A potential rebound for women’s basketball

Head coach Nell Fortner calls for a play against Mississippi State in the 2024 Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament. Under Fortner, the Jackets improved from 13-17 in 2023 to 17-16 this year. // Photo courtesy of GTAA

Finishing the season right at a 0.500 winning percentage, the Tech women’s basketball team has a strong foundation to build from. It starts with sophomore guard  Tonie Morgan. Morgan led the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game throughout the season. Much like the rest of the team, though, she struggled from the three-point range, sinking only 25.4% of her shots from deep.  However, Morgan still remained amongst the top-five in three-point percentage for the Jackets. This glaring red flag in the Jackets game must be addressed to lift them to the next level. Out of qualifying Jackets with more than ten three-point attempts, freshman guard Rusne Augustinaite led the team shooting 35.4% from three. 

Fortunately, incoming guard from the 2024 recruiting class Gabbie Grooms from Trinity Christian High School could be part of  the solution and slide into Augustinaite’s role as a freshman next year. Through 31 games played in the 2022-2023 season, Grooms shot a blistering 48% from three, sinking 85 out of her 176 attempted three pointers. Her dedication and hard work are evident through her remarkable average of 9.8 rebounds per game, showcasing her relentless effort and impact on the court despite standing at 5’9”. She can also help the Jackets on the boards since the team ranked 12th in the ACC for total rebounds and rebounds per game this year. Her impact on the team will be immediate, enhancing the three-point shooting capabilities and rebounding of the entire squad. Grooms’ presence is expected to significantly uplift the team’s performance from beyond the arc. Along with Grooms, who ranks fourth in the state of Georgia for the 2024 recruiting class, the Jackets have commitments from the first, second and fifth best high school prospects in the state of Georgia. 

This stellar recruiting class is highlighted by its top prospect — point guard Danielle Carnegie from Grayson High School. Averaging 20 points per game across the 2023-2024 season and leading her team to an undefeated 32-0 record, Carnegie elevated the Grayson Rams to the fourth ranked team in the nation. 

Being a pure scorer, she has the potential to be the X factor for the team. Finding players who can close games down the stretch is critical for the Jackets to play high-level basketball. Carnegie has the potential to become that type of player, based on her exceptional scoring prowess and clutch performance under pressure. 

Further highlighting the stellar 2024 recruiting class are guards Chazadi Wright and Tianna Thompson who rank second and fifth in the state respectively. Wright is a point guard whose playmaking ability and basketball IQ has drawn rave reviews from coach Nell Fortner. She can also score in bunches, eclipsing 1,000 career points during her high school career. Thompson is an excellent finisher at the rim and shows signs of being an effective spacing threat at the next level. 

This type of backcourt talent coming to the Jackets’ roster mitigates some of the sting from an ugly defeat at the hands of the Mississippi State University Bulldogs in the first round of the 2024 Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament, 47-84. The blowout loss was outlined by an 18.2% three point shooting percentage by the Jackets to the Bulldogs’ 38.9%. 

The Jackets were outscored 41-6 in bench points and did not manage to hit a single three-ball until the third quarter. Morgan served as the team’s offensive engine, extending her streak of double-digit scoring to seven games. Still, it was not enough. Falling quickly 20-7 in the first quarter, the Jackets had
little chance of a comeback.

Despite an unsatisfying ending to the year, the  infusion of talent from the incoming 2024 recruiting class, the Jackets are poised for a significant turnaround. 

The lessons learned from the tough loss, coupled with strategic improvements, particularly in three-point shooting and bench depth, hint at a promising future. The stage is set for an exciting next season full of new talent that have the promise to bring the Jackets back to an NCAA championship
tournament they have missed from for the last two seasons.