Story by Elaine Stockdale
Freshman Lianna Doty had a lot to shoot for when she came to Missouri.
Missouri’s Lianna Doty (1) tries to dribble past Arkansas’s Keira Peak on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. Doty, a freshman, has been the starting point guard for most of the season.
“I had high expectations, my coaches did, and the recruiters also had high expectations of me,” said Doty, a 5-foot-7-inch guard. “I honestly didn’t think I’d be starting so early but I knew I was going to be playing a lot of minutes.”
The young rookie, recruited from Kirkwood High School in St. Louis, ranks fifth in the Southeastern Conference for assists (120) and 10th for steals (49). She has surpassed last season’s assist leader, Kyley Simmons, who also led the team as a freshman point guard. Simmons who tallied 111 assists last year.
“I want to continue to lead my team well,” Doty said. “Going into the team, I wanted to lead the team in assists and steals, which are categories I excel in. I think I’m achieving that but there’s still a lot for me to work on.”
Just four games into the season Doty replaced Simmons’ position in the team’s starting lineup, but Simmons, who is now a sophomore, understands exactly why the reigns were given over to Doty.
“At the point guard position it’s just a lot about experience and Doty’s IQ of basketball is just really incredibly high already,” Simmons said. “I think there’s not much I can teach her, she knows just as much, if not more than me.”
Coach Robin Pingeton sees potential in Doty and said she has commitment to become a developed player. “There’s nobody that works harder than her,” Pingeton said. “There’s nobody that studies the game more than she does.”
Simmons believes Doty’s intense work at practice shows that she has a competitive, winning mentality and is a great addition to Mizzou.
“Her intensity at practice on the court, she’s just a fighter and she just wants to win,” Simmons’s said. “That competitive edge and her skills overall are just a great asset to our team and we just love her. You just need that competitiveness.”
There is no uneasiness between the two guards over the starting position and Doty believes both she and Simmons are important in bringing similar characteristics when contributing to the team.
“She’s still right next to me, we’ve linked arms on everything we do and I’m really good friends with her, so it’s be really good having her there,” Doty said. “When she talks to me, I listen to her, when I’m talking she’s the one right next to me.”
Pingeton says being a freshman in a new team and in a new conference can be a lot to handle.
“It’s one thing to come in and be a starting point guard and be surrounded by veteran basketball players that have a little bit more experience,” Pingeton said. “It’s another thing to come in and be a starting point guard as a freshman, so there’s a lot on her shoulders.”
Doty sets the bar high for herself in order to continue improving.
“I’m pretty hard on myself though, so I haven’t necessarily lived up to my own expectations, I did set them a little higher than others have, hoping I would perform a little bit better,” she said.
Doty earned her first career double-double against Florida two weeks ago and was only three assists away from a triple-double. Doty finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. In Missouri’s surprising win over Tennessee, she shot 60 percent from the field and finished with nine points and seven assists. Doty was awarded the SEC Freshman of the Week for her efforts, something she said she is proud of but doesn’t keep her from focusing on improvement.
“The award didn’t really change anything, it was a great honor, but it didn’t change how I worked day in and day out since then,” Doty said.
But despite the achievements she’s made, she’s also made mistakes along the way. Doty leads in turnovers and personal fouls so far this season. She is 11th in the SEC with an assist/turnover ratio of 1.0 and averages five per game. She has 89 fouls for the season and has fouled out in seven games. Pingeton says Doty’s reckless abandon contributes to her mistakes.
Doty’s focus now is getting her team to the NCAA tournament. “In my mind we have a very good opportunity ahead of us to make the NCAA championships, it’s just a matter of us coming together and just keep playing like we did against Tennessee and Florida, just leaving everything out on the court, not holding anything back,” Doty said.
Simmons said the best way to achieve their goal is to take it one step at a time.
The Tigers have six regular season games left including tonight’s game at Vanderbilt.