ATLANTA - Georgia State's women's basketball team opened practice this week at the GSU Sports Arena as new head coach Gene Hill looks to prepare the team for the 2018-19 season.

Debuting brand new practice uniforms, the women's basketball team took the court on Tuesday for the squad's first official practice of the fall. The uniforms weren't the only new parts of practice, however, as Hill and his coaching staff were able to lead practices with the entire team for the first time since his hire back in April.

Assistant coach Katie Pate stressed the importance of making the transition as smooth as possible for the players.

"With a new staff, we understand the players are facing new challenges and new experiences. Great energy, intensity, and buy-in from the team are just some of the early keys Coach Hill is looking for," Pate said. "So far through the first few days of practice, we are really excited by the approach many players are taking to a new style of play."

There is a lot of veteran influence on this GSU team. Eight seniors are back, including Kierra Henry and K.K. Williams. The pair have a combined 161 games under their belt as Panthers. Janessa Murphy, Francesca Minali, Juliet James and Victoria Middlebrooks all saw action last season as well. Minali led the team in total rebounds last season and Murphy averaged 9.0 points per game in 23 starts.

GSU will also have Walnatia Wright and Allison Johnson available this season. Both sat out last year due to transfer rules. Wright is a transfer from Texas A&M and Johnson came to GSU from Kennesaw State.

GSU boasts lots of experience in the junior class as well. Jada Lewis suffered a season-ending injury just two games into the season a year ago. She's back this year after earning Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors in 2016-17. Shaq Miller-McCray started 13 games last year and led the team in blocks. Madison Earvin is a transfer that played at Mars Hill and Cape Fear CC. She brings speed and athleticism to the guard position for GSU.

Deja Mitchell and Rakeah Williams are both back for their sophomore seasons. Mitchell played in 28 games and Williams saw action in 15.

GSU's lone freshman, Carly Winters, is a guard from East Hall in Gainesville, Ga. She was named the 2018 7AAA Player of the Year and also earned spots on the 2018 7AAA All-Region and 7AAA All-State teams.

With all that veteran leadership, Pate says it's important for the team to learn the foundation of Coach Hill's offensive and defensive concepts.

"The players are inquisitive and curious, Pate said. "It’s fun to watch them realize small successes during this period of transition. Their enthusiasm for the learning process is encouraging and is allowing the staff to get into the 'details' of Coach Hill’s schematic plans."

As the team continues to gear up for the season-opening exhibition against Shorter on Nov. 2, Pate says she expects Coach Hill to continue affirming a team concept that breeds a championship mentality.

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