Practice Officially Underway For Women's Basketball
Oct. 8, 2010
SEATTLE - Now that preseason practice officially began on Wednesday for Washington's women's basketball team, the Huskies can finally begin making good on the proclamation that has been on the T-shirts they've been wearing for months.
Winning four of their final six games last season was not enough. Neither was their first postseason appearance since 2007, in the inaugural Women's Basketball Invitational.
"For sure -- for sure -- I want to get to the NCAA tournament," said junior Kristi Kingma, to whom the young Huskies will be looking to replace the production and leadership of graduated Sami Whitcomb, the leading scorer and rebounder on last season's 15-18 team.
Coach Tia Jackson has set the goal of finishing among the top four inside the Pac-10, a place that almost assures an NCAA tournament appearance.
"That's the bare minimum," Jackson said inside Hec Edmundson Pavilion on the eve of starting her fourth preseason camp at UW.
"Yes, we went to the postseason last year. But we're not satisfied with that. We want more."
Kingma , from Mill Creek, Wash., says "from the outside, maybe that looks like a stretch," this Huskies' goal of reaching the NCAAs for the first time in four seasons.
"But whether or not people believe it's realistic, whether fans or boosters believe it or not, if we don't believe, it can't happen," Kingma said.
"For me, I'm 100 percent believing it is a realistic goal."
Kingma, who was second on the team in scoring last season, sounds anything but daunted by the task of replacing Whitcomb.
"I'm SO ready," Kingma said.
"My last couple years I haven't had to be a leader; I've had Michelle Augustavo and then Sami. Now, I have to step up vocally, pull the younger players aside."
That's exactly what Jackson wants to hear.
Jackson's intensity, her faster-paced style of unrelenting pressure in practices and games, has been a change from the regime of previous coach June Daugherty. But Jackson thinks that transition is now complete, that her system has now taken root on a roster of recruits who match her style.
That is allowing her to delegate some of the coaching to the upperclassmen, such as Kingma and point guard Sara Morton, the team's only senior.
"They do a lot of the teaching now," Jackson said. "You see them talking to our freshmen and telling them what to expect, how to play. These young ladies hold them accountable."
Forward Marjorie Heard and guards Ashley Moore, Kassia Fortier and Mercedes Wetmore are the freshmen. Jackson says she doubts any of them will redshirt, that she expects all of them to contribute this season. How much depends on how they progress starting with Wednesday's first practice.
The Huskies will train five days a week at the start of the preseason, taking Saturdays and Sundays off. Jackson's goals for the practices? Run, run and run some more.
"(It's) making sure our conditioning is intact for our style of play," she said. "We play aggressive defense, which demands that we are in shape.
"I think for the most part we came in with pretty good conditioning."
The Huskies will rely on a deep frontcourt, and will again center the halfcourt offense around Regina Rogers inside. The 6-foot-3 center and transfer from UCLA who starred at Seattle's Chief Sealth High School is in her second year back home at UW.
But Kingma says the Huskies would rather run into a transition offense off defensive rebounds and turnovers forced by all that defensive pressure Jackson drills into them, instead of settling into halfcourt sets.
Meanwhile, Kingma will work on the Huskies maintaining the confidence she felt they were playing with at the end of last season.
"Confidence is a huge thing," she said. "I think at points last year, and in my freshman year, we lost confidence. But we've got it back."
Kingma credits strength and conditioning coach Matt Ludwig for that.
"He's had us competing against ourselves, and winning," Kingma said.
"Winning four out of the last six last year, it definitely builds up the confidence up and has you thinking, `Hey, all we've worked for all summer, all these seasons, it's working.'"