New blood is running through the veins of the GW women’s basketball program.
The coaching staff is new. Seven of the team’s 15 players are new. But one thing that has not changed for the upcoming season is the level of expectations: high.
New head coach Mike Bozeman inherits a program accustomed to success under predecessor Joe McKeown. For the past three seasons Bozeman has experienced these achievements firsthand, serving as one of McKeown’s assistants and helping the Colonials make deep NCAA tournament runs the last two springs.
“We don’t have to go into a big game thinking, ‘Wow, we’re playing a big-name team.’ We just went to back-to-back Sweet 16s,” Bozeman said of GW’s established status. “Come on, man. We’re used to playing in those kind of games.”
While the goals and attitude are familiar to Colonials, many of the faces are not. Bozeman’s personnel is lined with newcomers, with all three assistant coaches and the head of basketball operations all in their first year at GW. Yet Bozeman said the lack of familiarity was quickly overcome.
“The staff has hit the ground running,” Bozeman said. “We really are a cohesive group. Our personalities mesh. It’s better than I could have imagined.”
The roster, like those in charge of it, is also going through a transition. Gone are long-time starting lineup stalwarts Kim Beck, Sarah-Jo Lawrence and Whitney Allen – all of whom graduated last spring. In their place are a half-dozen freshmen and transfer Yolanda Lavender, who arrived in Foggy Bottom from Wake Forest last winter and will be eligible to play later this year.
Bozeman said the departure of the recent graduates has helped him and his staff push the team.
“Those guys, they did their thing,” he said. “They left some big footprints and it’s great for me to be able to challenge these young kids to be able to fill those.”
But Bozeman said he is not the only one doing the pushing. The new players themselves are challenging the upperclassmen with their intensity.
“These new guys, they’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” he said. “They’re ready to jump into it, jump through it, show coach how hard you can go. Some of the veterans need to be pushed like that and it’s absolutely working to lift them up in terms of their energy level.”
That enthusiasm and youth could work to an advantage during the season, he added.
“I get energy off of them and hopefully they’re getting energy off of me right back,” Bozeman said. “So that right there is just a bunch of combustible energy in the gym. I guess when you light the right fuse, it’s just going to blow.”
Oct. 15 is the first official practice for the team, with the regular season beginning exactly one month later. Freshman Tiana Myers said she is already to eager to get things underway.
“I feel like there’s a sense of urgency in that we just want to get on the court and play,” she said. “But we know practice comes first. We have to get in there and work and put everything together.”