2017 Basketball Preview


ntering the final year in Alumni Gym, both the Elon University men and women’s basketball teams look to be competitive in the Colonial Athletic Association. The men have a 31-game slate, not including the preseason exhibition game on Nov. 1 against Randolph College. The women will have a 29-game list, adding an additional preseason exhibition game against Anderson University on Nov. 5. Head coaches Matt Matheny and Charlotte Smith enter their ninth and seventh years at the helm, respectively, and provided their thoughts on the Phoenix teams and what they hope to accomplish this season.

Men's Basketball

Familiar faces lead Elon men’s basketball

Erik Webb | Sports Director | @ErikWebbElon | November 1, 2017

The Elon University men's basketball team practices in Aulmni Gym prior to the start of its season. [Alec Mandell | ENN]


eginning tonight, the Elon University men’s basketball team begins its 2017-18 season.

The Phoenix finished last season with a 18-14 record, 10-8 in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Head coach Matt Matheny says that his team is in form.

“Preseason is an interesting time because you’re not judged on winning or losing a game,” Matheny said. “You’re evaluating constantly, did you have a good practice or a bad practice or are you getting better. That’s subjective; winning or losing is not subjective. But subjectively, I think we’re doing well.”

For the ninth-year head coach, this team brings something unique to the court.

“The thing that stands out the most is that we’re getting great upperclassmen leadership, and I think we’re getting better,” Matheny said. It’s good to be back out on the court. We’re tweaking some things, but I love our leadership. That’s the thing that I’m most impressed with.”

The team will look fairly similar with all five of its top scorers returning from last year. Junior Tyler Seibring led the Phoenix last year, averaging 14.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. The forward looks ahead to getting back on the court.

“Practice has been going really well,” Seibring said. “We’re bringing a lot of guys back who have a lot of experience, so things are running pretty smoothly, but we’re still working hard every day.”

“I think there is a confidence that our team has because we have so much experience,” Matheny said. “But I think there is also an understanding that this is a brand new year. And as much as we have a lot of guys back, it’s still a brand new team.”

When it comes to returners, Seibring agrees with his coach. But while it makes a difference to have experience, building off of last year will be the key to success.

“It definitely helps,” Seibring said. “We have a foundation set from the years previous. We’re looking to build on that. We have new guys who are going to be able to contribute, and with the experience we’ve had, it’s been easier to build on that and have them integrate pretty easily.”

After falling in the first round of the CAA tournament last year 71-66 to William & Mary, the Phoenix begins this season picked to finish third in the conference. For Matheny, there is one thing that matters most.

“I’m looking forward to today’s practice because the season is long,” Matheny said. “I’ve begun, in the past several years, to really appreciate the process. If we can get better today, then it puts us in a position to be better when the games start. I love today’s opportunity for improvement.”

Coming into his third year, Seibring understands his role on the court and will do what he can to help with the improvement Coach Matheny mentioned.

“Just kind of doing what I have to do to help out,” Seibring said. “It might not be scoring that much this year, who knows. It could be what’s required on a game-to-game basis and it could be what’s in the flow of our team and our offense.”

“We focus on the process of getting better and being the best that we can be,” Matheny said. “That’s why we talk a lot about this year’s team and building this year’s team. We want to be as good as we can be. One thing that I personally am focused on and I think our team has always had a goal on is enjoying it.”

As the season starts, something is in the back of the minds of the players and coaches. This season will be the last basketball season in Alumni Gym before the program moves to the new Schar Center.

Dedicated in 1950, Alumni Gym has hosted Elon basketball for decades. After renovations to upgrade the facility in 2010, the current facility has a capacity of just over 1,600. Elon has sold out Alumni Gym 15 times under Matheny, including a record crowd of 1,876 on Feb. 28, 2015 versus University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

“I think it’s going to be emotional, particularly at the end, because Alumni Gym for years has gotten some positive comments and feelings, but for years has been viewed as less than because it’s small. It’s become an incredibly intimate place for our team, our program and playing here, before the renovations and since the renovations, the relationship this facility allows us to have with our fans is something really special.”

For the men, that last, emotional season will begin tonight in Alumni Gym against Randolph College. Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Women's Basketball

New year, new faces

Erik Webb | Sports Director | @ErikWebbElon | November 1, 2017

The Elon University Women's basketball team makes its final preparations before the start of the 2017-18 season. [Amiah Johnson | ENN]


oming off a Colonial Athletic Association conference title and an appearance in the NCAA tournament, the Elon University women’s basketball program begins a new season in Alumni Gym.

Led by head coach Charlotte Smith in her seventh season with the team, the Phoenix has been practicing to get into form before the first game. According to Smith, preparation has been going at a slow pace.

“I’m comfortable with it because we talked about trying to acclimate the freshmen to our system,” Smith said. “Just taking it slow and moving at a pace where they can get an understanding and be really good at a few things … I feel like it’s going really well and so I’m excited about where we are right now.”

A new season means a new look for the Phoenix. Elon welcomes six freshmen this season. They include guard Ariel Colon, forward Emily Maupin, guard Saadia Munford, guard Ariana Nance, forward Anna Popovic and forward Jaylin Powell. With half the team being newcomers, senior center and team captain Malaya Johnson says she is ready.

“Six freshmen is really a whole lot of new opportunities,” Johnson said. “It’s a time to really step up and lead and lead by example. But they work really hard and are excited, so, honestly, it’s just fresh feet. They’re ready to go.”

“It’s a lot of teaching… a lot of breakdown,” Smith said. “Simplifying the package. You will probably hear me say that quite a bit. That’s something that we try to do...simplify things so that they can master just a few things and be really good at it.”

The Year Ahead

Elon opens play in an exhibition match against the Anderson University Trojans on Nov. 5. The Phoenix will play two home and two away matches before Thanksgiving, before playing a slew of teams from North Carolina the beginning of December.

For Coach Smith, there is one game that she is most excited for.

“The game opener...I’m ready to play,” Smith said. “I think once we get into the season and just that first game will take the monkey off of everyone’s back and you know hopefully we can relax and just flow into the season and play Elon basketball. I’m really excited because we continue to play a great brand of basketball. Exciting, up-tempo … so I think it will be another great year.”

The top scorer from last season was Shay Burnett, named the CAA Preseason Player of the Year. Burnett scored 419 points for the Phoenix, averaging 12.3 per game. She also averaged 7.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists.

Elon returns six players from last year including senior guard Shay Burnett - senior forward Meme Garner, sophomore guard Jada Graves, Johnson, sophomore guard Lexi Mercer and sophomore center Ra’Shika White. Two of the top three Phoenix scorers from last season, Lauren Brown and Jenifer Rhodes, graduated in May. To continue success from last season, Smith says that that the thing they have to do is take it day-by-day.

“Just try to be the best we can be on that given day,” Smith said. “To me, success is just trying to be your best on that given day. In my eyes, I feel like if we develop them to be the best they can be and we compete to our highest potential, whether that leads to a championship … I don’t know. To me that’s success and I feel like our coaching staff is doing a really good job of teaching our freshmen. So we’ll just let the chips fall where they may once the season gets rolling.”

“Expectation are really just come at the season with the same mindset that we did last season,” Johnson said. Johnson also outlined some of the goals the team has for the season.

“As a team, just come at every game with a sense of urgency. We always talk about having fun because when you’re not having fun with it then what are you really doing?”

Smith's Thoughts

The Phoenix’s exhibition game against Anderson University marks the first game of the final season inside Alumni Gym before Elon moves its basketball program to the new Schar Center.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Smith said. “We’re going to play the last game here that will ever be played in Alumni, so I’m projecting that by that point in the season we’re sharp, we’re where we want to be in terms of a team and we’ll put on a good showing to close out Alumni Gym.” The head coach wants to make sure that the team is held to a high regard when it comes to the final season.

“I’ll just talk about excellence and trying to commit to doing everything out here on the court and off the court with excellence,” she said. “Every year we shoot to be championship teams. We’ve done that for seven years in a row. For six years we weren’t champions and that’s our goal every year...it never changes. So, I think in order to be a champion, you’ve got to talk about being a champion. And I’ve talked about being a champion since 2011, and I’ll continue to talk about that.”

The quest to being that champion starts with the game against the Trojans on Nov. 5. Tip off for the Phoenix is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.