Erik Schmidt Expectations need to be tempered. Coach Buzz Williams said it about the talented but unproven redshirt sophomore Jamil Wilson, but he should have been saying it to us. You see, this season the hype is real. The team is good. The talent is deep. The coaching is savvy. Add that all up and you get magic and wins and possibly trophies. But. Take a deep breath. When you expect things, it’s easier to be disappointed, so in that sense, success is relative. In relation to expectations, the last two years have been big time Cinderella success stories. Comparatively, when the Big Three juggernaut was still breaking school records in 2008, the hopes were sky high. But the end result? Total dud. After all the wins, after all the points and national rankings, after all the spine-tingling intro videos, the super team won one game in the NCAA Tournament and was promptly booted from competition by a mediocre Missouri team. Just like that, absolute heartbreak. And looking back, it’s hard to remember how good that season was because it’s so easy to be
e d Ri
or if Wilson is really as good as advertised. You can answer all those questions with one flimsy word. Probably. It’s probably, most likely, got to be true. This team is dripping with raw talent and is nuclear powered by the endless energy of Williams, a blue collar tough guy with as practical and measured approach to coaching as you’ll see. He believes hard work pays off. If you look at the last two seasons this has been a proven fact for the Golden Eagles. But if it was always true, Rudy would be the world’s best football player and Rocky wouldn’t have lost to Apollo Creed. So what we’re left with is this very talented, very balanced, very well coached basketball team and the notion that they should be great. They should be. Probably. But. Take a timeout. We don’t want a reproduction of Missouri in 2008. We definitely don’t want a repeat of North Carolina last March. Let’s just temper our expectations a bit. Let’s aim low. Let’s take it one game at a time. That way, when success does come, and the wins and awards pile up, it will all be that much sweeter. I know I probably just contradicted myself. I know I probably shouldn’t have said that. But. Take a look at the roster. The hype is real. And no matter how hard I try, “buts” just aren’t going to cut it. email@example.com
A deep roster and dearth of talent will put MU in spotlight
The frontcourt has been a point of emphasis under Williams, who, in 2008, took over a roster comprised of Dwight Burke, Pat Hazel and freshman Chris Otule, all of whom were used sparingly in the guard-oriented offense. Three years later, senior forward Jae Crowder, redshirt sophomore forward Jamil Wilson, sophomore forward Davante Gardner and redshirt junior center Otule are all expected to log significant minutes in Williams’ frontcourt. The backcourt is also balanced, with senior Darius Johnson-Odom and junior Junior Cadougan leading a group of talented guards into the season. The past two seasons, Williams was forced to play David Cubillan and Dwight Buycks, both natural shooting guards, out of position because of the make-up of the roster. But with a roster made up of 12 high-caliber players, it has given Williams options to create mismatches against opponents. “I don’t think that there will necessarily always be a set lineup because I think we have some good players because I think we can cross-match and mismatch, and
By Mark Strotman firstname.lastname@example.org
In his fourth year with the Marquette Golden Eagles, coach Buzz Williams finally has a roster made up of players who have bought into the coach’s mentality. Williams has balanced a roster that desperately needed it when he took over for Tom Crean in 2008. He had an entire recruiting class leave and lost four seniors after his first year. Three years later, the roster has three freshmen, four sophomores, three juniors and two seniors, all of whom Williams recruited. “I think it gives us more of a clear vision from the beginning because there’s more delineation,” Williams said. “The problem is you don’t want it to get too defined, because the guys who have had success here are the guys that are interchangeable on both ends.”
Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics
Senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom is Marquette’s No. 1 returning scorer.
I Want To Hold Your Hand
we can put teams on their heels be the underdog when we line up from a technical standpoint by against the other teams.” who we play,” Williams said. Johnson-Odom said that recent The players he has brought to success will not change how the Marquette also have jumped on team handles opponents. board with the coach’s mentality “We’re still going to be one of of playing hard and staying fo- the toughest teams playing,” Johncused. son-Odom said. “It doesn’t matter Williams sees last season’s who we bring back, we’re going Sweet 16 as a foundation in the to be playing as hard as possible. minds of the players, who now un- And the younger guys are figuring derstand what it takes to win at the that out as well.” highest level. A seventh straight “The hardest part “It doesn’t matter NCAA Tournament will be, can we learn appearance seems who we bring back, from that experience more than likely for and not selectively use we’re going to be the Golden Eagles, it when we think it’s playing as hard as but Williams said his best?” Williams said. possible.” team’s constant men“Can you take that ex- Darius Johnson-Odom tality is what will Senior Guard breed success come perience and use it on a daily basis so that cuMarch. mulatively the interest “The highest priwill apply and have a better impact ority is always to be the hardest at the end of this season?” working team on the floor and The Golden Eagles will begin the toughest playing team on the the season ranked higher than in floor,” Williams said. “The best years past, but Crowder said the style is a winning style. Over the team’s mentality will not change. passing year, we have gotten better “We still have to keep the same relative to our talent and relative to mindset on our team,” Crowder the roster from top to bottom. And said. “And through boot camp, we as we progress, we’ll continue to were saying we’re still going to win.”
Cover photos by Aaron Ledesmaemail@example.com, Tribune file photos & Marquette Athletics
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blinded by how great it should have been. Please, please don’t let that happen this year. Everyone cool it. Buy some stress balls. Go to the spa. Relax. This is certainly going to be a hard sell, and I get that. It’s an innate quality of die-hard fans to overreact and dream of dangling banners and shiny gold things, and when you really break down this roster it’s clear they have a winning blueprint. Dynamic scorer? If Darius Johnson-Odom were any more versatile, he’d be a Swiss army knife. Inside presence? Chris Otule and Davante Gardner represent the best low post tandem at Marquette since the Pony Express was the fastest means of communication. Team-leading floor general? As long as Junior Cadougan stays away from microphones and Karaoke bars, he’s going to be just fine. But. Take a chill pill. Better yet, be like Williams. The fourth-year coach gets it better than anyone. He knows he’s got some serious artillery on this squad. He knows how far this team could go. But he also knows how hard they could fall if everyone’s got their head in the clouds. DJO, as Williams noted, is one of the most unstoppable scorers in the country, but can he guard and shut down the other team’s best player? We don’t know. Just like we don’t know if second year players Vander Blue and Jamail Jones will contribute anything positive off the bench, or if Otule has finally developed a reliable post move,
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Cadougan adds role of teacher to responsibilities By Mike Nelson firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics
Junior guard Junior Cadougan came on strong at the end of last season.
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is a big question mark. There isn’t a true point guard on the roster with Division I experience. “I’m going to have more of a coaching role this year to help Vander (Blue) play the point, help Derrick (Wilson) play the point, so they can help me out,” Cadougan said. Freshman guard Todd Mayo, sophomore guard Blue, as well as Wilson all could see time at the position behind Cadougan this season. “Who the other guys are, I don’t know. We’ll figure it out,” Williams said. “But I think we have multiple guys, within how we play, that can initiate the offense.”
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Buzz Williams said Dominic James was arguably the only true point guard he’s had starting for him during his first three years as Marquette’s coach. Now he has Junior Cadougan. The junior guard should fill the void at the point guard position created by the departure of Dwight Buycks — although Williams would not deem Cadougan the starter when asked at media day on Oct. 14. Cadougan showed glimpses of brilliance as a sophomore in his first full season of Division I basketball after he missed the first 18 games of his freshman campaign with a ruptured Achilles tendon. He notched a double-double (10 points and 10 assists) in an 86-62 victory over Providence on Feb. 27 and propelled Marquette with his 15-point, five-assist performance in a 67-61 win over West Virginia in the Big East Championship tournament. On the season, Cadougan averaged 4.00 points and 3.19 assists in 19.8 minutes per game as Buycks’ backup. “I thought the last few games, if you statistically looked at his impact on winning and losing over his last eight games of our season, it was distinctly different than the first 20,” Williams said. “I think that he’s in better shape than he’s ever been in.” Cadougan’s cardiovascular fitness as the season progresses will, in part, determine his minutes this season, Williams said. “Offensively, I’ve always felt he’s had a good understanding for how to play and how, specifically, I want him to play,” Williams said. “Defensively, he’s got to improve. But he understands how hard he has to
play. I tend to think that we’re going to be best when he’s a major contributor to what we’re doing. I have high expectations, and so do the other players on our team.” To make himself better for 2011’12, Cadougan spent extra time working on his jump-shot this offseason to transform himself from a player who excels at getting to the basket to a player who can knock down an open jump-shot at a clip better than 15.2 percent from beyond the arc — as was the case last year. Freshman Derrick Wilson, the only other true point guard on the roster, was impressed with Cadougan while watching him on TV last season. “I think he can be one of the best point guards in the Big East,” Wilson said. “But it depends on how much effort he puts into it. But knowing him, I know he’s going to put a lot of effort into it.” Senior guard Darius JohnsonOdom said he believes Cadougan will finish the season topfive in the Big East in assists per game. For comparison, the fifth-ranked assister in the Big East averaged 5.1 assists per game last season, 1.9 more than Cadougan’s average. “He knows where I like to shoot the ball. He knows where (senior forward) Jae (Crowder) is effective. He knows where (redshirt junior center) Chris (Otule) is very effective. He knows what pass to give to Chris (Otule) off the pick and roll. And he put himself into top shape this summer and this preseason. And I think he’s going to be one of the main focuses on our team.” But beyond Cadougan, the position
lick ‘n Eat TM
Tribune file photo
Sophomore guard Vander Blue may see time at the point guard position this year.
Wilson’s self-imposed expectations are most important Redshirt sophomore forward Jamil Wilson is aware that the expectations of him are high. But as he prepares for his first season on the court for the Golden Eagles, his focus is on meeting one person’s expectations. His own. The Racine, Wis., native said people have expected the most out of him ever since he started playing basketball. But Wilson has listened to advice from his father on how to temper those expectations and focus on playing his game. “(Others’)expectations shouldn’t matter because your expectations of yourself should be higher than theirs,” Wilson said. “And that’s all I can say.
Everyone probably expects a lot from me, but I really have to play.” Oregon fired coach Ernie Kent in March 2010, and three months later, it was announced that Wilson would leave for Marquette. He averaged just 4.7 points and 3.2 rebounds in 16.9 minutes at Oregon, but the athleticism and size that made him a top30 recruit in 2008 were evident. Comparisons to former Marquette forward Jimmy Butler have been made, in large part because of Wilson’s similarities to Butler’s stature, both players are 6-foot7, and skill set. But Wilson, who played against Butler every day in practice last season, said he doesn’t feel added pressure to become the player Butler was. “(Marquette) brought me here because of my ability as a player,” Wilson said. “Will I be compared to Jimmy with his numbers and production? I probably will be. And if I don’t do as well or do better, you never know, but that’s nothing I can control. I’m just
here to play.” Like Butler, Wilson fits the bill as a “switchable,” a player who can play multiple positions, in Marquette’s offense. He said he has the ability to play both forward positions and guard anyone from the point guard to the power forward. NCAA rules kept Wilson out of games last year, but the 220-pound forward used his transfer year to become a student of the game, putting in time around the clock to improve his game and ready himself for the following season. “I think just overall learning the game,” Wilson said of how he improved during his year off. “Observing the game and watching the game and going back and watching things over and over. I have learned so much on this year off, it’s ridiculous.” Senior forward Jae Crowder said Wilson’s skill set will allow Marquette to give defenses multiple looks on the offensive end. “He gives us another athletic big body we can depend on,”
Crowder said. “As he gets a feel of how we play, he’ll be a great player. So he brings a lot to the table for us.” Wilson’s size, athleticism and skill set make him an ideal player in Marquette’s offense. But coach Buzz Williams said Wilson needs to continue his progression as he suits up for the Golden Eagles. “Jamil has really grown, relative to what I believe is important in (Marquette’s) culture,” Williams said. “The difference is now he’s got to continue to grow because he’s going to be in the public eye, and we need him to be really good.” The hype surrounding Wilson is high. But for him, all that matters is living up to the goals he has for himself. “I do expect a lot out of myself because that’s part of being a good player,” Wilson said. “You have to push yourself and you have to put pressure on yourself in order to maintain and achieve goals.”
an incredible path.” Williams would like to see Gardner take a page out of Otule’s book. “Davante’s got to figure out that, ‘I have to play on both ends,’” Williams said. “And when he figures out that, ‘I’m going to be as aggressive playing defensively as I do offensively and that probably means I get to play more minutes,’ then I think he’ll be a really good player.” Gardner was a source of instant offense last year, setting a career high with 17 points, including a perfect 7-for-7 from the field in his first collegiate game, against Prairie View A&M, on Nov. 12. He also scored 16 points in Marquette’s 81-63 loss to North Carolina in the Sweet 16. “Davante, maybe, with his back to the basket, is as good as there
is as a sophomore (center) in the league,” Williams said. His career high for minutes played, however, is 18. The reason? Gardner has been extremely limited due to injury and poor defensive technique. “I need to do a better job on ball screens and fronting guys in the post,” Gardner said. “I’ve been working on it with Chris, and it’s coming along.” Gardner’s weakness is Otule’s strength. Otule’s 55 blocks last year were the most in a single season since Faisal Abraham in 1996-97. He also grabbed a career high nine rebounds against Georgetown on Feb. 13. “I think he’s finally in a position where you could look at him in an airport and say, ‘I think he
probably plays basketball somewhere,’” Williams said. “The last two years you just looked at him and said, ‘He must be the tallest kid that goes to school at Marquette.’” And it’s not that Otule can’t score. He posted a career high 19 points, including a perfect 9-for-9 from the floor against Longwood on Dec. 4, a performance that earned him a spot on the Big East Honor Roll for the first time in his career. “I think my post game has improved, but I know what I can do on defense and that’s get rebounds and block some shots,” Otule said. “It’s just a matter of me being able to stay on the floor and not commit dumb fouls.” The two players continue to better themselves through battling in practice.
“Davante is like 280-some pounds, and most of the ‘bigs’ in the Big East don’t even weigh as much as that,” Otule said. “So for me to bang around with him every day, obviously that helps me, and helps him too.” From the other side Gardner said, “Chris has a huge wingspan and he’s really strong, and that’s what you see a lot in the Big East, so that’s great for me.” Williams admitted Marquette has never been a team known for its big men, but that may change. “I do believe the combination of those guys could be really, really good,” Williams said. “And could completely be the best that has been here since I’ve been here. And if those two guys are as good as they can be, then I think it will help the rest of our guys be better than what they think they can be.”
By Mark Strotman
Photo by Aaron Ledesma/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Gardner and Otule provide desired size on the blocks By Michael LoCicero email@example.com
Photo by Aaron Ledesmafirstname.lastname@example.org Photos courtesy of Marquette Athletics Graphic by A. Martina Ibanez-Baldor email@example.com
There is no question that Marquette’s offense improves with sophomore forward Davante Gardner on the floor. It is also no secret that the team’s defense is drastically better with redshirt junior center Chris Otule on the court. “Chris, when he was a senior, was maybe the worst player in Texas over 6-foot-2,” coach Buzz Williams said. “Now three years later, he may be middle of the pack in the best league in the country in regards to starting (centers). That’s
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
By Mike Nelson firstname.lastname@example.org
Graphics by A. Martina IbanezBaldor & Monica Lawton
By: Mark Strotman email@example.com
Connecticut (32-9, 9-9 Big East 2010-’11) Despite Kemba Walker’s departure to the NBA, the defending national champions have plenty of talent either returning or incoming. Junior forward Alex Oriakhi (9.6 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game) and sophomore forward Jeremy Lamb (11.1 ppg) were named to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top-50 list. If those two aren’t enough, Connecticut brings in the No. 1 recruit, according to Scout.com, in 6-foot-10 forward Andre Drummond.
Syracuse (27-8, 12-6 Big East 2010-’11) Redshirt senior guard Scoop Jardine (12.5 ppg, 5.9 apg) and senior forward Kris Joseph (14.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg) will compose one of the best senior duos in the conference. Double-double machine Rick Jackson (13.1 ppg and 10.1 rpg) left a gap at center but 7-foot sophomore Fab Melo has a season of Big East play under his belt and can be effective as a rebounder and a presence in the middle.
Pittsburgh (28-6, 15-3 Big East 2010-’11) The Panthers were Big East regular season champions last season and return guard Ashton Gibbs for his senior season. Gibbs will receive serious consideration as the Big East’s preseason player of the year as he is the leading returning scorer in the Big East (16.8 ppg). Coach Jamie Dixon hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament in his nine years at Pittsburgh. The streak should continue.
Louisville (25-10, 12-6 Big East 2010-’11) Guard Peyton Siva averaged 5.2 assists per game as a sophomore guard last year. This season he’ll be one of the best point guards in the Big East and with the way forward Kyle Kuric finished his junior campaign last season – 15.1 ppg and 5.8 rpg in the final 13 contests – Louisville should successfully replace the production lost with the graduation of Preston Knowles (14.8 ppg).
Cincinnati (26-9, 11-7 Big East 2010-’11) The top four scorers return from the Bearcats team that earned a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament a year ago — including senior forward Yancy Gates (11.9 ppg and 6.9 rpg). Coach Mick Cronin did a great job bringing Cincinnati back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005 and should make the Bearcats a return attendee in 2012.
Marquette (22-15, 9-9 Big East 2010-’11) After 11 Big East teams made the NCAA Tournament last year, Marquette was one of just two that went to the Sweet 16. Marquette will greatly miss its senior leader from last year in forward Jimmy Butler. But with seniors guard Darius Johnson-Odom (15.8 ppg) and forward Jae Crowder (11.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Marquette is primed for another NCAA Tournament appearance.
Villanova (21-12, 9-9 Big East 2010-’11) Guards Corey Stokes (14.9 ppg) and Corey Fisher (15.6 ppg) are gone, and with them the No. 1 and No. 2 scorers for Villanova last season. Junior guard Maalik Wayns (13.8 ppg last season) looks to transition from sidekick to go-to-guy. Depending on the production of underclassmen and the offensive development of junior forward Mouphtaou Yarou (8.4 ppg and 7.1 rpg) this could be another talented Villanova team, despite having no seniors on the roster.
West Virginia (21-12, 11-7 Big East 2010-’11) An NCAA Tournament team last season, this year offers coach Bob Huggins a greater challenge, with eight of the 13 players on the roster having never played a minute of Division I basketball. Luckily for Huggins, he returns his second and third leading scorers — forward Kevin Jones (13.1 ppg) and guard Daryl “Truck” Bryant (11.3 ppg). Jones (7.5 rpg) was the team’s leading rebounder last season and will be the leader of the young squad.
Notre Dame (27-7, 14-4 Big East 2010-’11) Guard Ben Hansbrough (18.4 ppg) came out of nowhere to lead Notre Dame to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a second place finish in the Big East standings. Only six players on that squad averaged over 10 minutes per game in Big East play and three of them graduated, including Hansbrough. Senior forward Tim Abromaitis will have to be the playmaker (15.4 ppg, 42.9 percent on 3-pointers), but the Fighting Irish won’t be as good as they were last season.
St. John’s (21-12, 12-6 Big East 2010-’11) St. John’s was one of the most experienced teams in the country last season with 10 seniors on the roster — including leading scorer Dwight Hardy (18.3 ppg) — coming out of nowhere to nab a sixth seed in the NCAA Tournament. Those seniors took with them 96.3 percent of the Red Storm offense and 97.8 percent of the rebounding. There are six new players and the No. 3 ranked recruiting class, according to ESPN, who will need to fill that void.
Georgetown (21-11, 10-8 Big East 2010-’11) Senior guard Jason Clark is the only returning player who averaged over 8.7 points per game, while only two of five starters and two of the squad’s top five scorers return from last year’s NCAA Tournament team. Clark will have to take on an enhanced role in the offense and others will have to step up if Georgetown is to make the postseason for the sixth time in eight years.
Seton Hall (13-18, 7-11 Big East 2010-’11) Life after forward Jeremy Hazell (19.8 ppg) will be difficult as the Pirates need to find offense somewhere else. Herb Pope (9.8 points, 7.9 rebounds) will provide stability on the interior, but with limited talent returning and six of 12 players having no Division I experience, expect more of the same from Seton Hall.
Providence (15-17, 4-14 Big East 2010-’11) The Friars have two voids to fill. They lost their leading scorer and No. 2 scorer in the country, guard Marshon Brooks (24.2 ppg), and their coach, Keno Davis (who was fired in the offseason). New coach Ed Cooley arrived at Providence from Fairfield, but filling Brooks’ position is a tougher proposition. Vincent Council (13.7) and Gerard Coleman (10.3) both averaged double-digit points, but the cupboard beyond them is bare.
Rutgers (15-17, 5-13 Big East 2010-’11) After coach Mike Rice’s first season, he landed a seven-man recruiting class rated 16th best according to ESPN. He has the program in the right direction, but this will be another tough year. No returning player averaged double figures offensively, and there are only two seniors on this young team. Barring a breakout freshman, Rutgers will struggle mightily but should continue to grow as a program.
South Florida (10-23, 3-15 Big East 2010-’11) Six of South Florida’s top seven scorers return for the 2011-2012 campaign, including 6-foot-10 senior forward Augustus Gilchrist (13.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg). But it’s not like the members of that squad were overly productive, as demonstrated by their record. Look for an improved Bulls team this season, but one that should still be near the bottom of the talented Big East.
DePaul (7-24, 1-17 Big East 2010-’11) It’s been four years since DePaul had a winning record. That streak should extend to five in 2011-’12. The Blue Demons boast last year’s Big East Rookie of the Year in fresman forward Cleveland Melvin (14.3 ppg, 52.2 field goal percentage). Sophomore guard Brandon Young joined Melvin, as a member of the Big East All-Rookie Team (12.6 ppg, 3.7 apg).
Three Players To Watch
Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh: His game isn’t flashy, but the senior guard is one of the most efficient players in the nation. Last year, the All-Big East first team member averaged 16.8 points per game on 46.8 percent shooting, including a ridiculous 49 percent from three. He also led the Big East by hitting 88.9 percent of his free throws.
Scoop Jardine, Syracuse: No current Big East player has made a greater statistical or physical progression as the redshirt senior guard has the past four years. He has the body of a linebacker, the handles of a shifty point guard, the range of a threepoint specialist, the strength of a power forward and plays lockdown defense.
Jeremy Lamb, UConn: The sophomore forward averaged 10.8 points and 4.3 rebounds and burst onto the scene during the Big East Championship tournament last season. With Kemba Walker forgoing his senior season to enter the NBA draft, Lamb officially has taken the reins as the Huskies’ go-to scorer.
Photo via thebuckeyebattlecry.com
Photo via oneidadispatch.com
Photo via sikids.com
Three Games To Watch Connecticut at Pittsburgh (3/3/12): Both squads are expected to be ranked in the top 10 to begin the year, and there is a good chance they both stay there all season. Connecticut guard Kemba Walker won’t be around to hit a buzzer beater like he did to the Panthers in last year’s Big East Championship tournament, but sophomore forward Jeremy Lamb will lead a talented group trying to defend its NCAA Championship. This will also be a battle of talented freshmen, as Pittsburgh forward Khem Birch goes one-on-one with Connecticut forward Andre Drummond. Both were consensus top 20 recruits in the nation, and whoever wins this battle could determine the ultimate winner.
Notre Dame at Louisville (1/7/12): These two teams met twice last year and needed an extra period to finish both contests. Louisville avenged its regular season loss to the Fighting Irish by taking them down in the semifinals of the Big East Championship tournament. Louisville will contend for a Big East championship with junior guard Peyton Siva leading the way, while senior forward Kyle Kuric leads the outside attack. Notre Dame lost guard Ben Hansbrough but returns two key seniors in forward Tim Abromaitis and guard Scott Martin. Coach Mike Brey’s squad is always competitive and, if last year’s results were any indication, this year’s game should be one to watch.
Cincinnati at Syracuse (11/23/12): For whatever reason, no one seems to talk about Cincinnati and the job coach Mick Cronin has done recruiting the right talent to his program. This could be the game that puts Cronin and the Bearcats on the map, as two of the conference’s best front courts battle in Cincinnati early in the Big East season. Yancy Gates, a 6-foot-9 senior, is one of the best forwards in the Big East – if not the country – and will match up with Syracuse sophomore center Fab Melo. Cincinnati is awfully tough to beat at home (163 last year) and could pick up a significant win in the process.
Johnson-Odom, Crowder set the tone for 2011-’12 By Mike Nelson firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior forward Jae Crowder and senior guard Darius JohnsonOdom have a lot in common. They are both former junior college All-Americans. They weren’t heavily recruited coming out of junior college. They are roommates. Now they are the two leaders of a Division I basketball team coming off of a Sweet 16 run and projected to be a top-25 team. “It’s ironic that Jae (Crowder) and I are both junior college players, but I think our work ethic has helped us to become some of the top players in the Big East,” Johnson-Odom said. “I don’t think everybody understood the hard work it took to get here. “A lot of other players who come out nationally ranked, they have it (all) given to them. I think we had to work twice as hard as they did because we were at a lower level.” “It helps us relate in a different way than any other players on our team do,” Crowder said of the junior college connection. “We can talk to each other in a different way and argue with one another and still be cool because we are roommates and good teammates. It’s a blessing.” JohnsonOdom led
Marquette in scoring last season with 15.8 points per game — second most of any returning Big East player — while Crowder led Marquette in rebounding (6.8 per game) and was third in scoring (11.1 per game). Redshirt sophomore Jamil Wilson said that as this duo goes, so will the Golden Eagles. “I think they’ll just set the tone, pump the blood,” Wilson said. “They’re the only two seniors. We got a lot of heart, and it’s big so they got to pump the blood out of it.” Johnson-Odom described his leadership style as “active” and said he learned how to be a good leader by watching former Marquette forwards Jimmy Butler and Lazar Hayward give it their all every day in practice. “I’m going to have to be one of those guys that brings it every day,” Johnson-Odom said. “I can’t be one of those guys who doesn’t have the energy in practice. It doesn’t matter how long we practice, I have to always have that energy and be that vocal leader on the floor.” While Crowder admits the outside world will perceive him to act differently this year as a senior, he said not much has changed. “Last year I was doing the same things I’m doing this year. I’m just trying to lead,” Crowder said. “I’m trying to be that guy that my teammates can depend on. I would say it has changed, because of my classification, but I’m still the same guy
trying to win ball games.” The national accolades have already begun for Johnson-Odom, as he was one of 50 players named to the John R. Wooden Preseason Award list, an award given to the best college basketball player at season’s end. Coach Buzz Williams wants Johnson-Odom to guard the opposition’s best guard this season — something he hasn’t done at Marquette — and work to hold him to half of his season average for points per game. “I think when Darius (JohnsonOdom) proves he can do that, then I think he’s worthy of a lot of acclaim because offensively he’s plenty good,” Williams said. The Raleigh, N.C., native is up for the task. “I have to do it on both ends though,” he said. “Like coach said, I have to find a way to help my team not just on the offensive end but the defensive end as well.” The 6-foot-6 Crowder’s personal challenge is to become a better perimeter player. “Last year I proved I could bang with all the big guys in the Big East,” Crowder said. “This year I really want to show that I can play with any prolific guard in the Big East as well, increase my rebounding from what it was last year and become that guy that you can depend upon on the defensive end to guard 2-5 or 1-5 or whatever, just like my guy Jimmy Butler did.”
Senior guard Darius JohnsonOdom (above) describes his leadership style as “active.”
together Plouffe, Simmons will bear brunt of leadership roles By Michael LoCicero email@example.com
Guard Angel Robinson. Forward Paige Fiedorowicz. Guard Tatiyiana McMorris. They were Marquette’s three leading scorers last year. All are gone. Who will step up and lead this year’s Marquette women’s basketball team? The suspects: Sarina Simmons and Katherine Plouffe. They are the only two players on the team who have averaged over 20 minutes, 4.9 points or 5.1 rebounds per game in a Big East season. Plouffe, a 6-foot-3 sophomore forward from Alberta, Canada, was Marquette’s sixth leading scorer with 6.5 points per contest last year. She was Marquette’s third leading rebounder with 5.1 per game and was named to the Big East All-Freshman team.
Sophomore forward Katherine Plouffe will use her experinece on the Canadian National Team to her advantage this season.
Simmons, a 6-foot-1 forward and the team’s only junior, is Marquette’s leading returning scorer and rebounder at 7.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game to go along with a 42.8 field goal percentage last season. Coach Terri Mitchell pointed to Plouffe, Simmons and sophomore guard Gabi Minix as the three leaders of the team. “They both have the most experience coming back. They are most comfortable out on the court, but at the same time they will have to be vocal leaders with their work ethic,” Mitchell said. She said Simmons will move to the perimeter this year after spending her first two years as a post player – a move Mitchell said Simmons was excited about. “It’s kind of what she was made to be,” Mitchell said. “She’s sacrificed the last two seasons and played a position we needed her to. Now she’s in a more natural college ‘3’ position. (She) has a good flow at practice.” Simmons has shown flashes of brilliance in her short career at Marquette but has been plagued with inconsistency. For example, Simmons scored 12 points against Seton Hall on Feb. 16 last year after not scoring double digits in any game for a month. Compare that with her 10 point, 17 rebound performance against Iona on Dec. 1, and it shows Simmons has the ability to be Marquette’s go-to player. After being named to the Big East All-Freshman Team in 2010, Simmons’ numbers
only slightly improved last season. After averaging 7.2 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game as a freshman, she scored 7.5 points per game and had 5.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore. Simmons credited the six seniors from last season for teaching Plouffe and her how to be leaders. “They left us with concepts about what it is to be a leader and what it means to play for Marquette, so I feel confident in where we can be as the two players with the most experience,” Simmons said. “We’re kind of excited but kind of anxious to see where we can take our team.” Plouffe helped the Under-19 Canadian National Team to a fifth-place finish at the U-19 FIBA Women’s World Basketball Championship last summer, while averaging eight points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. “I’ve had experience as a leader on previous teams, and I’ve talked to the coaches about it, and I know what they expect from me and what I can do for the team,” Plouffe said. Mitchell said the experience has given Plouffe a new kind of mentality. “Now she comes in confident, leading each drill (and) talking to the team. She really has become the voice of the team right now,” Mitchell said. “And she has the respect of everyone right now because of her experience this summer and what she’s doing on the court. I think she’s very comfortable.”
Photos courtesy of Marquette Athletics Graphic By Rob Gebelhofffirstname.lastname@example.org
Sophomores’ effects won’t be felt until middle of the season
up now,” Thomas said. “And I think they’re capable of doing that and fulfilling the wing spot.” Young is also still recovering from last season’s injury and was not fully rehabbed in time for Marquette Madness. But upon her return, the sharpshooter believes her ability to stretch a defense can be a huge step for the team. Junior forward Sarina Simmons — the team’s lone upperclassman — believes the team took Thomas’ injury even harder than Thomas herself. Simmons also said she is impressed by the leadership qualities that both Thomas and Young have shown. Even as sophomores they have stepped up and welcomed their new leadership role, helping teach the team’s six freshman. “We want to pick up where we left off,” Young said. “But it’s not just getting to the tournament. We all just do everything we can to get better.” Thomas plans to continue this teaching from the bench. Although she physically is unable to help her team win, she will lead the cheers and encouragement. “I just want to be a vocal leader, and be very supportive,” she said. “Maybe I can teach plays by writing them out, but I just want to do all I can.” Connecticut (36-2, 16-0 Big East 2010-’11) Despite losing forward Maya Moore’s 22.8 points per game, the Huskies have three players on the Wade Watch List and winning in the regular season is pedestrian for coach Geno Auriemma. Though this year’s team may not be the most talented on paper this year, the consistency and grit of Connecticut each season makes it hard to not call the Huskies favorites.
By A. W. Herndon email@example.com
Sophomore guards Katie Young and Courtney Thomas have experienced highs and lows as teammates, but unfortunate circumstances have bound them closer than ever. During an early practice session this year, Thomas came down awkwardly, tearing her ACL and prematurely ending her season with a medical redshirt. Last February, Young experienced season-ending knee surgery and knew just what it’s like to lose a year in a moment. Thomas is staying positive, however. “It’s a big disappointment,” she said. “But being so young keeps me motivated and working hard to come back.” Thomas, who only averaged 0.8 points and 1.0 rebounds in six minutes per game last season, was looking forward to expanding her role for this year’s new-look women’s basketball team. Instead, Thomas is now taking treatments and awaiting her surgery. “The freshmen just have to step
Sophomore guard Katie Young’s (center) shooting touch will be missed while she continues to rehab a knee injury.
“People are doubting us because we had the six seniors graduate,” Thomas said. “But I definitely think we’ll surprise people because we are hard-working, and hard work overcomes talent. We will get some big W’s.” Young may play a pivotal role in achieving that goal. Simmons believes her shooting touch will be critical in stretching the defenses this year. Individually, Young said she was striving to be the most improved player in the Big East. This summer she worked on using her Georgetown (24-11, 9-7 Big East 2010-’11) Junior guard Sugar Rodgers (18.7 ppg) turned heads last year and is on pace to become the program’s all-time leading scorer this season. With Rodgers’ scoring finesse and the passing savvy of senior guard Rubylee Wright (169 assists last year), it’ll be hard to count the Hoyas out of any game. Georgetown is also one of the most experienced teams in the conference, sporting seven seniors.
DePaul (29-7, 13-3 Big East 2010-’11) The Blue Demons lost their field general in point guard Sam Quigley (10.1 ppg), but return unanimous first team All-Big East senior forward Keisha Hampton (16.0 ppg). Hampton will need a strong supporting cast to emerge if DePaul wants to contend, which could come from sophomore guard and reigning Big East Sixth Man of the year Taylor Pikes (7.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg).
Syracuse (25-10, 9-7 Big East 2010-’11) Despite losing guard Erica Morrow (10.1 ppg, 65 steals), 80.4 percent of their scoring comes back including forwards junior forward Kayla Alexander (14.8 ppg) and senior forward Iasia Hemingway (12.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg). Syracuse is certainly on the upswing after improving its conference record from 7-9 in 2009-10 to 9-7 last season.
Louisville (22-13, 10-6 Big East 2010-’11) A 22-win season and a trip to the Sweet 16 left the Cardinals with a lot to build on. They return four starters from last year’s squad including leading scorer and senior forward Monique Reid (15.5 ppg). Sophomore guard Shoni Schimmel will add more offense after finishing second on the team in scoring as a freshman, including a 33-point performance in a NCAA Tournament win over Xavier.
St. John’s (22-11, 9-7 Big East 2010-’11) Another 22-win squad, the Red Storm return four starters including All-Big East second team member and leading rebounder in junior forward Da’Shena Stevens (6.4 rpg). St. John’s had a serious building year in making it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and with a veteran roster returning it could be back in the mix come March.
Marquette (24-9, 10-6 Big East 2010-’11) With guard Angel Robinson (13.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg) gone, the Golden Eagles need their youth to step up in a big way. Sophomore forward Katherine Plouffe and junior forward Sarina Simmons will carry most of the load, but the backcourt is a big question mark.
South Florida (12-19, 3-13 Big East 2010-’11) The Bulls return their two top scorers from 2010-11 in senior guards Andrea Smith and Andrell Smith (Combined 24.8 ppg). A more experienced squad than the rest of the Big East bottom feeders puts South Florida in the middle of the pack. South Florida won just three games in conference play last season and will most likely play the underdog role it did last year.
West Virginia (24-10, 8-8 Big East 2010-’11) Losing five seniors in one year is a tough task for any team, but particularly hard for a team that struggled with consistency as much as the Mountaineers did last season. West Virginia has plenty of NCAA experience on its roster, but to return to the tournament it will need a concentrated effort led by its lone senior center Natalie Burton (60.5 field goal percentage last season).
Providence (13-16, 6-10 Big East 2010-’11) The Friars finished 13-16 last season and they lost their leading scorer, guard Mi-Khida Hankins, to graduation. Redshirt seniors guard Tiffany Hurd and forward Teya Wright will determine the direction this team goes this year as it leads the team in experience. Wright’s 8.9 rebounds per game led the team last season.
Cincinnati (9-20, 2-14 Big East 2010-’11) The Bearcats can only go up after a 9-20 finish last year, and two AllBig East Freshman team selections in guard Kayla Cook (8.1 ppg) and forward Jeanise Randolph (7.6 ppg) will look to fill the void left by last year’s leading scorer, forward Shareese Ulis (13.7 ppg). The Bearcats will most likely focus on building and growth with one of the more youthful rosters in the conference.
Pittsburgh (14-17, 5-11 Big East 2010-’11) The Panthers are the youngest team in the conference, comprised of only sophomores and freshmen. With that youth comes an unpredictability that may give them an edge in some underdog situations, but more than likely the inexperience will hamper them. Look for them to compete in future seasons while using 2011-’12 as a building year.
Seton Hall (8-22, 1-15 Big East 2010-’11) The good news is the Pirates return four starters from last year’s squad. The bad news is last year’s squad won only one Big East game. Seniors forward Kandice Green and guard Jasmine Crew each averaged 11.5 points per game last season to lead the team. If Seton Hall wants to make any sort of dent in conference play, those two need to increase their productivity.
Villanova (12-19, 3-13 Big East 2010-’11) The Wildcats mustered only one conference win and lost two of their starters to graduation. But their top five scorers all return from last season. Villanova will need some help from redshirt freshmen forwards Lauren Burford and Emily Leer if it wants to avoid the cellar. The Wildcats will continue to live and die by the 3-pointer as they outshot opponents 705-351 last season from beyond the arc.
Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics
Simmons expressed just how important this leadership was. “We’re going to look at Courtney on the bench,” Simmons said. “She’s going to be behind us and be the leader on the sidelines. She doesn’t want anyone to take it for granted the opportunity they have to be on the court.” Thomas and Young both stated that returning to the NCAA tournament was the team’s goal, and they believe hard work would be their ticket to the dance. With their youth and energy, Thomas is confident they will shock their “doubters.” Notre Dame (31-8, 13-3 Big East 2010-’11) The squad that went to the NCAA Tournament championship game last April returns its three cornerstones in senior guard Skylar Diggins, (15 ppg), senior guard Natalie Novosel (15.1 points ppg) and senior forward Devereaux Peters (11.9 ppg, 7.5 rebounds per game), all of which are on the Wade Watch List. They’ll be hungry for another shot at the title and should again contend for the Big East crown.
By Trey Killian
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Graphics by A. Martina Ibanez-Baldor & Monica Lawton
natural athleticism to become more dynamic. “I worked so hard to get where I was before the injury but also to get even better,” Young said. “Just no holding back.” Her teammate Simmons is looking forward to seeing her progress. “Katie is anticipating her return and rehabbing so she can get up and down the court,” Simmons said. “And we couldn’t be more excited to see what she can bring this year.” Rutgers (20-13, 11-5 Big East 2010-’11) With the third-best recruiting class, according to ESPNU’s HoopGurlz, and all the key members of last year’s squad returning, the Scarlet Knights look poised to make the NCAA Tournament for the 10th straight season. Rutgers lost only one game at home last season and will look to capitalize on its home court advantage again.
Thursday, November 10, 2011 By Trey Killian firstname.lastname@example.org
Three Players To Watch
Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame: Diggins can do it
Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown: The junior
all, posting 15.0 points, 4.8 assists and four rebounds per game last season. The senior guard’s skill set could make her a favorite to win Big East Player of the Year and Naismith Award. With a solid supporting cast, Diggins will look to lead the Irish back to the NCAA final and etch her name into the program’s storied history book.
guard posted 18.7 points per game last year and led the Hoyas to the Sweet 16, where Georgetown nearly knocked off No. 1 Connecticut (68-63). Rodgers’ best years might be in front of her as she is on pace to become the Hoyas’ all-time leading scorer. She will be one of the top scorers in the Big East this season.
Keisha Hampton, Hampton has DePaul: proven she won’t shy away from Big East competition, scoring 14.9 points per game in conference matches and will play an even bigger role as a senior. While DePaul wouldn’t want her to be a one-woman show, the senior forward certainly has the ability to carry the Blue Demons if needed.
Photo via sports.espn.go.com
Photo via blogs.orlandosentinel.com
Three Games To Watch Connecticut at Notre Dame 1/7/2012:
DePaul at Georgetown 1/3/2012:
Syracuse at Rutgers 1/3/2012
The Huskies play the Irish twice this season, and this trip to South Bend could dictate the outlook of the conference for the remainder of the season — it is the first meeting between the two teams. The Huskies will come in with an aura of confidence as it hasn’t lost to Notre Dame in the regular season in the last six years. If Notre Dame wants to be the new Big East top dog, this is its chance, in what could very likely be a battle for first place.
When the Blue Demons come to the nation’s capital in early January, the theme is frontcourt versus backcourt. Will the dynamic senior forward Keisha Hampton grind out the Hoyas in the paint or will junior guard Sugar Rodgers’ finesse win the day for Georgetown? The X-factor will be which defense decides to show up and whichever star will have the best supporting cast offensively.
The Orange will visit Piscataway, NJ., where the Scarlet Knights lost only one game last season. This will be Rutgers’ Big East opener and only the second conference game for Syracuse, putting a lot of early implications on the line. Both programs are looking to return to the NCAA Tournament and have powerful frontcourts that will slug it out in the paint. The difference could be guard play, as Rutgers returned All-Big East Second Teamer senior guard April Sykes who averaged 14.1 points per last season.
Photo via fullcourt.ehclients.com
thleti ette A
up for us.” Minix is a gifted distribuCoach Terri Mitchell said the tor and recognizes that the point guard rotation would con- team’s added size in the post sist of Minix, with backup from has changed the complexion Margeaux Dupuy and Arlesia of Golden Eagles basketball, Morse. according to Mitchell. Where With Dupuy and Morse being Robinson aimed to score, Minix freshmen, Minix has conscious- may look to get her teammates ly used practice time to help involved. For junior forward Sarina Replacing a star like WNBA bring them along. “We’ve been breaking things Simmons, it’s an exciting opdraft-pick and four-year starter Angel Robinson comes with down to make sure they’re get- portunity. “Gabi is doing great,” Simhigh expectations and criticism. ting it,” she said. “In practice I Every move the new point guard have tried to explain things so mons said. “She’s making a of the Marquette women’s bas- it’s not just back and forth, fig- conscious effort to get everyone involved, and be a leader since ketball team makes will be ure it out on your own.” That means she knows compared to Robinson, and all she has a lot the while the new leader must Minix, who av- “This year our style of play is totally of responmaintain confidence in her indi- eraged 14 min- different.We have a lot of big girls, utes and 1.8 sibility this vidual abilities. so things have to change.” season. She Gabi Minix does not lack points per game Gabi Minix last season, has acceptsuch confidence. Sophomore Guard ed her role The new starter, a sophomore must immedipassed off guard from Grovertown, Ind., ately transition is clear on her abilities and will from freshman reserve to back- from Angel and (McMorris).” court leader. Simmons also said the team not try to be Robinson. “I want to be a vocal leader,” will help take the pressure off “Our older girls, between (Tatiyiana McMorris) and An- Minix said. “Since we have so Minix, mixing up conventiongel, both really prepared me,” many young players, I want to al basketball with some new help tell them looks. Minix said. where to go, “We’re not always going to “But this year and just make start technical, starting the ball our style of “Gabi is a fantastic passer. And sure our chem- with the point guard,” she said. play is totally that’s how Angel came in. ” istry is right.” “We have height on the wings, different. We M i t c h e l l and it will be easier for all our have a lot of Terri Mitchell agreed — idenguards that way.” big girls, so Coach tifying Minix In high school, Minix showed things have as one of the the ability to do everything on to change.” Sophomore forward Kath- team’s vocal and emotional the court. She was a three-time erine Plouffe was quick to ex- leaders. Although this may AP All-Indiana selection – averpress her confidence in Minix seem like a big transition, aging 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, as the team’s new field general Mitchell downplayed the sever- 7.9 assists and 4.5 steals while leading her school to a 1-A state and the rest of the squad’s abil- ity of the change. “Gabi has done a fantastic championship. ity to rise to the occasion. “Gabi is a fantastic passer,” “She has a different style job,” Mitchell said. “What peoand is smaller, but she can still ple don’t realize is that Angel Mitchell said. “And that’s how take us where we want to go,” trained Gabi every day. When Angel came in. Gabi is very Plouffe said. “She may not be you didn’t see her it was be- much about passing, running the scoring threat that Angel cause Angel was that good. But the team, and defending.” was for us last year, but we have now it’s Gabi’s opportunity, and other people that can pick that she’s leading the team.” By A. W. Herndon
Minix will not be Robinson, she will be her own player
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Five-zero. No, this is not some computer code or debit card pin number. It is an the eye-popping number corresponding to the women’s basketball team. Of the 66 points Marquette averaged per game last season, 50 have left the building. Guard Angel Robinson and her 13.6 points? Gone. Guard Tatiyiana McMorris and her 12.6? Adios. Forward Paige Fiedorowicz and her 10.6? See ya. Forward Jasmine Collins and her 9.2? Adieu. Those are the top four scorers the Golden Eagles had last year, and when you add in guard Courtney Weibel’s 5.0 points, you get a beautifully symmetric, yet no less terrifying, 50 points. Gone like a thief in the night. So what do you want me to tell you? That it will all be OK? That there is a rising group of seniors ready to take over the reins from its departed leaders and lead Marquette to the same heights it reached last year? I can’t. I’d love to, but I literally can’t. Marquette has as many seniors on its team as the Cubs have World Series rings in the past 100 years. Zip, zilch, nada. It’s a revolution. Everything
All of this mystery and uncertainty usually is a bad omen for teams heading into a season, but when it comes to doubting Mitchell’s Golden Eagles, I have learned my lesson. I, as well as all eight of my sports desk colleagues at the Marquette Tribune, pegged last year’s team to only reach the Women’s NIT. Well, the crow tasted quite bitter. Robinson and company finished with a marvelous 24-9 record en route to an NCAA berth, nearly knocking off No. 1 seed Tennessee in the second round of the tournament. If Mitchell wants to shake things up, if she believes she can win with freshmen, then who are we to second-guess her? After all, she is the all-time winningest women’s basketball coach in Marquette history. Will they be as successful as last year’s team? No. Will they finish fifth in the Big East? Probably not. Those are not the goals for this season though. This will be a team-building season. The goal is to give these players as much experience as possible. Barring any transfers, come this time next year, every single player will remain on the roster. That’s the kind of stability that breeds success. So, what if only 16 points come back? What if women who have never played college ball play upperclassmen minutes? What if an athletic beast will wreak havoc outside instead of inside? If Mitchell wants a revolution, then sign me up. email@example.com
you thought you knew about basketball has been thrown out the window. The old saying you can’t win with freshmen will have to be proven wrong over and over again if this team wants to put any “W’s” up on the board. With the injuries to sophomore forward Courtney Thomas, who’s out for the season, and sophomore guard Katie Young, the Golden Eagles are left with a total of three players that aren’t freshmen. And seeing as most basketball games are still played with five players on each team, there will be at least two freshmen on the court at all times. “I would expect you’re going to see all six of them play,” coach Terri Mitchell said at media day on Oct. 13. “We have nine players right now, so the freshmen will have to play.” This is where things get murky. What am I supposed to say about these women who have been in the program for a little over three months and are already expected to contribute in a big way? Center Apiew Ojulu looked good in the scrimmage during Marquette Madness. Is that any basis for reliable predictions? Of course not. What I can tell you is that Marquette does return its leading rebounder from last year in junior forward Sarina Simmons, so that will at least help stabilize the defense a bit. Oh, what was that, coach Mitchell? You’re moving her to the perimeter where she used to play in high school? This really is revolutionary.
Currently holding a roster only nine deep due to injuries, the Marquette women’s basketball team will look to its six new players to be more than benchwarmers to start the season. “In a lot of ways we’re back to that beginning, but I think every year as a coach you have to put the pieces together,” coach Terri Mitchell said. “It just happens to be this year, those pieces are six freshmen that we’re putting into the mix.” These freshmen add something new to the Golden Eagle’s lineup that Mitchell did not experience with her tournament team last season: height. “If you looked at our roster and said what’s the biggest difference between last year and this year, (this year) we brought in 6-3, 6-4 and 6-5,” she said. Last year, the post game de-
to visit her, she knew Marquette was a good choice, and thanks to the coaching staff and teammates she has adjusted well. “The girls are helping me a lot, she said. “It’s a good thing that I have a good environment.” Although the high school accolades from the young additions may look promising, they have a long road ahead. Mitchell hopes her future practice plans will remedy first game jitters, though. “I love to do four minute scrimmages because that’s what you have before a time out, and it’s really getting them to understand,” she said. “And at times it looked great, and at Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics other times, whoa.” But it’s going to be Freshman forward Cristina Bigica is one of six the leaders like Plouffe newcomers expected to contribute this year. and junior forward Sarina Simmons who “We’re throwing them into the help to carry the team along with fire,” Mitchell said. Mitchell.
a long road ahead of them with plenty of moments to build for the future. Mitchell said correcting mistakes without breaking spirits is going to be a key aspect this season. “The younger your team is, the more you play them,” Mitchell said. “You scrimmage them more in practice. The older your team is, the more you fine tune their skills.” The underdog mentality will not be a new one for Mitchell and company, though. “I don’t think I’ve ever been a coach that ever walks onto a court any season and feels like ‘Man, we have a great advantage,’” Mitchell said. “I’ve always been a fighter all my life. I recruit players that have that same mentality.” Taking the advice of veteran coach Pat Summitt of the Tennessee Volunteers, Mitchell said, “If your team lacks leadership in any way, then you be the leader and teach them.” That team mentality is what brought most of the freshmen into the program — especially Bigica, a Romanian native who played for the Under-20 Romanian National Team. Bigica said after Mitchell came
By Erin Caughey
pended on the now-departed 6-foot Paige Fiedorowicz and 6-foot-2 Jasmine Collins, and later current 6-foot-3 sophomore Katherine Plouffe, to add strength underneath the basket. Now, with low numbers on the bench but a higher measurements in total inches, three freshmen, 6-foot-5 Chelsie Butler, 6-foot-4 Lauren Tibbs and 6-foot-3 Apiew Ojulu, can help the Golden Eagles mix up the altitude levels on the court. Butler said her strength lies within the post as a “big body” to help the team improve with rebounding. She had previously not planned on attending college, but Mitchell and the coaching staff helped the Minerva, Ohio, native find her place with Marquette. The other freshmen — Margeaux Dupuy, Arlesia Morse and Cristina Bigica — will help sophomore point guard Gabi Minix on the perimeter. Dupuy said she adds speed to the mix for the Golden Eagles. “I’m pretty fast, so I think that definitely develops part of my game,” she said. After a second round NCAA finish last season, the freshman have
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Six new freshmen bring height to lady Golden Eagles
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Coach Terri Mitchell will have her hands full teaching a batch of freshmen.
Senior-free roster needs winning mentality to succeed By Trey Killian firstname.lastname@example.org
Last season, the Marquette women’s basketball team surprised many by making it to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007. The catalyst to that appearance was a six-member senior class highlighted by guards Angel Robinson and Tatiyiana McMorris – who earned first and second team All-Big East accolades, respectively. With that class gone, what remains is a roster with only three players who averaged doubledigit minutes in Big East play and one upperclassman – junior forward Sarina Simmons. Coach Terri Mitchell said fans will see many new faces this year, but Marquette still has the mentality of an NCAA tournament team. “We always want to be a team that’s in the NCAA tournament, so we never talk anything but that,” Mitchell said. “We also understand that those that graduated had a lot of experience and knew what it took to get there, so what we’re trying to do is keep it very concrete for
them (our players) by looking at what the top teams in the Big East do statistically.” The Golden Eagles have the gauntlet of the Big East in front of them and will have to compete against top-tier teams like Notre Dame — the national runner-up — and Georgetown — a Sweet 16 participant — that return most of their rosters. Though they may not match up well with these teams on paper, Mitchell said that the Golden Eagles will put all their efforts into being the better prepared team. “I think the trait of all of our teams is to outwork our opponents,” Mitchell said. “If you’ve put the work in beforehand, then you can walk on the court with confidence in your opportunity to win, no matter what the other team’s skill set is or what your skill set is.” Mitchell said her players need to be good defenders and passers because the strength of the team will initially be its frontcourt with junior forward Sarina Simmons and sophomore forward Katherine Plouffe, Marquette’s two leading scorers returning from last year. Plouffe said that the Golden Eagles are out to prove the naysayers wrong again this year, and, to do so, it’s on Simmons, sophomore guard Gabbi Minix and herself. “I don’t usually keep track of
my own statistics, but I know that I need to step them up from last year and Sarina and Gabi know that too,” Plouffe said. Members of the freshman class will have to be effective if Marquette is going to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, as they compose six of the 11 spots on the roster. And since they haven’t played a Big East game in their basketball careers, freshman center Chelsea Butler said the freshmen will have to adapt to Big East play one game at a time. “We haven’t really even talked about the Big East as much as we have talked about our very first game,” Butler said. “The Big East is something huge for us, and with all of us being new, we’re just going to have to get a taste as we go.” Mitchell is confident, though, that if her team works hard, the strength of the Big East can help rather than hurt as the Golden Eagles try to make a name for themselves. “If you are one of the top teams in the Big East you are one of the top teams in the country. That’s just how it works,” Mitchell said. “We don’t want to jump ahead to March. Right now we are looking at our first game on Nov. 12, and moving forward and building from there on.”
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Photos courtesy of Marquette Athletics
Published on Nov 10, 2011