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Navarro leads Lady Eagles into home opener

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Navarro leads Lady Eagles into home opener

Georgia Southern guard Jamie Navarro, right, is fouled by Wofford's Natalie Gramblin during a game last season.

The Georgia Southern Lady Eagles lost six combined years of in-game experience with the graduation of forwards J’Lisia Ogburn and Jessica Geiger, but they still have their secret weapon.

Jamie Navarro — the 5-foot-6 senior point guard — showed just how dangerous she can be once again in Sunday’s season opener against No. 19 Georgia. Navarro didn’t just leave the team in scoring, but she also pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.

"Jamie just defies all imagination," said GSU coach Rusty Cram. "You can’t describe this girl. People think I’m joking when I say she can’t jump, she can’t sprint fast and she’s short. But she pulled down nine rebounds against an SEC school with 6-2, 6-3 guards that are guarding her. You just can’t describe it, but she’s involved in all phases. That’s the bottom line. She’s just a fierce competitor. Like I tell people, she can’t do much. All she can do is beat you."

Though the Eagles (0-1) lost 58-43, Cram was happy with the effort of the young players that are being asked to fill key roles this season,

"What was bleak, a question mark," Cram said, "has turned out to have a chance to be pretty decent."

Stepping up in the post are a pair of juniors who gained a lot of experience during the 2009-10 season, when the Eagles finished 19-12 and fell to eventual Southern Conference champion Chattanooga in the semifinals of the league’s tournament.

"Our post game was our biggest concern coming into the year," Cram said. "We lose two seniors with three years of starting, each. Krista Tate has had a great offseason and has filled that small forward position for us, and then we’ve got Candice Ivy who’s been stepping up some lately. A freshman — Danielle Spencer, a 6-foot-3 post player — is really ahead of the game right now."

Freshmen forward Aishya Wofford, along with redshirt freshman guard Mimi DuBose, and sophomore wing guard Ro-Ro Smith have impressed Cram in the preseason.

Meredyth Frye, a sophomore who emerged as a role player late last season, has spent time in the post and the wing. The 5-foot-10 guard is now spelling Navarro at the point.

"Meredyth is a wing guard that played post in high school, but she’s got great size for a guard and excellent hands with the basketball — just a complete player," said Cram. "Right now, she’s going as a backup for Jamie when we give her a two- or three-minute blow in the game. She’s played everywhere. She’s that complete package that every coach dreams about having."

The Eagles play the home opener tonight at 7 p.m. against Mercer at Hanner Fieldhouse.

The Lady Bears bring to the table a similar game as the Lady Bulldogs.

"They’re very similar to Georgia," said Cram about Mercer. "Maybe not that size or caliber of athletes, but it’s the same style. They’re athletic and they move well, so we’ve got to make sure we limit the fast breaks and the good shooters, but I’m expecting a good ball game."

As far as Southern Conference play, Chattanooga has been the dominant force.

In this year’s preseason, Samford has been picked at the top.

"They’ve been building for this for three years," Cram said, "and right now they’ve got the cream of the crop at the right time."

The Eagles return to the home court and SEC competition Friday, when they host Alabama in Hanner at 7 p.m.


Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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