Women’s Basketball Preview 2017-18

Temple ended the 2016-17 season with its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011. But senior guard Alliya Butts, who averaged 15.5 points per game last season, will miss this year with a torn ACL.

career 3-point leader to miss year Senior guard Alliya Butts, Temple’s seventh all-time leading scorer, tore her ACL in October.


Senior guard Khadijah Berger was heartbroken. Coach Tonya Cardoza was disappointed. Sophomore center Shannen Atkinson and sophomore forward Shantay Taylor were shocked and scared.

When the team learned senior guard Alliya Butts would miss the season because of an ACL tear she suffered on Oct. 11, her teammates and coaches felt a range of emotions.

“You never want a player to have to go through something like that,” Cardoza said. “The devastation for her to have to go through that probably bothers people more so than anything because she’s such a great individual.”

Before her injury, Butts was the Owls’ only returning player who started at least half of the team’s 32 games in the 2016-17 season. Donnaizha Fountain, who averaged 14.1 points per game, transferred to Seton Hall University for her last year of NCAA eligibility. Feyonda Fitzgerald, who graduated as the program’s fourth All-American, is playing professionally in Poland.

Now, Temple has another hole in its lineup to fill.

“Alliya’s one of our leading scorers,” Atkinson said. “But those points that she averaged, it’s going to have to come from somewhere. So people are going to have to step up and score.”

Butts has averaged 14.2 points per game during her career and is the Owls’ seventh all-time leading scorer with 1,481 points.

Butts particularly excels in the 3-point game. She holds the program record with 236 made 3-pointers. Last season, she averaged 2.75 3-pointers per game.

Butts had surgery on Oct. 26. She will redshirt and return for the 2018-19 season, Cardoza said.

Cardoza said Butts’ role cannot be filled by a single player, but she hopes Temple’s freshman class will help. Guard Desiree Oliver could potentially fill the point guard position, Cardoza said. Oliver was an ESPN and Prospect Nation Top-100 player in high school.

“She’s probably going to have it the hardest because she’s going to be the one with the ball in her hands,” Cardoza said.

“Being that we did lose a big person in the guard spot, not only just me, but the rest of the guards on the team and the rest of the returners, we all have to step up,” Berger said. “We all have to come together as one to fill her shoes, and I don’t think it’s an individual thing.”

Butts contributed more than scoring. During the 2016-17 season, Butts averaged three assists per game. She also played a strong defensive game, leading the team with 68 steals. Butts has 220 career steals, which is tied for sixth in program history. She sits just one steal behind fifth-place Jen Ricco, who played from 1993-98.

Even if Temple can replace Butts’ statistical production, it’s unlikely the Owls will have a player who can replicate Butts’ experience. Butts made an immediate impact during her freshman season, starting 25 games and leading Temple in scoring. She hadn’t missed any of the Owls’ games before her injury.

“[She’s] someone who’s been through the fire and knows how to navigate through it,” Cardoza said. “That guy that is clutch down the stretch and can make a bucket when you need it.”

In addition to her three years of experience, which includes competing in an NCAA tournament game last season, Butts also brings a distinct energy to the game.

“Alliya’s like a firecracker on the court, so I think we definitely have to bring that energy that we lost within her,” Berger said. “But I mean, we all bring energy in different ways. I just feel like some bring the extra pop to the team.”

As a senior who has played alongside Tanaya Atkinson and Butts for three years, Berger felt especially impacted by Butts’ injury.

“It’s just like a piece of the puzzle is out,” Berger said.

When Butts, Berger and Tanaya Atkinson arrived on Main Campus, Temple had come off a 14-18 record in the 2012-13 season. It ended a streak of nine straight campaigns with 20 or more wins.

Butts, Berger and Tanaya Atkinson changed the culture of the program after the losing season, Cardoza said. The group looked forward to an opportunity to return to the NCAA tournament after its first-round loss in March. Butts had a season-high 28 points in the Owls’ game against the University of Oregon to close the year.

“We all came in together and we all thought we would finish our senior year strong and leave out together,” Berger said.

“[She’s a] selfless kid, doesn’t really want a spotlight or anything,” Cardoza said. “So for her to have to go through that and have something taken away from her, that was hard. But to know that she’ll be back, better next year, that’s satisfying.”


cardoza tests lineups in exhibition Five of Temple’s six freshmen saw their first college action on Saturday against a Division II school.


After Breanna Perry picked up her third foul early in the third quarter, coach Tonya Cardoza showed trust in the freshman guard.

“Be smart Bre,” Cardoza yelled from the sideline.

With 18 minutes, 38 seconds left in Saturday’s scrimmage against the University of Charleston, Perry was two fouls away from fouling out for the day. Cardoza decided not to signal to the bench for a substitution.

Perry, freshman guard Desiree Oliver and freshman forward Mia Davis each had two steals in Temple’s 92-44 win against the Division II school at McGonigle Hall.


Freshman guard Desiree Oliver had seven points and two steals during a scrimmage on Saturday against Division II University of Charleston at McGonigle Hall. | EVAN EASTERLING / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Perry, Davis and freshman guard Emani Mayo started on Saturday alongside senior guards Tanaya Atkinson and Khadijah Berger. The Owls are looking for a starting group for their season opener on Friday against Delaware State University with senior guard Alliya Butts out due to a torn ACL she sustained in October.

The Owls’ six freshmen will have to contribute immediately, much like when Butts, Berger and Atkinson did when they joined the team for the 2013-14 season, Cardoza said.

“It’s going to be a learning curve for them because it’s something completely different just having them adjust in general,” Cardoza said. “I think the fact that they’re going to get a lot of minutes, they’re just going to continue to grow and get better.”

Davis logged the most minutes on either team Saturday with 29. She scored 14 points and shot 54.5 percent from the field. Davis scored 10 first-half points in the paint and showed an ability to stretch the floor.

She made her only 3-point attempt against the Golden Eagles. Davis also contributed six rebounds, five assists and two steals.

“Being versatile, I grew into it,” Davis said. “I can dribble and shoot sometimes now, but throughout my life I had to play post because usually in high school I was bigger than everybody. That’s where I gained my inside game from.”

Atkinson is the only player who will definitely start, Cardoza said. She scored a game-high 25 points and shot 9-for-15 from the field. Atkinson also grabbed nine rebounds and a steal.

Temple scored 29 points off turnovers and recorded 16 fast-break points. The Owls’ average scoring possession took 14 seconds. The fast-paced tempo was a result of Temple’s aggressiveness, Cardoza said.

Perry and four other players ended with three or more fouls, and the Owls committed 24 personal fouls against the Golden Eagles. The fouls reflect the Owls’ inexperience and defensive mentality, Cardoza said.

“[Perry] definitely stands out because she’s long, she’s athletic and is able to get in the passing lane,” Cardoza said. “We’re just trying to harp on more ball pressure, getting in the passing lanes and making things difficult.”

Temple came away with 11 steals and forced 22 Charleston turnovers. Temple started off in man-to-man defense against the Golden Eagles before it switched to several defenses throughout the contest.

The Owls tested a 3-2 zone, full-court press and full-court trap against Charleston and will utilize different defensive strategies during games throughout the season because their size is a disadvantage to them, Cardoza said.

The 6-foot-1-inch Perry is one of four players on the roster taller than 6 feet. Junior forward Lena Niang, who is eligible to play after sitting out last year following leaving North Carolina State University, is 6 feet 2 inches tall. Niang had 12 points and nine rebounds against Charleston. The tallest player is 6-foot-4-inch sophomore center Shannen Atkinson.

Perry, who had two steals against Charleston, said playing uptempo fits Temple’s style. Getting steals to generate transition opportunities would help the Owls succeed without last year’s core. Six of the top-10 teams in steals last season made the NCAA tournament.

“We’re definitely a hard-working team trying to fill in pieces of the puzzle that we’re missing at this point,” Tanaya Atkinson said. “We lost four starters and have a lot of new kids so we’re definitely trying to get our feet wet with different positions and opportunities. We’re just ready for whatever is in store for us this year.”

bigs fighting for minutes, new roles Temple graduated its starting center and forward from last year’s NCAA tournament team.


Sophomore center Shannen Atkinson and sophomore forward Shantay Taylor each started one game and averaged less than 10 minutes per game during the 2016-17 season.

Despite playing secondary roles, they’re now the Owls’ most experienced frontcourt players.

Ruth Sherrill, a former Hofstra University transfer who started the final 25 games last season, graduated. She had three double-doubles and scored 10 points in Temple’s NCAA tournament loss to the University of Oregon in March.

Safiya Martin, who started every game at center and ranked sixth in the American Athletic Conference in blocks last season, also played her final year.

Besides Atkinson and Taylor, the only non-freshman in the frontcourt is junior forward Lena Niang. She only played eight games during her freshman year at North Carolina State University during the 2015-16 season. Niang had to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.


Sophomore center Shannen Atkinson watches her teammates compete in a drill in the 2016-17 preseason. | MAGGIE ANDRESEN / FILE PHOTO

Atkinson played 20 games, and Taylor played 26 games to relieve Sherrill and Martin last season. They have an opportunity for more minutes this year.

Taylor and Atkinson are stronger, in better shape and are more confident in themselves than last year, senior guard Khadijah Berger said before the Owls’ first practice on Oct. 4.

“I feel like now that [they know] we lost a key person, they both feel like they have something to prove to not just our coaches, not just us, but everybody who has been watching us,” she added.

“Not only are the minutes available from the girls we lost last year, but so are the points, rebounds, assists and steals,” Atkinson said. “And as a team we need to fill that hole to be successful.”

With Sherrill, Martin and former guard Feyonda Fitzgerald graduated, Donnaizha Fountain transferring to Seton Hall University and senior guard Alliya Butts out with a torn ACL, all five of Temple’s main starters last year aren’t available to play this season.

Temple played three games in Europe in August during the offseason to try different lineup combinations and see its freshmen in action.

Forward Mia Davis seized the opportunity to earn playing time early in her first season with an impressive start during the Owls’ European tour. She led Temple with 15 points per game, averaged 12.7 rebounds and had a double-double in every game.


Freshman forward Mia Davis led Temple in scoring during its three games in Europe in August and scored 14 points during Saturday’s scrimmage against Division II University of Charleston. | EVAN EASTERLING / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Davis has continued to impress her coaches and teammates through the first couple of scrimmages and practices.

“Nothing really phases her,” coach Tonya Cardoza said.

Davis is versatile with the ability to score in the post and shoot from the outside, Taylor said.

“Getting praised by my teammates already is definitely a good feeling,” Davis said. “I’m just hoping to continue to push my teammates in practice. Whenever me and Shantay go at it in practice, it makes me a better player.”

Cardoza has a young team compared to last year’s squad. Temple has six freshmen, twice as many as last season. Replacing the key departed players will be a collective effort, Cardoza said.

Taylor and Atkinson are working to be part of the equation.

“[Shannen and I] are still learning,” Taylor said. “That’s been the hardest thing for us early on trying to be leaders. We’re trying to show the younger girls how to practice and play like we don’t make mistakes. But we do, and accepting that is helping us grow and get better.”


Maura Razanauskas, Austin Ampeloquio and Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at or on Twitter @TTN_Sports.

Photos by Evan Easterling, Maggie Andresen, Sydney Schaefer and HoJun Yu.

Video Ian Schobel.

Interactives by Julie Christie

Produced and designed by Julie Christie, Evan Easterling and Tom Ignudo.

First published Nov. 7, 2017.