Campus News · Sports

Women’s basketball ranked 18th in preseason polls

Sophomore forward Jelesa Gross drives into the lane during Butler’s Region XI finals game against Seward County. Butler defeated Seward to win their first ever Region XI crown. Photo by Matthew Will

Raymond Hoare
Student Sports Media

The Butler Grizzlies women’s basketball team shocked everyone as they fought their way to win the Region XI title for the first time in school history and made their second appearance in the NJCAA tournament. Despite losing in the first round in Lubbock, Texas, they ended the season with an outstanding 28-5 record. The Grizzlies are currently riding a 20-home game winning streak dating back to 2018.

There were a lot of off-season changes for the upcoming 2019-20 season. The Grizzlies hired two new assistant coaches, Hannah Mortimer and Ali Bettencourt.

“It’s good to have my first year here with a high-level staff and high-level type of players,” Mortimer said. “I’m excited to see what the girls can do this season, and I know they work hard every day. [I] can’t wait to see their hard work pay off on the court.”

Mortimer is a Kansas native and a former Harlem Globetrotter. She was the 17th female to join the Globetrotters.

Bettencourt is a California native and has Butler tie-ins as her older sister Carly Bettencourt played in the 2012-13 season.

Assistant Coach Abby Fawcett enters her seventh season with the Butler Grizzlies alongside Head Coach Mike Helmer, who enters his 11th season with the Grizzlies.

There are new faces for the Grizzlies team as there are eight new players added to the roster.

“It’s going to be a little different,” Helmer said. “Last year’s team was physical (and) strong; this team right now is not near as physically strong as last year’s team but is more skilled. We got some kids who are pretty high IQ basketball wise. We are going to look different probably not quite as quick, not as fast, but this should be the best shooting team we ever had in my 12 years.”

Sophomore guards Camille Downs and Jaelynn McLaurian and sophomore forwards Dana Johnson and Jelesa Gross are returning players.

“I’m expecting it to be decent,” Gross said. “We got a lot of new players, but if we work, we are going to be pretty good this year”

The NJCAA top 25 preseason polls were announced on Monday, Oct. 21, and the Butler Grizzlies were ranked 18th in the nation to begin the season and predicted to go No. 1 in the KJCCC East Division. The Grizzlies are one of three Kansas teams to be in the top 25, which include No. 6 Seward County and No. 9 Hutchinson.

“I appreciate the people that came for us,” Helmer said. “We have a nice run here for nine years averaging almost 25-26 wins a season. The history of our program got us that ranking.”

With the women’s basketball season right around the corner the Grizzlies will head to Sedalia, Missouri. to be part of the McDonald’s Classic to begin their season with a matchup against DII No. 2 Kirkwood Eagles on Friday, Nov. 1, and face the State Fair Roadrunners on Saturday, Nov. 2.

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