The Gopher women are a couple of weeks removed from their first-ever WBI championship. “There were only three teams that get to win their last game, and we were one of those,” notes Coach Pam Borton.
It wasn’t the NCAAs or WNIT, but the little-known tourney gave Borton’s 10 returning players an experience plank to build upon. “It was an upswing,” continues the coach.
“I think we accomplished some things that we hadn’t accomplished the two previous years before. We beat a top-10 team, a top-25 team, and we played pretty well at home. Our non-conference schedule was tough, and we won more Big Ten games than the year before. I think we showed a lot of improvement.”
It didn’t hurt to have Big Ten Freshman of the Year Rachel Banham in the fold as well.
“She was our most consistent player,” says Borton of the team’s leading scorer. “The bigger test is where she goes from here. She’s got a lot of work to do this summer.”
As do her teammates, who must seriously commit to off-season improvement plans if the Gophers are to advance to the conference’s first division next season. The new off-season rules for coaches working with players, however, don’t apply in women’s basketball.
“I see positive things and a lot of negative things [about the new rules]. I don’t think women basketball coaches ever wanted to go there,” admits Borton. “I think players can learn to take some responsibility for their own development in the off-season.
“I’ll share with you that the players really taking responsibility on themselves for getting better as basketball players” is important, she surmises. “I think players are made in the off-season. Players have to take responsibility and be accountable for developing their skill level, becoming bigger, faster, stronger, and getting in the weight room.
“Every individual player has her own areas of concern or areas of improvement they need to make.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.