Women’s Basketball: Season in Review 2017-2018

FAU Women’s Basketball went from winless to Conference USA contenders in just one season under first-year head coach Jim Jabir.


FAU women’s basketball head coach Jim Jabir talks next tactics with his players during a media timeout in his team’s 79-67 win over Lynn University on Nov. 4. Alexander Rodriguez | Staff Photographer

First-year head coach Jim Jabir led FAU Women’s Basketball to the biggest win/loss turnaround in Conference USA this season.

After going winless in conference play last season, the Owls rallied to win seven C-USA games this season, earning them a seven seed in the 2018 C-USA Tournament. Jabir credited the culture change to his coaching staff and players’ willingness to be held accountable both on and off the court.

“Everyone did a good job of adjusting to whatever we asked them to do because I do not think it was very easy for any of them.” Jabir said. “We set a foundation, an expectation–but I think no one is satisfied and we know that there is quite a bit more work to do.”

FAU can attribute last season’s success to its aggressive work on the glass and prolific offense; the Owls led C-USA in rebounding at 42.3 boards a game, and was third in scoring at 70 points per game.

Jabir said team rebounding was something he stressed heavily in his first season, and he was satisfied with how his players crashed the boards. Jabir said rebounding is vital to controlling the flow of the game, as the more possessions a team has offensively– the more opportunities they have to score the basketball.

“It was a whole team effort,” Jabir said. “They really got after it.”

Senior guard/forward Sasha Cedeño’s dominant play in all three facets of the game (offense, defense, and rebounding) was vital to the Owls resurgent 2017-2018 season.

Cedeño was C-USA’s fifth leading scorer at 17.2 points per game, and became the eighth player in FAU history to score 1,000 career points. Cedeño’s efforts were recognized with a second team All-Conference honor.

“I think (Cedeño) is the most talented kid I have ever coached.” Jabir said.

Along with her scoring, Cedeño led the team in rebounding (Eight per game), steals (34) and blocks (21).

FAU went through major up-and-down stretches, going on both a four-game win streak and six-game losing streak over the course of the season. Jabir said the losing streak did not stem from inconsistency, but rather from his team playing challenging opponents.

“It is learning how to win, it is learning how to play throughout, it is about rising to the level of the people you are playing against.” Jabir said.

When Cedeño went down with a foot injury late in the year, Jabir had to make major changes to his offensive strategy and his team did not back down from the challenge. FAU refused to let its star player’s injury ruin their season, as the Owls picked up hard-fought wins in Cedeño’s absence before eventually falling to UTSA in the first round of the C-USA Tournament.

“I was proud of the team for handling that adversity when it came.” Jabir said.

FAU’s offense was stabilized by its dynamic backcourt: redshirt junior Danneal Ford and senior Malia Kency. The duo was excellent at dishing out assists last season, with Ford ranking fourth in C-USA with 4.8 per game, and Kency ranking 11th with 3.2 a game.

Jabir said the versatility of his backcourt was a big factor in the team’s offensive success. Jabir challenged his guards to come out of their comfort zones by converting Kency to shooting guard and Ford to point guard.

Ford and Kency primarily played shooting guard and point guard respectively before Jabir’s arrival.

Ford and Kency were efficient with their touches as well, ranking sixth (1.7) and 12th (1.3) respectively in C-USA assist-to-turnover ratio.

FAU spread the scoring load effectively last season–having four double-digit scorers in Cedeño (17.2), Kency (10.3), Ford (13.3) and redshirt freshman Tyana Robinson (11.5).

Redshirt senior forward Raven Doyle brought reliability and toughness to the Owls front court. Doyle was second on the team in rebounding (7.1), and her 45 percent shooting from the field was behind only senior Melinda Myers’ 48.8 percent.

Doyle’s steadiness, leadership and willingness to adapt to whatever role the team needed her to play was something that Jabir treasured last season.

“(Doyle) was a joy to coach,” Jabir said. “I really enjoyed working with Raven, I am going to miss her.”

Redshirt junior forward Ra’Kyra Gabriel’s new-found shooting touch and hard work on the glass provided versatility to the FAU lineup. Gabriel led the team in three-point percentage, shooting 42.9 percent from deep.

Gabriel was also third on the team in rebounding, pulling down 6.5 boards a game.

Jabir said one of his philosophies as a coach is having frontcourt players that can stretch the floor with their outside shooting, and looks forward to seeing Gabriel continue to improve her stroke from deep.

“(Gabriel) is very skilled and she can do a lot of things.” Jabir said.

Jabir said while he is proud of his team’s efforts last season, his expectations for the program reach much higher than just a C-USA Tournament appearance.

“I want (FAU Women’s Basketball) to be dominating, I want to win championships, I want to attack people on both ends of the floor and I want to make our opponents feel really uncomfortable,” he said.

Wajih AlBaroudi is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet @WajihAlBaroudi.