Transfers Lend Big Assist
Feb. 12, 2001
The setting: Friel Court.
The date: Jan. 4, 2001.
The circumstance: Washington State's Pac-10 season opening game against USC. The Cougars are down to the Trojans 78-77 and have just called timeout with four seconds left in the game.
Who would receive the ball and take the last shot? A bucket would give the Cougars' their first Pac-10 season opening win since 1994.
As it turned out, Brittney Hawks took the ball and proceeded to convert a lay-in as time expired, giving WSU a thrilling 79-78 win.
'That was one of my best moments in basketball for my career,' said Hawks of her game-winning shot.
And it was one of the just the numerous contributions that the quartet of junior college transfers on the Cougar women's basketball team has made to the program this season.
Although the 2000-01 season is far from over, these four juniors - Hawks, Whitney Martindale, Sarah Barrett and Szudia Bragg - have played a significant role in the Cougars' turnaround from four wins last year to seven triumphs in the team's first 12 games.
And that is just what coach Jenny Przekwas wanted when she brought the players into the program.
'We felt like we needed experience and immediate help and these four recruits have given us that,' said Przekwas.
One only has to look at the numbers to see that help is exactly what this foursome has contributed.
Through a dozen games, each player has competed in every contest and has averaged at least 13 minutes a game. In addition, each member of the quartet has started at least one game and are averaging at least four points a contest. Hawks leads the squad in points (10.3 a game) and rebounds (5.8 a game).
Each player, according to Przekwas, has brought their own unique ability to the program.
'We came into the year thinking that we were going to redshirt Whitney,' said the second year head coach. 'The idea that Whitney is not just redshirting and playing but starting is something that we had not planned last spring. Whitney proved early on and as the season has progressed that we need her on the court.'
'We felt like Brittney could be a positive factor inside and so far she has done that,' continued Przekwas. 'We looked to Sarah last spring when we signed her to score and to be our two guard and she has made some really positive progress in that direction. Shoe, with her overall game and her aggressive defense, gives us a lot in that area.'
Although the transfers are playing their first year at Washington State, with the exception of Hawks, who came to the Palouse from the College of Eastern Utah where she was named the school's outstanding female athlete, they still could enjoy some familiarity.
That's because Barrett and Martindale both arrived to Pullman from Chemeketa Community College where they played together last year and Bragg came to the Palouse with Cassie Sawyer, her head coach at Phoenix College, and now an assistant with the Cougars.
Sawyer, who herself made the transition from the junior college to the Division I coaching level, says that experience is a key factor in the contributions that junior college players bring to a program.
'The experience, the attitude and the overall maturity from them on the floor helps,' says Sawyer. 'I think they know what the level of play is like because they have had to adjust from high school to college already. Yes, this is a higher level than what they were at but it wasn't as big as a jump as what high school kids would have to make.'
'I think JC kids are an advantage when you have a young program and are trying to start something,' Sawyer added. 'They make an immediate impact because they have that experience and they know what the long seasons are about.'
And Sawyer has seen that firsthand with the play of Bragg.
'You have those players that definitely have an advantage because they played so much the past two years,' she said. 'Shoe probably averaged 25 minutes a game whereas if she would of come here as a freshman she would have never averaged that.'
After experiencing the transition from the junior college level to WSU together, Barrett and Martindale share similar views on the advantages of junior college ball.
'I think with having more experience and hopefully being a little bit more mature than a freshman it was an easier process for me to come to a four year school,' said Martindale.'Basketball wise I really do feel that it helped to go to junior college first,' said Barrett. 'Girls in the Pac-10 are much quicker, stronger and it is everything more than what I was used to in junior college but I expected that.'
According to Przekwas, the experience the Barrett and Martindale duo gained while together last year has paid off this season.
'When they are on the court you can tell they work well together,' said Przekwas 'I think anytime we had them on the court at the same time a lot of good things have happened.'
The question is, after Hawks' USC buzzer-beater, what will be the next good thing that will happen from this transfer quartet?
While the question may be what there is no need to ask when. That answer is soon.