Basketball Season Tips Off Wednesday

Alyssa Abbonizio
Alyssa Abbonizio

MEDIA, Pa. -- The 2017-18 basketball season officially gets underway at Penn State Brandywine as both the men's and women's team are in action during the regular season for the first time. The Brandywine men open with a home game against McDaniel at 7:00 pm, while the women's team visits Rosemont for a 6:00 pm game.

Brandywine's women's team, coming off its third Penn State University Athletic Conference championship since 2006-07, returns 11 players from last year's roster. After setting a school record with 22 victories last winter, Head Coach Larry Johnson, who owns a 203-101 record in 11 seasons at Brandywine, appears to have his team primed for another title run in 2017-18.

Brandywine's experienced group of returners is led by USCAA First Team All-American Nikki Velez. Also the PSUAC Newcomer of the Year, Velez was one of the top shooters in the conference, pouring in a league-high 81 three-pointers en route to scoring 513 points (17.1 ppg).

After starting last season 4-4, Velez and fellow sophomore Kendra Stanford were inserted into the starting lineup for the first time on Dec. 9 and Brandywine won its next 10 games, while posting a 13-2 record overall with the duo in the starting lineup. Stanford, who missed time late in the year due to injury, averaged 7.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game as a freshman.

Inside, the team will look to junior Brandi James, who was the Lions' second-leading scorer, averaging 10.2 points per game, a six-point improvement per game from her freshman year. Sophomore Madison D'Ambrosio and junior Nicolette Napoleon, fresh off a PSUAC championship with the Brandywine volleyball team this fall, also return to the front court.

Brandywine's most experienced players are a pair of seniors in Alyssa Abbonizio and Chrissy Gledhill. Gledhill is the Lions' third-leading returning scorer after averaging 7.7 points per game last season, including a career-high 26-point performance with seven three-pointers during Brandywine's PSUAC championship victory over Penn State Hazleton. She buried at least two triples in eight of the team's final 10 games. A veteran of 75 career games, Abbonizio made 27 starts last season, totaling 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per outing.

Brandywine opens the season with four-straight games away from home and plays 11 of its first 15 games on the road. The Lions' first home game of the year is Monday, Nov. 27 at 7:00 pm against Penn State Berks.

Unlike its female counterparts, the Brandywine men's team will be comprised mainly of new faces as first-year Head Coach Ben Kay welcomes 11 newcomers to his 16-man roster. Seven of the newcomers are freshmen, while the coaching staff expects four transfers to have an immediate impact on the court.

Three of Brandywine's five returning players are seniors in James Fisher, Cyrie Spencer and Isaiah Lester. Fisher and Spencer both have the opportunity to reach the 1,000-point club this season as each enters the year with over 860 career points. Fisher scored 12.4 points per game, while sinking a team-high 34 three-pointers. The top returning rebounder, Spencer pulled down 5.8 boards and added 8.2 points per game. Lester contributed 4.1 points per outing and was one of just three players to see time in all 25 games last season.

After playing its season-opening game at home, Brandywine will be on the road for its next four games, including its first PSUAC matchup on Nov. 28 at Schuylkill.

The Lions nine-game nonconference slate will be highlighted by a trip to the Palestra to face Penn on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 11:30 AM. The game will mark the first time any team from Brandywine has faced a NCAA Division I opponent.

The nonconference schedule also features six Division III foes, including home dates with McDaniel (Nov. 15), Alvernia (Dec. 20) and Haverford (Jan. 3).