13, 2023.
Dyaisha Fair led Syracuse and the ACC in scoring last season.

For the second consecutive season, Fair was named to the Lieberman Award watch list, which recognizes the top point guard in Division I, and was named to the All-ACC Team. On Sunday, she was named to the Naismith Player of the Year watch list for the award that recognizes the most outstanding player in college basketball.

At the end of the 2022-23 season, Fair entered her name in the WNBA Draft but ended up making the decision to return to college hoops.

“It was me making a decision on it that felt right. You know, your intuition is sometimes what you have to go with. And that’s the decision I decided to make based on that,” said Fair.

Fair said she received a lot of feedback from coaches at the highest level and looks to execute what she’s learned on the court for the Orange one last time.

“I’ve worked on making better reads, making quick decisions with the ball, without the ball defensively, just playing freely,” said Fair. “Quick decisions are everything with being a leader, you can’t be indecisive.”

This “playing free” mantra also means working on her mid-range game and finding more opportunities to finish around the rim, said the veteran.

Fair will be returning with fellow Buffalo transfer, junior guard Georgia Woolley. Last season, Woolley averaged nearly 13 points per game, shooting at about 40% from the field but just 30% from three-point range.

Georgia Woolley answers reporters questions regarding the teams expectations for the upcoming season at the Syracuse women's basketball media day on Oct. 13, 2023, in the Carmelo Center.
Georgia Woolley missed last week’s exhibition and won’t play the opening matchup against Lafayette but is expected to play a big role with SU.

This season, Woolley sees her position on the team a little differently. She is looking to step back and be a role player, relying on her versatility and adaptability. One of her goals for 2023-24 is to become a more consistent shooter.

“I think my goals are really based around the team and where we want to go and really want to be successful in the ACC and have a good preseason,” said Woolley. “We really want to win the ACC Tournament; that’s the ultimate goal that I’m looking at right now.”

Fair and Woolley—the team’s top two scorers from last year—are back. But many of the team’s supplemental players from 2022-23 have moved on. This leaves room for a couple of fresh faces on the squad who are capable of making a real impact this season.

Sophie Burrows, a 6-foot-2 freshman guard is looking to make a splash early.

“Catch and shoot is kind of my bread and butter, but I don’t want that to be my only game style,” said Burrows. “Hopefully I can work on coming off the dribble and getting to the rim.”

Syracuse Orange host The College of Saint Rose during a game an exhibition game at JMA Dome, 31 October, 2023. (NewsHouse Photo by Theoplis Stewart II)
Sophie Burrows shot 6-for-9 from three in SU’s game with Saint Rose.

The Orange also added some size this year after playing relatively small last season with the addition of 6-foot-4 Michigan transfer, graduate center Izabel Varejão.

The Brazilian native has basketball in her blood as her uncle, Anderson Varejão, a former NBA player, taught her much of what she knows. However, in typical uncle fashion, he had to prove his dominance on the court early.

“I was working out with him and he was guarding me. And I did this really nice up-and-under. When I came back, it was too slow; but I was super excited. Like, I did the move, but when I came back he completely blocked my ball,” said Varejão, laughing.

Coming from the Big Ten, a conference in women’s basketball known for having huge forwards and centers, Varejão said she thinks she will have an advantage against ACC bigs.

“I’m used to down low, back to the basket, basketball,” said Varejão. “I’m from Brazil, we play very similar to the Europeans so that’s what I got used to growing up.”

Varejao also considered herself to be an all-around multifaceted center, utilizing skills she learned from Michigan and in Brazilian ball.

“I consider myself a good passer, a good shooter, and I know how to play down low,” said Varejão.

Other freshmen on the roster include 6-foot-5 center Marilena Triantafylli, and 6-foot-2 forward Alyssa Latham.

After an easy win over the College of Saint Rose in the team’s sole exhibition game, the Orange will officially begin their season on Nov. 7 against Lafayette at the JMA Wireless Dome. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.