Women's Basketball Season Preview: Wings
Oct. 20, 2011
SEATTLE - When Mike Neighborsfirst arrived at Washington, he made it a point not to look at film or study stats from the Huskies' previous season. It was more important for the new Husky assistant to review the team without prejudices before workouts began in earnest.
Neighbors is responsible for developing the UW guards. In the second installment of position group previews for GoHuskies.com, the assistant coach provided a scouting report on the team's wing players, who will have to embrace the challenge of scoring points in Kristi Kingma's absence. The senior guard tore her ACL during an exhibition game in Norway, meaning her 15.6 ppg average will be sidelined for the entire 2011-12 season.
In head coach Kevin McGuff'ssystem, the wing players fill a variety of roles, from running the floor to pressuring the ball in the "55" defensive set, thereby making it a critcal factor in determining the Huskies success going forward.
One player who has discovered new life in McGuff's system is Jeneva Anderson. The junior from Spokane has impressed throughout summer and fall workouts, showcasing the versatility to thrive in multiple offensive positions. Neighbors said Anderson single-handedly won the Huskies a game in Scandinavia when she had to fill in at the power forward position after foul trouble had thinned the Huskies bench. Now she's poised for a bump in playing time after averaging just under eight minutes a contest her first two seasons.
Much of the credit, Neighbors said, goes to the system Anderson played in high school at Lewis & Clark in Spokane.
"She really developed good habits and fundamentals out of high school," Neighbors said. "Jeneva knows how to play the game. Plus she's a great teammate and when we've thrown her in different situations she doesn't blink."
In terms of leadership, few players have stepped up like Charmaine Barlow. The senior has been a motivating presence throughout offseason workouts, and has now established a reputation in the Pac-12 conference as a terrific on-ball defender. That was rewarded last season with an honorable mention selection to the league's All-Defensive Team.
"More than anybody, she embraced our defensive culture. Really embodies the toughness that we look for in a great defender," Neighbors said. "She's built on the role she's had with this team."
Barlow spent an ample amount of time in the gym honing her jump shot, knowing opponents are prone to leave her to double on the post. Neighbors hinted Barlow would enjoy some freedom on offense, where she could put her speed and athleticism to good use running the floor.
One player the Huskies are eager to develop is Aminah Williams, who possesses some tremendous potential after a standout career with Kennedy High School. The 6-0 freshman has the total package of speed, strength and instincts, and now just needs to fold it into the structure of McGuff's system. She crashes the boards, has a soft touch around the basket and can knock down an outside shot. All of this was on display in Scandinavia, particularly in the Huskies' final game against SISU Copenhagen.
"She's good at all the things that we can't coach," Neighbors said. "Aminah is a kid that just makes plays. And now we have to teach her to play (our system). Once she closes that gap is going to determine how long she takes to be an impact player in the Pac-12."
Like most talented high school players, Williams is finding out in practice that certain habits at the prep level don't translate to high-level Division I basketball. But Neighbors is certain Williams has all the tools to make the transition.
It's a predicament similar to another Husky wing. Sophomore Ashley Moorecame to Washington after a standout career in the Bay Area. The 5-10 swing player brings a reputation as a prolific scorer, and the UW coaching staff has lauded her athleticism during individual drills. Neighbors said it's time for Moore to carve out her niche on this Huskies' squad.
"This is a kid that when she finds her niche at the collegiate level, whether that's a lockdown defender or a slashing guard, there's a role for her," Neighbors said.