With no new freshmen recruits, the 2002-03 women’s basketball team does not have to waste its first two weeks of practice breaking down the mechanics of their offense and working out defensive strategies. They do, however, need all their returning players back on the court.
As many as four players are not practicing at full speed because of injury, a fact that has curtailed the teams’ full-court options, head coach Joe McKeown said after practice Tuesday.
Sophomore Tylon Harris and junior transfer Michela Leary, both red shirts last season, are not at full speed yet. The coaching staff does not want to rush Harris’ knee, and Leary, who had to watch last season from the bench because of NCAA transfer rules, is struggling physically from missed practices.
Red shirt junior Cathy Joens is making her way back from a pre-season ankle injury but McKeown expects sophomore Liz Dancause, who is battling stress fractures, back by the weekend.
“(Her return) will be important because she hasn’t practiced yet and she’s going be a terrific player,” McKeown said.
Even with the injuries, McKeown said he sees a tremendous difference in his team’s attitude from last year in terms of leadership, work ethic and approach. Veteran leadership and experience from players like seniors Erica Lawrence and Lindsey Davidson give the team an extra edge in these early weeks.
“We can add a little wrinkle to the offense that won’t freak them out and we can accelerate practice because we don’t have to spend as much time breaking down the little things like we did last year,” McKeown said.
But technical execution is not the only place the team is ahead the game. Players said this is the most tight-knit team they have played on at GW, and have really bonded since everyone came back to school this fall.
And chemistry, McKeown said, will be a key factor in this season’s success.
“(This team) reminds me of my team from 1992. They thought they could win every game they played,” he said. “Erica (Lawrence) has that attitude, CJ (Joens) has it.”
When the rest of the team matches that confidence, he said, they will be unstoppable.
“It’s not an arrogance, it’s a confidence.,” he said. “There is a borderline between arrogance and confidence, but it’s not so bad to be a little arrogant. That’s how I want them to think, you go to GW you’re here for a reason, not to be average.”
Lawrence, Joens and Davidson can be a little arrogant. As freshmen on the 1999-2000 squad, they beat UCLA in the NCAA tournament and have garnered numerous school and conference awards in the past three years.
These first weeks of practice will focus on transferring that drive and confidence to rising stars like Dancause and Montana, a task that falls in the hands of veteran leaders like Lawrence and Davidson.
“(Davidson’s) the kind of player that wants to say ‘hey, we took our team to the final four,'” McKeown said. “They beat UCLA their freshman year and they except that from their team.”
McKeown said he sees those same expectations already this season from his underclassmen. Dancause, he said, came back with a tremendous difference in her game, outlook and physical shape.
“I’ve been really impressed with the way she’s come back this year,” McKeown said.
Sophomore Greeba Outen Barlow, an offensive phenomenon out of Columbia, Md. also has that fire, but needs to mature in her game, McKeown said.
“Greeba’s going to give me more gray hair,” McKeown said. “But at the same time she is a tremendous offensive talent. We are teaching her to play both sides and that is a challenge for her. Putting the ball in the basket is not.”