FLORENCE, S.C. — It’s life A.F. for the Francis Marion University women’s basketball team, meaning life “After Fulmore.”
For the first time in four years, Shaunice Fulmore — the former Lake City High standout — won’t be on the court for the Patriots, who open their season at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Barton College.
Fulmore’s graduation leaves behind significantly big shoes to fill. She finished as FMU’s sixth all-time leading scorer with 1,867 career points and was also seventh on the Peach Belt Conference’s all-time scoring list.
Fulmore also ranks in the program’s top 20 in terms of rebounds (663), blocked shots (102) and steals (198).
“The one thing about having a kid for four years is that you know at some point it’s going to come to an end,” said Jeri Porter, who is entering her fifth season as the Patriots’ coach. “I think it was probably in the back of our minds for a good bit of last year that her scoring and some of the other things that she brought, we were going to lose.
“I don’t think we’ve gone into this year really trying to replace her with one person. I think it’s been understood that she’s that special talent that you’re going to kind of have to replace by committee.”
It will be a new look for the FMU women this season, who along with Fulmore also lost third-leading scorer Briana Burgins from a team that went 12-15 overall and 9-13 in PBC play last year. Fulmore and Burgins combined for an average of 30.1 points per game and 12.4 rebounds.
The Patriots do return two of their top scorers in senior guard Abigail Bullock, who averaged 10.3 points per game, and junior forward Kiana Adderton. Adderton was named to the PBC preseason all-conference team after averaging 13 points and 5.2 rebounds per game a year ago.
“It’s definitely going to be a different look without Shaunice, but I feel like this year everybody is going to have to step up and play their roles and play a lot more as a team,” Adderton said. “We’ve been moving the ball around a lot (in practices), and we’ve seen that we’ve got a couple scorers that can knock down the open shots, so that’s going to be beneficial this year.”
Porter has made some changes to the offensive system, and FMU will not be quite as structured as it has been in the past, she said.
“We’ve gone to a little bit more of a motion, open-space offense and kind of a position-less offense,” Porter said. “We’ve talked a lot about creating space with your offense and sharing the basketball and getting touches for the right people in the right moment.”
Adderton certainly figures to be one of those key cogs on offense along with Bullock. Sophomore forward Zaria Woods, who averaged 5.8 points per game her freshman season, probably will play a more prominent role after dealing with injuries for part of last year.
Returning senior Tatyana McClaney (4.1 ppg) is another starting option, but Porter said she’s likely not going to set a starting five for a while.
One of the newcomers expected to have an immediate impact is Scarlett Gilmore from South Pointe High — the younger sister of former South Carolina and current NFL standout Stephon Gilmore. Junior guard transfer Jasmyne May is another along with redshirt freshman guard Kristian Wall from Spring Valley High.
“We’re starting to mix; we’re starting to gel,” Adderton said of the squad as a whole. “So far from the scrimmages that we’ve played, I can see that it’s going to be more scoring from different players, but I feel like there’s going to be nights where any one of us can have the hot hand. But we’re also going to have consistent scorers every night. ...
“We just have to have people step up offensively and on the defensive end.”