AAC’s top freshman in 2013 returns with optimistic hopes of elevating individual game, aiding Knights
With two seconds left in the Rutgers women’s basketball team’s season and the score tied 54-54, the ball was given to freshman guard Tyler Scaife.
She raced up the court, going coast to coast, and scored the game-winning layup to propel the Scarlet Knights to victory in the WNIT Championship on April 5.
That is how last season ended for Scaife, capping off her impressive freshman campaign with an impressive final play.
She finished the season averaging 14.5 points, 2.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game on her way to earning AAC Freshman of the Year honors.
But that was last year, and both the team and Scaife have moved on from all the accomplishments last season.
Now they have their eyes on a different prize, one that has motivated Scaife to extreme ends.
“We want a Big Ten Championship, a trip to the NCAAs, and a good run in the tournament once we get there,” Scaife said.
Since the Knights were snubbed from the NCAA Tournament last season and ran through the WNIT, Scaife has significantly worked on her game this offseason to prepare for the Big Ten this season.
“I worked on a lot of areas this summer,” Scaife said. “I improved my overall strength and worked on my three-point shot, so hopefully that will be some reasons why I do better. I used to make some dumb passes and try to dribble through a lot of defenders, but now I know that this is a different level and I need to cut down on my mistakes.”
Scaife is confident she will be able to adjust to handling new responsibilities in her sophomore campaign.
Her confidence is one area that sets her apart from most, according to her teammates. Last year, it allowed her to step onto the court as a true freshman and earn a starting position for the Knights.
“With any player, you can be as good as LeBron — but if your confidence isn’t there, it won’t show in the game,” said freshman guard Ashli Jeune. “But if you know your team is behind you then you know you can win, and she has that confidence and everyone just follows behind her because she sets it off from there.”
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer said Scaife will control more of the point guard duties for the team and split the role with junior guard Syessence Davis.
Stringer knows her talented sophomore can handle the new role and is expecting big things from Scaife this season.
“We continue to expect growth, and now because of the success she has had, she knows and we know that she has to pick up where she left off,” Stringer said. “There is no question she has worked extremely hard, and we’re looking for her to increase her range and play some point guard, which she didn’t do last year, but now she knows enough to run the offense.”
As a team that prefers to run and score in transition, Scaife will have to improve her decision making to be effective as the court general for the Knights this year.
Scaife averaged 2.8 turnovers per game last season, a number that is too high, the sophomore guard admits.
Since the end of last season, Scaife’s teammates have taken notice of her tremendous work ethic. Scaife is known as the first person to enter the gym and the last to leave.
Although she is only a sophomore, she has set an example to her fellow teammates to follow behind.
“It’s amazing. I have never seen someone love the game as much as Tyler,” said senior center Christa Evans. “All she does is study. Every time I go into her room, she’s watching film or practice. Just to feed off her is incredible and she’s a great person to play with.”
Now that the season is here, it is time for Scaife to exhibit all that she has worked on this summer.
And if you ask any one of her teammates, no one is more excited to play than Scaife.
“I feel that we put in a ton of work this summer and pushed ourselves, so I think everything we went through this offseason will show up on the court,” Evans said.
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