After the mass exodus of players from a roster that mustered only one win last season, the SF State women’s basketball team plans to erase 2014 from the University’s memory.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been this optimistic about a team,” said head coach Dennis Cox at the Winter Sports Media Conference. “We’re more athletic and bigger. The players are a little more tenacious.”
Only three players are returning from last year, and they’ll be competing for spots against seven junior college transfers and four incoming freshman. The team’s top three scorers from last year, who combined for an average of 27 points a game, have left.
The Gators added much-needed size in the form of 6-foot-5-inch freshman Kiara Ginwright and 6-foot junior-college transfer Laura Lawson. Cox said one thing the team struggled with last year was rebounding, and Lawson said she thinks that’s the biggest skill she brings to the table.
“I know that’s what I’m good at,” Lawson said. “I like to rebound.”
The team placed a heavy emphasis on conditioning this offseason, Cox said.
“We’re going to play an uptempo style,” Cox said. “We’re gonna run in transition and apply pressure over the whole court for 40 minutes. That kind of style demands very good conditioning.”
NCAA Division II rules do not allow coaches and the team to practice basketball during the offseason, so the team has been going through a rigorous conditioning program in the meantime.
The California Collegiate Athletic Association will also be moving to a new game format with four 10-minute quarters this year instead of two 20-minute halves. Cox has helped coach international teams that use the four-quarter format and doesn’t think it will affect the team.
“I think it’s going to work to our advantage because I don’t think coaches are going to be wasting timeouts anymore,” Cox said. “They’re going to have to wait for the quarter, and sometimes you can win and lose a game at any time. We’re the kind of team that can get on a roll and score in bunches.”
Cox said that he has an idea of who his starting five will be this season, but that it is a dynamic situation.
“One thing we are very adamant about is that everyone has an opportunity,” Cox said. “There’s no deal in our program– no one is promised a spot or minutes.”
One of the projected starters is City College of San Francisco transfer Naila Washington, a 5-foot-9-inch forward, according to Cox. Washington, one of the team’s leaders, hopes to bring experience and a passion to win.
“None of us are afraid,” Washington said. “If you want new expectations we got to try new things.”
The team’s first game is an exhibition match against Menlo College Nov. 5. The Gators open up the regular season Nov.13 against Central Washington and the team’s home opener is Nov.17 against Notre Dame De Namur University.
“It may not be a finished product right away,” Cox said. “It’s gonna be a process, but we got a good mix of experienced players and young players.”