Nov. 8, 2012
|WASHINGTON VS. SAINT MARY'S
Fri., Nov. 9 | 7:00 pm | Alaska Airlines Arena | Live Stats
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Online: Live Chat | Radio: 1150 AM
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE -- Kristi Kingma has waited through 14 months, the scare of reconstructive knee surgery and then the grueling, seemingly endless rehabilitation from it - all for this.
Her bonus, return season as a redshirt senior leading the Huskies' resurgence in women's basketball.
"It gave me a chance to see basketball from the other side and appreciate what I have," UW's all-conference scorer said of her year off from a torn anterior cruciate ligament - a hiatus that ends with Friday's 2012-13 opener against Saint Mary's at Alaska Airlines Arena. "I learned that I am tougher than I thought I was, and how much I love basketball.
"Now when we have a tough practice, I think back to last year and how I would have given anything to be back on the court."
She's back on it now. Friday is her first Huskies' game that counts in 20 months -- since she had 10 points and seven rebounds as Washington lost to California in the first round of the conference tournament in Los Angeles in March 2011.
Heck, Kevin McGuffwas still the coach at Xavier, preparing for another NCAA tournament, when Kingma last played for keeps.
Yes, year two of McGuff's remodeling at Washington is undeniably Kingma's year.
This follow up to UW's first 20-win season since 2003 was supposed to feature Kingma outside and McDonald's high school All-America Katie Collier inside in as formidable and balanced an attack as there is the Pac-12. But months after the 6-foot-3 Collier survived cancer, she tore herACL this past summer (http://www.gohuskies.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/091912aaa.html). Collier is redshirting this season.
That leaves Kingma and Jazmine Davis, last season's Pac-12 freshman of the year and all-conference selection, as the Huskies' main scoring threats -- and both from the outside. While Kingma is the deadly shooter, Davis is the slasher and fearless penetrator into the lane.
The 5-7 Davis had the best debut season in program history. Her 535 points broke Loree Payne'sfreshman scoring record. Her 15.7 points per game was fifth-most among all Pac-12 players. And she can shoot from deep, too - her 67 3-pointers last season was another UW freshman record.
That was all without defenses having to worry about Kingma last season. Imagine what those two will be like together for opponents now - well, once Kingma returns to full form, that is.
"I've been pretty rusty," said Kingma, who was cleared to resume practicing this past spring then had a subpar shooting night in last week's exhibition win over Concordia, Ore. "I knew I wasn't going to come back in the same form as I was before I tore my ACL. The offense is designed to shoot a lot of 3s, so I think I have to have a better mentality of not getting down and wanting to shoot.
"Jaz is going to beat a lot of players and they're going to have to help on her or else she is going to score every single time."
The Huskies will need all they can get outside from Kingma and Davis, because questions abound inside. UW lost all-conference inside force Regina Rogers, lunch-pail worker Mackenzie Argens and rebounder Mollie Williamsto graduation after going 20-14 and reaching the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament in March.
Talia Walton is the only Husky taller than 6-feet who has played a college game. And she played in just one last season before redshirting her first year because of injury. Mathilde Gillingis a still-unknown, 6-3 freshman from Denmark whom McGuff and his staff discovered while playing against her team during the exhibition tour of Scandinavia on which Kingma got hurt in the summer of 2011.
Heather Corralis a versatile, 6-1 shooter and lock-down defender from Prairie High School in Vancouver, Wash., from whom McGuff is expecting "really big things." But Corral has had four knee surgeries in three seasons (http://www.gohuskies.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/102412aac.html) - and she is questionable at best for the opener after getting hurt again in a recent practice.
So for now, the Huskies will be led from outside in.
"I think with the guards we have we will be dangerous this year. We might lack size but we don't lack toughness," Kingma said. "You can make up for size if you battle like we do and push the ball."
Push. Push. And push some more. On offense and defense.
That is what McGuff is wanting - make that, demanding - for his second season after making Xavier a top-10 program.
If the Huskies aren't in a Gael's face Friday night, in a Seattle U. Redhawk's mug Wednesday at KeyArena and in someone's grill every game thereafter, they will hear about it.
They already are getting an earful on it.
"I'm disappointed that we are behind defensively, quite frankly. We are not where we should be," McGuff said this week.
"That's my biggest area of concern. We are usually really good defensively at this point in a season, with all the teams I've had. And we are just OK. It's nothing that can't be fixed - but it hasto be fixed."
That's a glimpse of the standard McGuff is pushing in year two, no matter who is hurt or graduated or rusty.
"I think we should finish in the top half of the league, and we hope to play in the NCAA tournament," McGuff said.
"Culturally, we've made significant changes to create a winning attitude. That's what we accomplished in year one. Now, that's taking that to the next step.
"I feel we are going down the right path."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: This is no ease-into-the-season opener. Saint Mary's went 22-14 last season, 11-5 in the West Coast Conference. The Gaels beat league champion Gonzaga in Spokane and Brigham Young at home in Moraga, Calif., last season. Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary's are considered 1-2-3 in the WCC. "We want to play a tough non-conference schedule," McGuff said. "And Saint Mary's is a tough team."