The most glaring difference between basketball and a sport such as boxing is that basketball is a team sport. You need five players on the basketball court to truly compete. Last season, the Queens College women’s basketball team struggled in large part due to this fundamental root of the sport. Throughout most of the season, in which they finished 4-21, they only had a player or two on the bench to rotate in with the starters due to various injuries. As you could imagine, it was difficult to compete in the East Coast Conference if you could barely send out a roster come tip-off. Knights Head Coach Elizabeth “Bet” Naumovski knows this.
“The biggest challenge last season was rebuilding our roster after the program took a hiatus during COVID-19. We did not have a full roster and that posed a number of issues. After having almost two years off due to COVID-19, we were not physically sharp and that led to a number of injuries,” Coach Naumovski stated. “Those injuries led us to play shorthanded for most of the season with only six to seven players dressed. In addition, we relied heavily on freshmen who were new to the intensity of college basketball.”
Last season, Coach Naumovski had to completely rebuild their roster after retaining only one player from the last time the team suited up back in 2019-20. This year it’s not as bad, though a majority of the team are newcomers, as they outnumber the returners eight to six.
See the list below for a quick bio on all the new faces:
- Freshman Brianna Davis (Bronx, NY), Guard, 5′ 8″: Davis was an 1,000 point scorer at Cardinal Spellman High School, earning CHSAA All-League Varsity Basketball Tier 2 her senior year. Davis won the CHSAA State Basketball Championship Class “A” back in 2019.
- Freshman Graciella Gardner (Newark Valley, NY), Center, 6′ 1″: Gardner was an All-State Honorable Mention and was selected to the IAC Second-Team her senior year. Her Newark Valley High School Hawks Cardinals made it all the way to the NYSPHSAA Class “C” Girls Basketball State Championship where Gardner recorded 13 points and eight rebounds.
- Freshman Gianna Henriques (Bronx, NY), Center, 6’4″: Henriques was a three year varsity player for the Harry S. Truman High School Mustangs and led the PSAL in rebounds her senior year.
- Freshman Cecilia Lapertosa (Whitesboro, NY), Forward, 6’1″: Lapertosa was a force for the Whitesboro High School Warriors, earning three awards her senior year: All-State Honorable Mention, All-Tri-Valley League First Team, and All-Mohawk Valley First Team.
- Freshman Madelyn McMath (Carmel, NY), 6′ 0″: McMath earned All-League and All-Conference honors with the Carmel High School Rams her senior year. She was a four-sport athlete for the Rams as she also played volleyball, track and field, and cross country.
- Freshman Oyinkansola Oke (Staten Island, NY), 5′ 9″: Oke is a transfer from SUNY Cortland. She was named a Certified Forward Pass Student-Athlete Scholar and was a three-year varsity player at Curtis High School.
- Junior Kendra McPeek (Binghamton, NY), Forward, 6’1″: McPeek is a transfer from the California University (PA) where she played for the the Vulcans for two years. She also played four years of varsity basketball at the fabled Montverde Academy alongside her sister Lauren.
- Graduate Student Raven Pitt (Valley Stream, NY), Guard, 5′ 6″: Pitt is a transfer from Wagner College (a member of the Division I Northeast Conference) where she earned NEC Winter Academic Honor Roll all four years. She is the older sister of sophomore Farah Pitt on the team.
With so many new players on the team, it’s always a challenge to install the program’s basketball beliefs while also teaching the core values of the program. However, the Knights have simple — but extremely important — principles that Coach Naumovski holds the team accountable to upkeep.
“On a day-to-day basis the expectation is to come to practice ready to learn, work, be a good teammate and control our attitude, effort and actions,” Coach Naumovski said. “We believe that we should be in the top tier of the ECC this year, so the goal is simply to improve as a team. We need to stay connected, build our on-court chemistry and fundamentally, improve our execution.”
Luckily for the Knights, they return a solid group from the previous campaign. Senior Khadija Demry had the most total points last season (261), and scored 18+ in four games. Demry was named to the ECC Weekly Honor Roll Sheet twice. She was trailed in total points by sophomore Jennah DeGout, who was a force to be reckoned with in the middle. DeGout averaged 10.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, and just over one block per game. Her 22 rebound performance on February 5th last season was the third most boards grabbed in a single game in Knights history. She also swatted six shots that night, the fourth most in a single game in Knights history. She was named ECC Player of the Week two times and the ECC Defensive Player of the Week once.
Last year’s Outstanding Freshman/Rookie award recipient, sophomore Chelsea Reeves, was given All-ECC Third-Team honors as a freshman. Reeves averaged 10.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and led the team in total assists (71). She had seven 10+ rebounds performances to go along with three 20+ outings. Coach Naumovski stated Reeves is the team’s most consistent player and has made strides this offseason with her defensive presence and three-point shot. One returner that already has a solidified three-point shot that has a green-light from behind the arc is sophomore Aalia Carlson. She shot around 41 percent from deep last season, trailing only MVP Nora Gabel (who transferred to ECC rival Molloy University) in made threes. Carlson averaged 10.4 points per game and was the best free-throw shooter percentage-wise on the team at 85 percent.
The last two players rounding out the returners are sophomores Farah Pitt and Tayanee Peay. Pitt was a defensive stopper last season, recording a team high 41 steals. She trails only Christine Harnischfeger (2008-11) and the legendary Madison Rowland (2013-17) in single-game steals performances, as Pitt poked seven basketballs out of the Spartans’ hands on January 8th last season. Making her return after last playing in the 2019-20 season, Peay was an all-around player for the Knights, averaging 7.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and one steal per game in 2019-20. She scored double digits seven times that season.
With the Knights coming in seventh in the ECC Preseason Poll, expectations around the conference are low for the team. However, those inside Fitzgerald Gym have a differing opinion. “I’m excited to be back at full strength this year. I believe we have depth in every position and I’m looking forward to seeing what type of run we can make this year,” Coach Naumovski proclaimed. “We have multiple players who can score in multiple ways. We play a fast-paced game that spectators will enjoy and the team has high expectations.”
The Knights kick off the 2022-23 season on the road tonight against the Chestnut Hill College Griffins at 5pm EST as part of the ECC/CACC Conference Challenge. The livestream can be found here.
- Check the Queens College Athletics website for home spectator policies.
- All home games will be live streamed on the ECC Network.
- Click here to look at the 2022-23 schedule.
- Click here to look at the 2021-22 statistic leaders.
All photos reproduced courtesy of the Queens College Athletics department and The Knight News photographer Edwin Di Geronimo Hernandez.