These days when Libby Gardner looks around at her Maryville College basketball teammates during practice she has to a double take.
And a triple take. And a quadruple take.
It doesn’t look like last season for the junior point guard. Not even close.
Maryville has a few new players, and most of the returning players are in new positions. A starter last season, Gardner is the only player who is filling a familiar role.
“I’m playing with a lot of newbies,” the Heritage graduate said. “We’re definitely getting to know each other. They’re doing really well. They’re learning on the fly and learning things quickly.”
The Scots had a chance to learn on Sunday in an exhibition game against visiting Transylvania. Maryville was within two points when senior Catherine Upshaw made a lay-up one minute into the fourth quarter, but Transylvania got hot for the next two minutes and coasted to a 67-53 victory.
That his team competed well for three quarters against a team with a significant amount of experience pleased Maryville coach Darrin Travillian.
“This was a good one to measure yourself against a veteran team that I think has a really good chance to win their league this season,” Travillian said. “It’s an NCAA Tournament, top-25 type of team. Just getting a chance to see where we are against that type of competition is good.”
One of the best aspects of the Scots’ performance was rebounding. Transylvania had bigger players but couldn’t use that to its advantage. Both teams got 37 rebounds.
The exercise also exposed several of Maryville’s weaknesses.
Travillian is most concerned with his players’ decision-making in the half court and how to defend in specific situations. Perhaps the biggest thing the Scots need to improve, though, is chemistry.
On Sunday, the four starters outside of Gardner were sophomores. Shelby Hix averaged 2.8 minutes in 12 games last season but seems to be in the best position to start at center. Klair Varney transferred to Maryville at Christmas and appeared in 12 games in the second half of the season.
Elsa Eckenrod was a back-up point guard last season, though she hadn’t played much of that position in high school. This season Eckenrod will be an inside-out player. Erin Beasley, who is expected to fill a key role at shooting guard, missed last season with an injury.
Of the other four who played on Sunday, three were freshmen. So, it makes sense that the Scots are focused on improving their communication.
“We’re kind of a young team,” said Eckenrod, who scored a team-high 12 points Sunday. “We’re still getting used to playing together. As the season goes along we’re going to get better at talking and reading each other. Playing in the half-court, it will start flowing.”
The Scots open the regular season on Nov. 14 with a home game against Emory & Henry. They’ve been practicing for two weeks so they don’t expect to be clicking on all cylinders now or even when the games start to count.
Instead, they’re digging in for a long season that they know is likely to start slowly.
“There is a lot of room for improvement,” Gardner said. “We are struggling to get the ball where it needs to go, so we have a lot of practicing to do. We’re only two weeks in, but I think it will improve as the season goes on.”