Women’s Basketball Season Preview: Xavier (La.) Gold Nuggets

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Bo Browder and Xavier women's basketball

The Xavier University of Louisiana women’s basketball program will look to end its GCAC Tournament Title drought after five years and expect to make a return trip to the NAIA Tournament after missing the cut a year ago.

Bo Browder is the longest tenured coach across all sports in the GCAC. His illustrious career includes 15 NAIA Tournament berths, eight Conference Championships, six GCAC Coach of the Year Awards and the 2018-19 Louisiana Coach of the Year accolade.

The Gold Nuggets ranked in the league’s top-tier for both assists per game (15.42) and points allowed per game (65.00), placing third and fourth, respectively.

XULA will have a relatively young squad in 2020-21 with only one senior on the active roster. Browder’s club will have sophomore Abryhia Irons back along with juniors Da’Jha Virgil and Kyla Duncan roaming the Convocation Center.

Virgil placed third in the GCAC for assist-to-turnover ratio (1.48), ninth in assists per game (2.81) as well as a top-15 clip regarding three-pointers a night (1.29).

Irons ranked ninth for offensive boards per contest (2.26), top-15 in rebounds per games (5.58) and had a top-20 assist-to-turnover ratio (0.92) in the league a year ago.

Duncan landed a spot in the conference’s top-15 for both blocks (14) and blocks per game (0.45) plus a top-20 placement in rebounds (153) and rebounds per game (4.94).

Xavier reeled in a trio of high-impact transfers with Nia Bishop, Victory Udechi and Jelisa Smith.

Bishop spent the last two seasons at Salem University, a NCAA Division Two school in West Virginia. She was top-20 in the NCAA for steals per game (2.81) and top-35 for total steals (73) for the 2019-20 campaign while topping the Tigers in a trio of categories; points per game (15.7), three-pointers (46) and assists (74).

Udechi transferred from one New Orleans school to the other after Southern-New Orleans dropped its athletic programs over the summer. The former Lady Knight was one of the best players in the conference last year, finishing third for rebounds per game (11.58), fourth in double-doubles (11), fifth for total rebounds (278) and tenth in steals per game (1.96).

Smith used to be a Lady Bulldog from Tougaloo College where she converted the sixth-highest three-point field-goal percentage (.295), sixth-most threes (52) and seventh-best triples per game average (1.79) in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference in 2019-2020.

The gold and green have scheduled ten out-of-conference contests including home-and-homes with William Carey, LSU-Alexandria and Loyola-New Orleans.

2019 Record: 16-15 (6-8 GCAC)

2019 Finish: Fifth Place (Lost GCAC Semifinals)

Head Coach: Bo Browder (22nd Season / 485-202 Overall, 243-73 GCAC)

Top Returners:
• Da’Jha Virgil (Jr, G, Kenner, La.)
• Abryhia Irons (So, G, Boutte, La.)
• Kyla Duncan (Jr, F, Metairie, La.)

Key Players Lost:
• Shaelynn Moore (GCAC All-Tournament Team / second in GCAC in three-point field-goal percentage, three-pointers and three-pointers per game / top-20 in GCAC in points scored, points per game and assists per game)
• Essence Wells (Second in GCAC in free throw percentage / ninth in GCAC in three-pointers / top-15 in GCAC in three-pointers per game, blocks, blocks per game, assists, assists per game and assist-to-turnover ratio / top-20 in GCAC in points scored and points per game)
• Maya Trench (Second in GCAC in assist-to-turnover ratio / tenth in GCAC in assists per game / top-15 in GCAC in assists)

Top Newcomers:
• Nia Bishop (Jr, G, Brooklyn, N.Y.)
• Victory Udechi (Jr, F, Manhattan, N.Y.)
• Jelisa Smith (So, G, Raymond, Miss.)

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