Richmond, VA— George Washington junior forward Kelli Prange knows that others label her as a three point shooter, but through tireless work, the 6-foot-5 Damascus, MD native has begun to shed these judgments.
Prange enjoyed being able to showcase more of her long-range shots in her first two years with then coach Jonathan Tsipis at the helm, but with the more defensively oriented Jennifer Rizzotti in her first year as coach of the Colonials, things had to change.
“The past two years I don’t necessarily think I was concentrating on the defensive end and I kind of kick myself for that,” Prange said. “Coach Rizzotti harps on defense, and if you don’t play good defense, you’re probably not going to play for her.”
Rizzotti has not just pushed for Prange to improve her defense but also work on getting into the post to provide easier scoring looks for herself.
It is Rizzotti’s opinion that Prange was not appreciated when it came to either her defensive or paint scoring abilities.
“I had many conversations with her throughout the season about how my expectation was very different for her,” said Rizzotti. “It’s a change and I appreciate that she’s been receptive to what I emphasize. Offensively, I think Kelli is one of the hardest kids in the league to guard when she uses her inside-outside ability and she just wasn’t doing that enough in the middle of the season.”
Committing to change
On most occasions, a guest speaker can get repetitive, but during last season one presenter made quite an impression on Prange.
Though Prange cannot recall the speaker’s name, she certainly retained one of his themes.
“He brought with him the message of getting 2% better each day and I took that and ran with it,” she said. “It was an amazing quote from him. If you want to get better in life, you have to improve on yourself.”
Prange remembers her first game as a freshman.
Despite a 24 point, 12 rebound effort, Prange felt that she did not get 2% better that day and left the court disappointed.
“If you look on the defensive side, I’m pretty sure I gave up the same amount and that’s not acceptable,” said Prange.
When Rizzotti was hired, she tried to get a feel for the character of her team, but from the beginning she viewed Prange as dependable, something which made this defensive transition possible.
“I feel like right from the beginning Kelli was committed to being there physically, working out and getting herself ready for her junior year and I really appreciated that,” Rizzotti said. “She seemed to be a kid that was super committed, ready to take on a bigger role and understood that she would have more responsibility but also receptive to something that was new.”
Lineup changes do not faze Prange
Much of Prange’s time at GW has been juggled between being in and out of the lineup. When Caira Washington was injured earlier this season, graduate student Lexi Martins was able to elevate her game and take Prange’s starting spot.
The lineup which now consists of all four of the team’s seniors has been this way since the team’s 67-59 loss on January 26 to Saint Louis, a span of eight games. Prange was going through a stretch where she was not making her shots which Rizzotti stated affected her confidence.
Instead of getting down, Prange only worked harder and has scored in double figured in three of her past five games while also minimizing her defensive mistakes.
The decision was one which certainly benefited Prange.
“Looking at the bigger picture, I understand where coach Rizzotti was coming from,” she said. “Throughout the season I understood the idea of having more of a post presence rather then being outside of the arc which I have been the past two years. coach Rizzotti came in and wanted to focus on my post ups and getting touches down low, which I was fine with. Now that I understand what she wants from me and I think I am more capable of giving her exactly what she wants.”
Despite all of these changes and successes, people will continue to label Prange for her inability to stay in the starting lineup, but the changes she has made allowed her to maintain an important role.
“When I was taken out of the starting lineup after the Saint Louis game, I went to the coaches right away and asked what to improve on,” Prange said. “I really want to give everything to the team and help this team win in as many ways possible.”