ODU women’s basketball team welcomes 8 new players, and coach DeLisha Milton-Jones plans to tell it like it is, ‘raw and uncut’

Roger Steinman/The Virginian-Pilot/TNS

DeLisha Milton-Jones knows what it takes to win basketball games.

And the Old Dominion women’s basketball coach is not afraid to remind her players of it.

A veteran of 17 WNBA seasons, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a June inductee into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Milton-Jones tends to lay her cards on the table.

“They’re going to get the real deal, the raw and uncut from Coach DeLisha,” Milton-Jones said. “I have no benefits in lying to them. I want to tell them the truth, and I want them to understand the mentality they should have and the mentality that their opponents will have. Now, when we have a true understanding of all of that, we know what we need to do in order to handle business.”

That business begins with Monday’s season opener at Florida Gulf Coast. And it begins with a level of uncertainty.

The Monarchs added eight new players to a team that went 24-10 last season and played in the WNIT. Milton-Jones said the new players spent the summer getting to know each other.

Among the top returners is senior forward Amari Young, who averaged 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds last season.

ODU went 12-6 in Conference USA last season, which was enough to prompt Sun Belt coaches to vote the Monarchs second in a preseason poll.

“Clearly, people in the league saw the talent that we have,” Young said. “So either we’re going to prove them wrong or we’re going to prove them right.”

Asked about her new players, Milton-Jones singled out senior guard Makayla Dickens, a former star at Princess Anne High in Virginia Beach who transferred after a four-year career at Boston College.

A sharpshooter who was the Eagles’ second-most prolific 3-point shooter despite coming off the bench, Dickens has a high hoops IQ, Milton-Jones said. If a defense closes on her, she’s wise enough to look for an assist.

“She understands that she’s a shooter, so she understands how to manipulate defenses,” Milton-Jones said.

Young, a 5-foot-11 native of North Augusta, South Carolina, likes what she’s seen from the new crop of teammates.

“I think I’ve seen sparks in all of them,” she said. “Everyone’s making strides in the right direction. It could be anybody any day. I’m surprised every day at something somebody does.”

Milton-Jones, who ranks 16th in WNBA scoring history, also played professionally in Spain, Italy, Turkey, South Korea, the Czech Republic and Russia.

She’s not about to let her team play soft.

“They’re so nice and they’re so sweet, but it’s my job to bring the dog out,” she said. “I have to bring a little bit of D-Nasty into this scenario. And I feel like once they get that and they start to take on the identity of me, then we’re going to see a good brand of basketball being played.”

David Hall, david.hall@pilotonline.com

ODU at a glance

Last year: 24-10, 12-6 Conference USA (3rd in East Division)

Coach: DeLisha Milton-Jones (37-21 in two seasons)

Season opener: 7 p.m. Monday at Florida Gulf Coast

Sun Belt predicted order of finish, as selected by conference coaches: 1. Troy, 2. Old Dominion, 3. Louisiana, 4. Southern Miss, 5. Texas State, 6. James Madison, 7. Georgia Southern, 8. Appalachian State, 9. Arkansas State, 10. Marshall, 11. Georgia State, 12. Coastal Carolina, 13. South Alabama, 14. Louisiana Monroe

Schedule

November: 7: at Florida Gulf Coast, 7 p.m.; 10: at Texas Southern, 6:30 p.m.; 15: vs. William & Mary, 6:30 p.m.; 19: at Xavier, 1 p.m.; 22: at Elon, 2 p.m.; 27: vs. Coppin State, 2 p.m.; 30: vs. Temple, 6:30 p.m.

December: 3: at USC Upstate, 3 p.m.; 6: vs. Lincoln (Pa.), 11 a.m.; 8: vs. VCU, 6:30 p.m.; 11: vs. Norfolk State, 2 p.m.; 19: vs. *Mississippi State, 1 p.m.; 20: vs. *New Mexico, 1 p.m.; 29: at Appalachian State, 6:30 p.m.; 31: at James Madison, 2 p.m.

January: 5: vs. ULM, 6:30 p.m.; 7: vs. South Alabama, 6 p.m.; 12: at Georgia Southern, 6 p.m.; 14: vs. Marshall, 4 p.m.; 19: at Louisiana, 7 p.m.; 21: at Georgia State, 2 p.m.; 26: vs. Texas State, 6:30 p.m.; 28: vs. Coastal Carolina, 2 p.m.

February: 2: at Southern Miss, 7 p.m.; 4: at Arkansas State, 5:30 p.m.; 9: vs. Georgia Southern, 6:30 p.m.; 11: vs. Georgia State, 2 p.m.; 16: vs. Appalachian State, 6:30 p.m.; 22: at Marshall, 6 p.m.; 24: at Coastal Carolina, 6 p.m.; 28-March 6: Sun Belt Tournament, Pensacola, Florida

* Sun Coast Challenge in Tampa, Florida

Season opener

ODU at at Florida Gulf Coast

When: 7 p.m.

On the air: ESPN3