Tufts University basketball coach Carla Berube predicts a promising future for freshman and Cony High School graduate Josie Lee. The present isn’t bad either.
Lee and her Jumbo teammates head to Stevens Point, Wis., today in preparation for the Division 3 Women’s Final Four on Friday. Tufts (30-1) faces unbeaten Fairleigh Dickinson University at Florham in Friday’s semifinals with the championship game set for Saturday night.
“The experience has been unbelievable,” Lee said. “It’s the greatest group of girls from Day 1. It’s a lot different from high school, but it’s different in a good way.”
Last season, Lee did everything in leading Cony to the Eastern Maine Class A finals. Not only did she average 15.6 points and 5.2 assists a game, but at 5-foot-7 averaged an astounding 10.4 rebounds, tops in her division. This year, Lee is mostly sitting on the bench and watching a group of veterans who’ve reached the Sweet 16 the past two seasons.
“I didn’t go expecting to have a huge impact on the team and get a ton of minutes,” Lee said. “I just do whatever I can to help the team.”
Lee has seen some late action in 19 games but her primary role is during practice when she plays on the scout team and mimics her team’s opponents.
“Josie’s very talented with a great, great work ethic,” Berube said. “She makes her teammates better every single day. In turn, she’s getting better.”
With a couple of 6-2 post players on the Jumbos roster, Lee doesn’t venture into the paint for rebounds as often as she did in high school. Speed and strength of teammates and opponents has changed dramatically for her in a year’s time and she already has plans to dedicate her summer to becoming stronger.
“I’m going to try to bulk up,” she said.
Despite the team’s success under Berube — 212-75 — the Jumbos didn’t win their first New England College Athletic Conference title until this season. Prior to that, either Amherst or Bowdoin had won the championship over the past 13 years. When the Jumbos met Colby in a NESCAC game, Lee got to catch up with former teammate Mia Diplock and Hall-Dale’s Carylanne Wolfington, and later shared a little time with Mackenzie Dufour when Tufts played St. Joseph’s in a playoff game.
Berube said the key to beating FDU in the opener is surviving their pressure defense. The Jumbos have one of the top point guards in New England in Kelsey Morehead and an a size advantage in the paint.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball and be able to defend,” she said.
Lee, whose parents and sister will make the trip to the Final Four is fully aware of her role.
“I approach the game basically doing what I can on the bench,” she said. “I really try to encourage my teammates. I knew I was coming into a great team, but to be given the opportunity to go to the Final Four is just unreal.”