The Eagles appear ready for another serious run at a postseason berth after starting the 2013-14 season with a 3-0 record.
AIS swept their first two games in Savannah, defeating Savannah Country Day 48-37 Nov. 15 and Savannah Christian 45-36 Nov. 16, then beating Walker 40-24 Nov. 22.
“Things are off to a good start, but we’re going to take it one game at a time,” Atlanta International coach Willie Richardson said. “Coming from Savannah, we beat Savannah Country Day – which is a great team – and Savannah Christian and we beat Walker, which is a great team. So, I’m looking forward to this year.”
While talent is not a problem for AIS, depth certainly is – with the Eagles featuring only seven players on their entire roster.
“It’s going to be challenging with our numbers,” Richardson said. “It hurts our substitution, a lot of different things. So, my main thing is to continue to execute and stay healthy.”
Atlanta International lost a couple of its key players from last year’s team, with Ekua Atotwi – who is at Stanford, but is not playing basketball there – and Helen Recaborde – now playing volleyball at South Carolina – having moved on to the collegiate ranks.
“You think about some of the athletes that we lost, it was a tremendous hit,” Richardson said. “So we pull together and a few players get a little more playing time. We would probably never make up for that loss, but it’s a good thing that [our current players] are trying to step up and trying to fill some pretty good shoes.”
The Eagles are boosted by the return of sophomore guard Nieja Crawford, who scored 20 points against Savannah Country Day and 25 in the win over Savannah Christian.
Senior center Anna Benkeser is another crucial player in the lineup, contributing 14 points and 14 rebounds against Savannah Country Day and 10 points and 12 boards against Savannah Christian.
“Without her input and her leadership, we are not 3-0 right now,” Richardson said. “Nieja is running the offense, but [Anna is] getting the putbacks. So she’s running the floor and, coming into her senior year, she’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
Senior point guard Lydia Katrin, junior forward Sophie Al-mutawaly and forward Neira Selimovic are the other key players for Atlanta International.