Oct. 30, 2009
There's something to be said for consistency. For really the first time in her tenure, Washington coach Tia Jackson is able to enjoy it.
The Huskies are in the midst of preparations for the upcoming 2009-10 season, and Jackson has the benefit of 12 returning players, despite the loss of veterans Heidi McNeill and Michelle Augustavo. Those who are returning have the benefit of an added year in Jackson's system, as well as a summer of intense weight training and conditioning that added muscle and speed to the veteran group. The cohesion and leadership is also starting to show as practices are flowing better and schemes are able to be translated to the younger players.
"The rationale on how we do certain things has evolved now that we have 12 veterans," Jackson said. "There are two freshmen now as opposed to eight newcomers (last year). The 12 have taken them under their wings."
Here's how the Washington lineup will shake out this season.
On the wings, the Huskies are especially dangerous. Senior guard/forward Sami Whitcomb was an All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention last year, averaging 12.8 points per game in 30 contests. This year, she's added better court vision to complement her dribble-drive offensive style, giving the team an additional playmaker as well.
Jackson also believes there are few players in the Pac-10 Conference who can sustain a hot streak like Whitcomb can. There were several instances, particularly the Oregon game in the conference tournament, where Whitcomb exploded offensively. Over the summer and through the course of preseason, Jackson has worked with Whitcomb on seeing the court better and facilitating easy baskets for her teammates.
Sophomore Kristi Kingma is a potent shooter who worked all summer on driving to the basket. From nearby Mill Creek, Wash., Kingma was a Pac-10 All-Freshman Honorable Mention as a freshman last year, and was third on the team with an average of 8.2 points per game. Both Kingma and Whitcomb possess excellent athleticism to complement their range from deep.
Another local product will provide help in this category as well. Seattle's Sara Mosiman (Kings High School) is not only athletic enough to defend several positions and rebound at 5-9, but has what Jackson termed as the best mid-range game on the team, having displayed the ability to consistently knock down 15-footers in practice. The senior is also one of the undisputed team leaders on the squad.
"She's a player who has led us in attempts in practice, but also in percentage," Jackson said. "Mo's pretty good at using screens and recognizing what her strength is. She is now improved her 3-point range, so her confidence in taking that shot has gotten better."
What will help the wing play is an improved presence in the post. This is now an asset for the Huskies with the addition of transfer Regina Rogers, who is now eligible after sitting out last season per NCAA rules. The West Seattle native is an imposing 6-3 presence down low, but also can display a soft touch around the basket. Her addition should help the guards/wings tremendously, as she's automatically a candidate to attract a double team from defenders. During her freshman season at UCLA, Rogers was a budding talent, earning Pac-10 All-Freshman Honorable Mention. Now she'll have more of a feature role in the Huskies offense.
"She's extremely physical on the block," Jackson said. "What's surprising is that Regina, with that strong presence inside, is so nimble. She's able to shoot the 15-footer. She's one of our better passers. And it's just made the standard (among the post players) rise a little bit."
Senior Laura McLellan was second on the team in scoring last year, and is inching closer to becoming one of the Huskies all-time leaders in blocked shots. The presence of Rogers leaves her free to play the power forward position, where she feels more confident and also gives the Huskies added muscle at the four spot.
Other assets in the block will be redshirt sophomore Mackenzie Argens, who is feeling stable and confident after tearing her ACL two seasons ago. Already gifted at running the floor and displaying a back-to-the-basket game, Argens has become a more complete post with her work over the summer. Sophomore Liz Lay is another forward who has the full collection of offensive skills at her disposal, while senior Lydia Young brings athleticism and defense into play, similar to what sophomore Mollie Williams can provide. Charmaine Barlow played just eight games last year, but is also competing for playing time at the forward position.
The playmaking duties will be shared by point guards Christian Rozier and Sarah Morton, a senior and junior respectively. Over the summer, the coaching staff worked with each player on additions to their game. For Rozier, it was focusing on making the additional pass after penetrating the lane. For Morton, it was expanding her range and giving her confidence to shoot more from all areas of the court. While they both hold the keys to Jackson's offense, the two guards have also done a commendable job of mentoring freshman PG Amanda Johnson (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), who along with forward Jeneva Anderson (Spokane, Wash.) form the two Husky newcomers.
"They both understand the role of the point guard," Jackson said. "So they're able to teach it now. And they've gotten better not in their own individual areas, but they've improved collectively in their leadership."
Depth will be an advantage for the Huskies this year as well. Considering the intensity of practices so far in preseason, Jackson is still formulating how to delegate certain roles on the court to which players, considering the number of returners Washington has.
"Everyone has a role, whether it's a defensive role or a rebounding role or a scoring role," Jackson said. "Between now and the start of our first game, those roles will be revealed. It's not something that I implement, but something that they showcase. They will reveal those things to us as a staff and start to identify their role." The season begins with an exhibition game on Nov. 5 against Seattle Pacific University at Bank of America Arena (7 p.m.) The regular season tips off on Nov. 14 with a road trip to Portland State.