2007-08 Pac-10 Women's Basketball Preseason Prospectus
July 31, 2007
THE 2007-08 ARIZONA WILDCATS
A healthy roster ... Arizona was hit hard by injuries last year, but should work with more depth this season ... JR C Beatrice Bofia, SO G Marie McGee and SO F Rheya Neabors missed a combined 68 games due to injury in 2006-07, but look for all three to return to the court at full-speed.
Strong guard play ... UA has experience at the guard positions, most notably in SR G Ashley Whisonant, SR G Jessica Arnold and JR G Malia O'Neal ... Whisonant is the team's leading returning scorer as she averaged 11.9 ppg to rank 15th in the Conference, second on the squad in 2006-07 ... She also dished out an impressive 3.61 apg which placed her as the No. 8 assist-giver in the league ... Arnold is a resilient player who finished fourth on the squad in scoring (7.5 ppg), while O'Neal is dependable from the line (85%) and a solid passer, racking up 73 assists last season.
Momentum ... Arizona is eager to return to its winning ways and has shown signs of growth over the past year ... The team picked up just 11 wins in 2006-07, but four of those came in the final month of the season, including a 69-54 win over Oregon State in the first round of the State Farm Pac-10 Tournament. Further, the team spent much of May on a foreign tour of Italy where it put together a perfect 5-0 record to seal the team-bonding experience.
No more Joy ... The Wildcats will have to find an answer for graduated SR G Joy Hollingsworth who earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention accolades after averaging 16.2 ppg last season ... Her 518 points accounted for 26 percent of the team's season total as she was the game-high scorer on 19 different occasions.
Inside play ... Arizona will need contributions and minutes from a relatively inexperienced group ... Look for 6-6 SR C Suzy Bofia to improve her 14.3 minutes per game from last season and 6-2 SR F/C Shannon Hobson to better her 3.8 ppg scoring average.
The Wildcats welcome four new faces including three freshmen: F Ify Ibekwe, G Faihza Hill and G Tasha Dickey, as well as junior college transfer F Sarah Hays.
THE 2007-08 ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS
Returners and depth ... Arizona State returns three starters from its 2006-07 roster, but if you're familiar with the program you know that there are plenty of players who can jockey for the starting nod ... Regardless 10 players or more should average double digit minutes ... Head coach Charli Turner Thorne substitutes at will, keeping her players fresh through the long season, as well as utilizing the team's strengths to throw different combinations at opponents.
Perimeter players ... The Sun Devils have a host of guards that can score, dish and defend ... Leading the way are Grad Jill Noe, SR Reagan Pariseau and JR Briann January ... Noe is a solid 3-point threat, Pariseau is an exceptional ball-handler and January might be the most athletic guard in the Conference ... Another reason for ASU fans to be excited is the return of SO Dymond Simon, who played in 20 games last year only to go down with an ACL injury ... Simon finished 10th in the league in steals per game with a 1.60 average.
2007 Elite Eight run ... Arizona State led the way for the Pac-10 in the postseason, advancing to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, the furthest ever of any Sun Devil team ... The squad had a taste of the big time and are hungry to return to the national spotlight ... November's State Farm Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic vs. North Carolina should be a good measuring stick.
Westerberg and Johnson ... Arizona State lost two key leaders in departed seniors and All-Pac-10 members F Emily Westerberg and F Aubree Johnson ... The upperclassmen will need to step up and be the vocal leaders on the floor.
Inside game ... The team needs production from the inside and has the keys to do it, but not necessarily the experience ... JR C Kirsten Thompson should get more looks, averaging 7.3 ppg last season ... She is joined by a pair of 6-3 transfers that should factor into the offense.
One of the more interesting groups of newcomers, ASU has two transfers from Tennessee and Minnesota in JR C Sybil Dosty and JR F/C Lauren Lacey, respectively ... FR F Rebecca Tobin and FR G Stephanie Wilber also join the team.
THE 2007-08 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS
Frontcourt ... California has one of the strongest inside tandems in the game in 2007 Pac-10 Player of the Year JR F/C Devanei Hampton and All-Pac-10 selection JR F/C Ashley Walker ... Walker led the team in scoring with a 17.3 ppg average, which ranked third in the Conference, while Hampton was right behind her with a 16.6 ppg average to place seventh ... Both were named Associated Press honorable mention All-Americans and come into this season with a load of expectations.
Return of Gray-Lawson ... JR G Alexis Gray-Lawson was forced to miss 23 games last season after an ACL tear sidelined the 2006 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year ... SO G Natasha Vital took over the point guard position with impressive ability, finishing the year with a 33.06 minutes per game average to rank 10th in the Conference ... Having both players healthy gives head coach Joanne Boyle some wiggle room, especially nice given the long 18-game Pac-10 season.
Defense ... Cal gave up just an average of 60 points in 2006-07, which was good enough to rank third in the league, while its 37% field goal defense placed second and 32.8 rebounding defense ranked first ... The Bears have speed to press in the backcourt, along with height to clog up the middle, a tough combination for any opponent to face.
Schedule ... The Bears have their work cut out for them as they face tough non-conference opponents, including November dates at UC Riverside, TCU and Baylor, as well as a home contest with New Mexico, all of which competed in the 2006 NCAA Tournament ... The team will also head east to face last year's NCAA runner-up Rutgers on Dec. 10.
The free throw line ... California made it to the charity stripe a whopping 757 times last season, but only hit on 68% of its attempts ... It will need to take advantage of the uncontested shots, as teams will be forced to go at Hampton and Walker significantly.
Donning the blue and gold for the first time this season are three freshmen: G Rachelle Federico, G/F Kelsey Adrian and F Lenita Sanford.
THE 2007-08 OREGON DUCKS
Momentum ... Oregon is coming off a solid year in which it finished at 17-14, making a late-season push for the sixth spot in the Conference and winning six of its final 10 regular season games to earn a berth in the WNIT ... The Ducks are hoping to pick up right where they left off, opening the season with three home contests against San Jose State, South Dakota State and Marquette.
Guard play ... UO returns two fantastic guards in JR Tamika Nurse and SO Taylor Lilley ... Nurse was given much of the point responsibilities last season, averaging a team-leading 34 minutes per game, which also ranked eighth in the league ... She is the team's returning leading scorer, having notched a 9.2 ppg average her sophomore season ... Joining her in the backcourt is Lilley who has an uncanny ability to hit from 3-point range ... The 5-6 Newhall, Calif. product finished first in the Conference in 3-point field goal percentage (.506, 39-of-77), finishing just short of the Pac-10 single-season record of .524.
Beyond the arc ... Lilley isn't the only one who can hurt her opponents from long range ... Oregon led the Conference in 3-point field goal percentages and 3-point field goals made for good reason ... SR G Kaela Chapdelaine knocked down over 31% of her 3-point attempts (30-of-96), while SO G Micaela Cocks went 16-for-43 (.372) from 3-point land ... Overall, UO returns 59% of its 3-point production from last season.
Youth ... Oregon has just two upperclassmen on the roster in SR Chapdelaine and JR Nurse, giving the Ducks one of the youngest teams in the Conference ... Two of the three sophomores saw significant playing time as freshmen and will be relied upon throughout the year.
Offense ... Not known for lighting up the scoreboard, Oregon lost its top two scorers from last season ... Departed seniors Eleanor Haring and Carolyn Ganes accounted for 36% of the team's scoring.
Six freshmen join the UO ranks, including one redshirt ... True freshmen include G/F Nia Jackson, G/F Tatianna Thomas, F Nicole Canepa, C Ellyce Ironmonger and F Ellie Manou.
THE 2007-08 OREGON STATE BEAVERS
Guard play ... Oregon State's strength lies on its perimeter as JR G Mercedes Fox-Griffin and SR G Ashley Allen lead the way ... Fox-Griffin is a phenomenal passer, averaging 6.43 assists per game last season to pace the Conference ... She also ranked sixth in steals (1.79) and returns as the team's leading scorer at 9.5 ppg ... Allen finished right behind her with a 7.6 ppg average, heating things up from beyond the arc ... She sunk 33 treys to rank 10th in the league, averaging 1.18 per contest.
Return of Ducker ... JR C Tiffany Ducker returns to the OSU lineup after sitting out last season ... The 6-2 Stockton, Calif. product will be a welcome addition to a post that is rich in height, but lacking in experience ... Ducker finished her sophomore campaign as the league's second-leading shot-blocker, averaging 1.58 swats per contest.
Inside presence ... OSU bolsters its inside game with the return of Ducker, along with a handful of newcomers ... Having gone the entire 2006-07 season with six guards and three forwards, the Beavers list three centers on the 2007-08 roster, none smaller than 6-2.
No more Nash ... Last season, SR G Casey Nash set the Conference on fire, averaging a league-leading 20 points per game, while also securing a league-leading 15 20-point games under her belt ... She came into the 2006-07 season averaging just 6.3 ppg through three seasons of play, but now the Beavers must find offensive success without her on the court.
Youth ... As with a couple of other teams in the Pac-10, youth abounds on the OSU roster ... The Beavers have just one lone senior in Allen, along with two juniors that have seen playing time in Fox-Griffin and Ducker ... The rest of the roster is made up of nine relative new-comers, but look for head coach LaVonda Wagner to bring them up to speed quickly.
Taking over the confines of Gill Coliseum for the first time will be six new faces, including G Talisa Rhea, G Kassandra McCalister, G Brittney Davis, C Alex Mitchell, F Viki Wohlers and F Brittany Eskridge.
THE 2007-08 STANFORD CARDINAL
The Candice factor ... SR G Candice Wiggins can single-handedly turn a game around and has done so on many occasions (ask the rest of the Conference) ... A two-time Pac-10 Player of the Year and certainly the league's most decorated returning player, she fought through a couple of injuries last season to still score 16.9 ppg, ranking sixth in the Pac-10 ... This is her last NCAA title shot, so look for Wiggins to leave it all on the floor.
Talent ... Stanford flat out has some of the best talent in the nation, as proven by the players that buy into head coach Tara VanDerveer's system and stay within their roles ... Last year's Pac-10 Freshman of the Year SO F/C Jayne Appel should play a larger role on this year's team, filling the departures of graduated SR F/C Brooke Smith and SR F/C Kristen Newlin ... SO G JJ Hones, who went down with an ACL tear mid-season, can return to the point, while JR F Jillian Harmon's steady hand can up her 7.7 ppg average this year.
Defense ... Stanford does most things well, but it was exceptional on the defensive end last year ranking atop the league in scoring defense (57.1 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.326), blocked shots (5.56) and defensive rebounds (29.32) ... Look for the Cardinal to only get better in this category as it ads a quartet of players tabbed as the No. 4 recruiting class in the nation.
Is there a monkey? ... Things certainly didn't end the way the Cardinal had hoped last year as they bowed out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament ... Could a shake-up in the coaching ranks usher in a renewed sense of urgency?
Schedule ... There is no rest for the weary as Stanford takes on tough non-conference opponents in 2007-08, starting first with contests against Connecticut and Old Dominion at the Paradise Jam in November ... The team will also take on NCAA Tournament participants Baylor and New Mexico, as well as defending national champion Tennessee.
Four high school players make the transition to college life for the Cardinal this season: F Kayla Pedersen, G Hannah Donaghe, G Jeanette Pohlen and F Ashley Cimino.
THE 2007-08 UCLA BRUINS
Post play ... UCLA has two proven players in SR F Lindsey Pluimer and JR F/C Chinyere Ibekwe who finished as the second and fourth leading scorers, respectively, on last year's squad ... Pluimer averaged over 15 points and five rebounds, while Ibekwe added seven points and six boards ... Both finished in the top 10 in field goal percentage as Ibekwe hit at a .503 clip (99-of-197) to finish eighth in the league and Pluimer notched a .488 mark (186-of-381) to rank 10th ... The Bruins will need the duo's offensive production as they lose departed All-Pac-10 standout SR G Noelle Quinn, who averaged 17.2 ppg in her final year.
2007-08 incoming class ... Head coach Kathy Olivier delivered one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, ranked as high as No. 3 by The All Star Girls Report ... Donning the blue and gold this season will include high school teammates 6-4 C Regina Rogers and 6-4 F Christina Nzekwe ... Rogers was regarded as the nation's No. 6 center by HoopGurlz.com, while Nzekwe was considered one of the nation's top 12 forwards by the same publication.
Home schedule ... The Bruins have a daunting schedule, but play three of their biggest contests in the comfy confines of Pauley Pavilion ... The team will host Maryland in November, followed by defending national champion Tennessee in mid-December, along with NCAA participant UC Riverside just thereafter.
Youth movement ... UCLA has one of the youngest teams in the Pac-10 as just one senior dots the roster ... However, most all of the returners have seen significant playing time so their experience will be crucial in the post-Quinn era.
Turnovers ... UCLA turned the ball over more times than any other team in the Conference last season, giving up close to 20 possessions (19.6) in any given contest ... The team has got to take better care of the ball, especially considering five of the top 10 Conference players ranked in steals return for the 2007-08 season.
Joining Rogers and Nzekwe are four other players including FR F Nina Earl, FR G Darxia Morris, FR G Doreena Campbell and FR F/C Candice Brown.
THE 2007-08 TROJANS
Depth ... USC boasts a roster that is 16 players deep for the season, quite a difference from the number of bodies it had in 2006-07 ... Returning to the court for the first time in over a year is JR G Camille LeNoir who finished her sophomore campaign as the team's second leading scorer (12.7 ppg) ... Joining her on the perimeter after sitting out last season are JR G Brynn Cameron who ranked No. 25 in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (.409) as a freshman, and RS FR G Jacki Gemelos who was one of the most highly touted players in the nation as an incoming freshman.
More depth ... The Women of Troy received a nice break when it was announced that SR G/F Allison Jaskowiak would receive another year ... The blue-collar player averaged 24.8 minutes per game last season, adding 3.1 ppg and 3.3 rpg, along with a handful of intangibles ... SR C Markisha Lea returns from injury and will be joined down low by JR C Nadia Parker who ranked sixth on the team with a 6.4 ppg average.
3-point threats ... With the return of LeNoir and Cameron, along with SO G Morghan Medlock, USC should surely better its 30% mark from long range last season ... Medlock, a Pac-10 All-Freshman honorable mention selection, hit at an even .500 clip (9-of-18) ... LeNoir has shot 32% in her career (74-of-228).
Injuries ... Can the Trojans stay injury-free? The last two promising seasons have been made difficult by a string of unfortunate injuries ... The team already has one 2007-08 redshirt in FR G Stefanie Gilbreath, but every precaution will be taken to keep this season's squad healthy.
No more Shay ... No question that this year's team will look quite different without All-Pac-10 standout and departed SR G Shay Murphy ... Irreplaceable, she averaged 17.9 ppg and 8.4 rpg to rank second in the Conference in both categories.
There is just one true freshman joining the eligible Trojan ranks for 2007-08, 6-5 F Kari LaPlante ... USC also has a sophomore transfer in G Heather Oliver.
THE 2007-08 WASHINGTON HUSKIES
A new look ... Washington brought in new head coach Tia Jackson to take over the helm of the Husky program that finished tied for fourth in the Conference a year ago ... Jackson has a handful of returning players, but will surely look to put her stamp on the team mostly known for its offensive rebounding tenacity and blue-collar work.
Returners ... UW is led by the services of SR G Emily Florence and SR F/C Andrea Plouffe ... Plouffe is the team's leading returning scorer (10.0 ppg) ... Florence led the Conference in steals last season with a 2.19 spg average, while racking up 122 assists to place sixth in the league (3.94 apg) ... Joining her on the perimeter is SR G Dominique Banks and JR G Stefanie Clark ... Banks played in 20 games last season despite starting out the year with double surgery to repair stress fractures in both of her legs ... Clark is a solid shooter, hitting almost 43% of her shots from the field (83-of-194).
Recruiting class ... Ranked as the No. 8 recruiting class in the nation by Blue Star Basketball, Washington has a talented group of newcomers that should factor in immediately ... 6-5 F/C Kali Bennett is ranked 35th in her position by the website, while 5-10 G Candice Nichols checks in at No. 63 by the same publication .
No more Cameo ... Washington isn't unlike other Pac-10 teams that are dealing with the departure of their superstar, and for the Huskies its graduated G Cameo Hicks who led the team with a 17.2 ppg average her senior campaign, good enough to rank fourth in the league ... Who will step up and show they want the ball come crunch time?
Stressful offseason ... When it comes time to take the floor, how will the Huskies respond? Will they be able to put the stresses of the offseason behind them?
Along with Bennett and Nichols, the Husky faithful will also welcome four additional freshmen, including G Sarah Morton, F Katelan Redmon, F Jess McCormack and F Mackenzie Argens ... JR G Michelle Augustavo, a transfer from San Diego, is also eligible for the 2007-08 season.
THE 2007-08 WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS
A new look ... Washington State welcomes veteran head coach June Daugherty to its bench this season after an 11-year stint at the University of Washington ... Daugherty has strong recruiting ties in the eastern part of the state, as well as Idaho and Montana, which should bode well for the Cougars in the future.
Guard play ... JR G Katie Appleton is the most experienced returning player and will shoulder much of the responsibility as a squad leader ... Appleton is a strong 3-point threat and a solid passer ... She averaged 8.1 ppg her sophomore campaign, while chipping in 3.2 rebounds ... Two athletic guards should factor in the WSU offense in SO Nakejia Kelly and Collen Betteridge ... Betteridge averaged an even 22 minutes as a freshman, banking in 5.2 ppg ... Kelly played in just 16 games last season, starting two, to finish third on the team in scoring (7.6 ppg).
Schedule ... WSU will face tough non-conference opponents in NC State, Texas Tech and Santa Clara, but two of those three will be played at home in Pullman, as well as the opener against Portland and a four-game home stretch that includes Idaho, the Red Raiders, Boise State and San Jose State ... The team also closes out the Conference portion of the schedule at home against the Bay Area schools, before heading to the Pac-10 Tournament.
Depth ... Washington State is thin with just nine players on its roster and will have to stay healthy during the long 18-game Conference season ... Short on bodies, look for older, more experienced players to log some serious minutes.
Stressful offseason ... Like Washington, the stresses of the offseason can certainly take its toll and it will be telling to see how the team responds when it takes the court ... With nothing to lose, look for the Cougars to leave it all out on the floor.
Washington State welcomes two new faces in FR F Katie Calderwood out of Broomfield, Colo. and FR G Jasmine Williams who hails from Kent, Wash.