It might be unrealistic to expect momentum to last through an eight month offseason, but the 2011 SF State women’s basketball team is hoping to carry over their high level of play from the closing games of last year.
After winning just one of their first 19 games in 2010, the Gators finished the year by taking five victories from their final seven contests.
The most telling factor was experience, or lack thereof. Eight of the 11 players were freshman. The team had just one senior and no juniors.
“(The freshmen) didn’t really understand how fast the games were, how physical the game was. And they were unsure in the offense and when you’re unsure you make mistakes,” said head coach Joaquin Wallace.
As the season progressed the younger players learned how to win games.
“Everybody just kind of bought into what we needed to do,” said junior captain Nicole Hicks. “Everybody just got on the same page. I think we just got tired of losing. We knew we had to do things differently.”
Their inexperience cost them a handful of games last year, 17 of the 20 losses were by a margin of ten points or fewer.
The young Gators now have a year under their belts and expect to be much more capable of handling the pressure of the fourth quarter.
“I think it’s good for them because they got the experience that year. This year they’re a little bit more experienced than other freshmen who haven’t played,” said junior Michaela Booker, also a captain.
One of the areas where inexperience is visible the most is turnovers. Wallace believes the biggest change that led to the team’s late-season charge was their ability to protect the ball.
“We went from I think 26 turnovers the first half of the season, (to) averaging 12-15 the second half,” Wallace said.
Nearly the entire team returns for 2011, including Hicks and Booker, the team’s number two and three scorers respectively.
Coach Wallace has shifted offensive strategies in an attempt to make up for the loss of leading scorer forward Dominique Hunter, who graduated last year.
“Hopefully, we can have a collection of players to share the wealth sort of speak,” Wallace said. “We’ve run a triangle in the past which is geared toward our post players, but now we’re running more of a motion offense which is more of a collective unit where everyone needs to be contributing and adding value to the game.”
The team also expects contributions from newcomers to the squad. Junior transfer Charnay Bell is expected to carry a big load handling the ball for the Gators. Bell earned first team all-conference honors in both of her years at Chabot College. In her role as point guard, Wallace expects Bell to take charge of maintaining the continuity and effectiveness of the offense.
“Charnay should play well. We’re expecting good things out of her. If she manages the ball well and can get us into our offense, she should do well for us,” Wallace said.
The players understand how important it is to come out of the gate with the proper mindset to maintain their strong push from the end of last season.
“I think last year everyone on the floor and on the team had talent, we just kind of had to figure out how to put that all in one,” Hicks said. “We’re trying to make a statement right from the start.”
The Gators open their season at home Friday against Western Washington University as part of the California Collegiate Athletic Association/GNAC tournament.