The start of the 2017-18 women and men’s college basketball season is less than two weeks away. Instead of offering the typical preseason predictions from know-it-all media types, the MSR spoke to coaches and players, locally and conference-based, as they discussed their programs heading into the season for our first “Yes, they said it” segment:
“It can’t get here soon enough,” said Coquese Washington, Penn State head coach, on the upcoming season.
“We are all undefeated and very happy right now,” said Suzy Merchant, Michigan State head coach.
“Our core values all start with ‘we,’” said Teri Moren, Indiana head coach.
“It is a desire for me to let the players be free and trust them more,” said C. Vivian Stringer, Rutgers head coach.
“We tried to be up-tempo the last five years. We want to put up points,” said Lisa Bluder, Iowa head coach.
There is no “hidden science formula” to on-court success — “It’s a great challenge. At Wisconsin, everybody wins here,” said Jonathan Tsipis, Wisconsin head coach
“We have a strong conference top to bottom,” said Sharon Versyp, Purdue head coach, on the 14-team Big Ten.
“A very consistent message [to] the girls [is] to be the hardest working team on the court,” said Amy Williams, Nebraska head coach.
“We lost 6,000 points from our senior class,” which included local-born Nia Coffey, now in the WNBA, said Joe McKeown, Northwestern head coach.
Teams just don’t let you do what you want to do in terms of transition basketball. “I love the fast game, but everyone can’t do the one-on-one and four players standing,” said Nancy Fahey, Illinois head coach.
“Obviously we talk about it, but we don’t talk about it on a daily basis. We know we have to get better defensively before we start thinking about Columbus,” said Kevin McGuff, Ohio State head coach, on Columbus as host of the 2018 Women’s Final Four.
Learning from the best
The Gophers women’s team, which opens its season November 11 vs. Lehigh, watched the WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx during their playoff run at Williams Arena.
“They wished us luck on the season,” Minneapolis native and redshirt junior guard Kenisha Bell told us. “They showed how much basketball means to them, and they are passionate in every game.”
U of M Associate Head Coach Nikita Lowry Dawkins said the coaches were able to use the Lynx players as a teaching tool. “In order to be a good player, you have to be a good student of the game. Not just watching yourself, but watching others and how successful they are, and try to implement it on the court. They [the Gophers] had a chance to watch things up close and personal.”
Back after two seasons out
Davonte Fitzgerald is ready to play after nearly two years off the court, having sat out the 2015-16 season after he transferred from Texas A&M, then tearing his ACL last October and missing last season as well. The young man this summer was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA and will be able to play this season and next season as well.
“It was frustrating, but once I realized the situation I was in, it made the [recovering] journey much easier. I was trying to get through it day-by-day. It was all about being patient,” says the young man, who expects to graduate in December with a communications studies degree.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.