2008-09 Pac-10 Women's Basketball Prospectus
July 31, 2008
For the first time since 1997, the Pac-10 had a team advance to the NCAA Final Four as STANFORD (35-4) put together one of its most memorable seasons in recent history. After an 82-73 defeat of top-seeded UConn, the Cardinal reached the championship finals for the first time since 1992, but came just shy in the 64-48 loss to No. 1 Tennessee. Stanford closed the books on its 2007-08 season with a regular season Pac-10 title (16-2), the 2008 State Farm Pac-10 Tournament title, a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a second-place finish in the 'Big Dance.'
For the sixth consecutive season, the Pac-10 sent at least three teams to the NCAA Tournament, and had a team reach the Elite Eight for the fifth time in as many years. The 2007-08 season was a successful one for the league as a whole as ARIZONA STATE, CALIFORNIA and Stanford all earned postseason nods. Further, Stanford SR G Candice Wiggins became just the second player in Pac-10 history to be named the State Farm Wade Trophy Player of the Year, joining former Cardinal Jennifer Azzi (1990). Wiggins was named a first team All-American for a school record-breaking fourth time in her career, becoming only the seventh player in Division I history to earn All-America honors each of her four seasons. Also earning State Farm/WBCA All-American honorable mention accolades were California post players JR F/C Devanei Hampton and JR F/C Ashley Walker.
Stanford finished with a 16-2 league record, just ahead of second-place California (15-3) to grab its eighth consecutive Pac-10 championship. Stanford and California competed in the championship game of the 2008 State Farm Pac-10 Tournament with the Cardinal earning their fifth crown in seven tournaments by virtue of a 56-35 win.
Arizona State and California both advanced to the second round of NCAA Tournament play, as the Sun Devils bested Temple, 61-54, in the first round and the Golden Bears took care of San Diego, 77-60.
Two Pac-10 teams closed out the season ranked among the Top-25 in the final USA Today/ESPN/WBCA poll as Stanford finished at No. 2 and California at No. 18. Arizona State also received votes in the poll.
2009 STATE FARM PAC-10 TOURNAMENT:
March 12-15, 2009
Galen Center - Los Angeles, California
The eighth-annual State Farm Pac-10 Women's Basketball Tournament heads to Southern California, March 12-15, 2009, at the Galen Center in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.
The State Farm Pac-10 Women's Basketball Tournament made its debut in 2002 and was held on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, Ore. The Conference's premier women's sporting event moved to HP Pavilion at San Jose in 2003 where it enjoyed a six-year run in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The winner of the 10-team tournament receives the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship. The tournament seeds and Conference Champion are determined by the 18-game regular season Pac-10 schedule.
THE 2008-09 ARIZONA WILDCATS
The University of Arizona welcomed new head coach Niya Butts to the helm of the Wildcat program in early April, as she replaced long-time head coach Joan Bonvicini who finished her tenure at UA with an overall career record of 612-294 (.675), including a 287-223 (.563) mark at Arizona ... Butts will have her work cut out for her as Arizona has not finished in the top part of the Conference since the 2004-05 season.
Butts should bring a wealth of knowledge, excitement and experience to the UA program ... Most recently, she helped coach the Kentucky Wildcats to an 88-72 record (.550) over five seasons, with a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2005-06 and three WNIT appearances ... Butts spent 2007-08 as Kentucky's associate head coach, and was the program's recruiting coordinator for three seasons.
Arizona returns four players from its 2007-08 squad, including SR F Amina Njonkou who earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention status last season ... She ranked second on the team and seventh in the league in scoring with a 13.1 average ... Njonkou is tremendous in the paint, averaging 7.4 rebounds per game, which placed her second on the team and fifth in the league.
SO F Ify Ibekwe is a solid compliment to Njonkou, having averaged 10.4 points and 8.0 rebounds as a freshman ... Ibekwe led the team in scoring on five different occasions, including a 22-point effort against Middle Tennessee State on Nov. 25.
The Wildcats will be without the services of long-time point guard Ashley Whisonant who ended her senior season as the team's leading scorer with a 15.4 average, which placed her second in the Pac-10 ... Arizona returns one guard with playing experience in SO Tasha Dickey, who played in 28 games, 21 as a starter ... Dickey averaged 6.9 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.9 assists.
THE 2008-09 ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS
A 22-11 overall record, a 14-4 record in Conference play and a third-place Pac-10 finish is nothing to hang your head over, but the Arizona State Sun Devils are looking for more ... Head coach Charli Turner Thorne is looking for a healthy 2008-09, which could help her team to a coveted Pac-10 championship and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament ... Last season, ASU was hampered by injuries, but still managed to advance to the second round of NCAAs, where it almost picked up an upset of third-seeded Duke ... With the return of some key players to bolster an already deep roster, ASU is ready for action.
Leading the way for Arizona State is SR G Briann January, the 2008 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and a second team All-Pac-10 performer as a junior ... January led the league in steals (2.18) and free throw percentage (.864) last season, and returns as the second-leading scorer on the team (11.3).
Joining January on the perimeter will be RS JR G Danielle Orsillo, who sat out last season with a knee injury and was deeply missed for her strong shooting and ball-handling skills ... Orsillo and January will share time with a host of talented guards, including JR G Dymond Simon, who was named to the 2008 Pac-10 All-Tournament team and returns as the team's third-leading scorer (8.3).
Arizona State has depth and experience in the paint as senior transfers C Sybil Dosty and F/C Lauren Lacey have a year under their belt in Tempe ... Lacey led the team and ranked 10th in the Pac-10 in scoring as a junior, averaging 12.6 points ... Her 5.7 rebounding average also placed her 11th in the league ... Dosty finished one spot ahead in 10th with a 6.4 rebounding average, while her 1.21 blocks per game were good enough for fifth in the Conference ... At 6-6, SR C Kirsten Thompson is one of the tallest players in the Pac-10 and should see more playing time this season ... Thompson boasted a 52.6 field goal percentage as a junior.
THE 2008-09 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS
Following a heart-breaking departure from the second round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament, the California Golden Bears are back and hungrier than ever ... Head coach Joanne Boyle enters her fourth season at the helm of the Cal program, leading a group of seniors into their final attempt at a Pac-10 title and beyond.
Leading the way for the Bears are SR F/C Ashley Walker, SR F/C Devanei Hampton and SR G Alexis Gray-Lawson (who has two seasons of eligibility left) ... Walker, a two-time All-Pac-10 performer and an Associated Press All-American honorable mention selection, returns as the team's leading scorer, having averaged 15.3 points per game to rank third in the Conference last season ... Her 9.3 rebounding average also placed her atop the league ... Hampton, a three-time All-Pac-10 selection and the 2007 Pac-10 Player of the Year, averaged 13.5 points and 8.0 rebounds as a junior, despite missing nine games early in the year due to a knee injury ... Gray-Lawson was deadly from long range in 2007-08, leading the Pac-10 in three-point field goal percentage (.400) and ranking sixth in three-point field goals made (1.65) ... She averaged 11.5 points to round out Cal's top three scoring threats.
Once again sharing point guard duties with Gray-Lawson will be JR G Natasha Vital, who dished out 4.15 assists to rank fourth in the league as a sophomore ... Her 1.47 assist/turnover ratio also placed in the league's Top-10.
Cal's biggest need coming out of last season was depth and the team should be aided by three incoming freshmen and one junior transfer ... 6-1 JR F Kendra Calvin played last season at Mount San Antonio College where she helped her team to a 37-1 record ... Calvin is expected to play important minutes in the paint, helping to relieve post players Walker and Hampton, who will own much of the burden as JR F/C Rama N'diaye continues to recover from a knee injury suffered late last season.
THE 2008-09 OREGON DUCKS
Oregon returns eight letterwinners and three starters as the 2008-09 Duck squad looks to improve upon last season's 14-17 record (7-11, Pac-10) and seventh-place finish in the Conference standings ... Head coach Bev Smith begins her eighth season at the helm of the UO program, boasting a winning percentage of .533, with over 100 wins during her career.
With just one senior on the roster, Oregon has one of the youngest teams in the Pac-10 for the second year in a row ... However, what it might lack in age, it makes up for in experience and talent as JR G Taylor Lilley leads the way ... Lilley, who led the Pac-10 in three-point field goals made with 2.39 last season, was a 30-game starter in 2007-08, and saw action in 24 of 31 games as a freshman, averaging 22.8 minutes per game ... A third team All-Pac-10 selection last season, she has 113 career three-pointers to rank sixth on Oregon's all-time charts.
The Ducks were bolstered by two young players last year in SO F/C Nicole Canepa and SO F Ellie Manou ... An honorable mention Pac-10 All-Freshman selection, Canepa returns as the team's third-leading scorer, having put up 6.9 points per game in her first collegiate season, adding 4.2 rebounds and 0.5 blocks ... Manou, who averaged 7.0 points and 5.5 rebounds as a freshman, battled a foot injury through much of the season, but came on strong late, starting in eight of the Ducks' last 10 games.
Oregon welcomes four newcomers this season, including three true freshmen and one junior college transfer ... Joining the squad will be FR G Darriel Gaynor (Las Vegas, Nev.), FR F Jasmin Holliday (Chino, Calif.), FR F Amanda Johnson (Santa Rosa, Calif.) and JR G/F Lindsey Saffold ... Saffold, who has played the last two seasons at Delta Community College in Stockton, Calif., averaged 17.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last season, leading the squad to the Big 8 Conference championship, as well as an Elite 8 berth in the state tournament.
THE 2007-08 OREGON STATE BEAVERS
Head coach LaVonda Wagner opens the 2008-09 season with four returning starters, eight returning letterwinners and three newcomers, as the Beavers look to improve upon last season's eighth-place finish in the Conference, following a 12-19 record (4-14, Pac-10).
Heading into her fourth season at the helm of the Beaver program, Wagner is known for coaching some of the league's top scorers, including most recently, Kim Butler, Casey Nash and Ashley Allen, all of whom finished their senior campaigns ranked in the Pac-10's top-five in scoring ... This year should be no different, as OSU has serious offensive threats in SR G Brittney Davis and SO G Talisa Rhea ... Davis returns as the team's leading scorer (12.8 ppg), despite playing in just 23 games due to an injury that kept her out of much of the second half of Conference play ... Rhea, one of the best long-range shooters in the Pac-10, is the team's second-leading returning scorer (9.9 ppg) ... Last season, she finished third in the Pac-10 in three-point field goals made (2.16) and fifth in three-point field goal percentage (.370).
Leadership will fall in the hands of SR G Mercedes Fox-Griffin, who is known for her ball-handling and passing skills ... After leading the Conference in assists in 2006-07 with 6.43 helpers per game, she finished last season ranked second in the Pac-10 with a 4.83 assists per game average.
SR C Tiffany Ducker will be the mainstay in the paint for Oregon State, as she was a 31-game starter last season, averaging 7.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and a 51.0 field goal percentage ... Ducker, who led the team in scoring in two of the team's final three games in 2007-08, will join Fox-Griffin and Davis in handling the senior leadership duties ... 6-4 SO C Alex Mitchell will also see considerable time in the post, as she played in 28 games as a freshman, averaging 4.7 points and 3.9 rebounds.
THE 2008-09 STANFORD CARDINAL
For Stanford, success is measured in championships and in 2007-08, the Cardinal came as close as one team can to capturing a coveted national championship ... Despite falling in the NCAA finals to Tennessee, 64-48, Stanford captured its eighth-consecutive Pac-10 championship, 17th overall, and its second-straight State Farm Pac-10 Tournament title, fifth in the seven-year history of the event ... Head coach Tara VanDerveer begins her 23rd year on The Farm, boasting a .794 career winning percentage, while nearing 600 wins at the helm of the Cardinal program.
Things will look a little different this year as Stanford will be without the services of one of the most decorated players in team and Pac-10 history, G Candice Wiggins ... Ending her four years as a three-time Pac-10 Player of the Year, a four-time All-American, a State Farm Wade Trophy recipient and the Pac-10's all-time leading scorer, Wiggins will surely be missed ... However, until another team can knock them off, the Cardinal is still the team to beat in the Pac-10.
Leading the way this season will be JR F/C Jayne Appel, the team's returning leading scorer and rebounder with averages of 15.0 and 8.8, respectively ... Appel is one of the most consistent shooters in the nation, finishing last season atop the Conference and eighth in the country with a 58.8 field goal percentage ... Providing the other part of a 1-2 punch in the paint, is SO F Kayla Pedersen, the 2008 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year ... Pedersen, who can shoot inside or out, was a 39-game starter who averaged 12.6 points and 8.4 rebounds in her first collegiate campaign.
On the perimeter, Stanford will rely on a handful of talented guards, including JR JJ Hones, RS JR Rosalyn Gold-Onwude and RS SO Melanie Murphy ... For the past two seasons, all three have been in and out of the lineup, unfortunately suffering or recovering from ACL injuries, but look for all three to be healthy and an important part of the 2008-09 roster ... Hones ended last season as the Pac-10 leader in assist/turnover ratio (2.55), while ranking fourth in three-point field goal percentage (.378).
THE 2008-09 UCLA BRUINS
There is a buzz in Los Angeles as a new head coach takes over at the helm of the UCLA women's basketball program for the first time in 15 years ... In late April, the Bruins welcomed Nikki Caldwell, a veteran assistant under Tennessee's Pat Summitt for six seasons, helping guide the Volunteers to back-to-back national titles in 2007 and 2008 ... Caldwell takes over for long-time head coach Kathy Olivier, who put together a 15-year career at UCLA, earning over 200 wins in the process (232-208, .527).
Caldwell has one of the youngest, but most talented and athletic rosters in the Pac-10 as three of the Bruins' four returning leading scorers are all just sophomores ... F Nina Earl, G Doreena Campbell and G Darxia Morris make up that trio ... Earl and Campbell posted an 8.7 points per game average in their first collegiate campaigns, while Morris averaged 7.5 points in 28 games played ... Campbell, a 2007-08 Pac-10 All-Freshman honoree and All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection, started in all 30 games she played in, averaging 30.8 minutes, 4.2 rebounds, 3.37 assists and a 1.68 assist/turnover ratio.
UCLA will have to find a replacement for one of the most consistent and productive players in school history in F Lindsey Pluimer ... Pluimer finished her career as the No. 12 all-time scorer and No. 10 all-time rebounder in Bruin history with 1,556 points and 737 rebounds.
Luckily, the team has two veteran post players in SR C Chinyere Ibekwe and JR C Moniquee Alexander, who combined for 58 games and 18 starts in 2007-08 ... Ibekwe and Alexander will have to shoulder much of the leadership responsibilities in the paint as Pluimer has graduated and C Regina Rogers is no longer on the team ... Ibekwe, a solid rebounder with a 3.8 average on the boards last season, was a member of the UCLA squad that won the 2006 Pac-10 Tournament title ... Meanwhile, Alexander, at 6-6, is one of the tallest players in the Conference and boasts a 40.1 career field goal percentage (79-of-197).
THE 2008-09 TROJANS
For the last two seasons, the USC Women of Troy have been hobbled by injuries up and down the roster, but should the 2008-09 team finally put an end to this string of bad luck, the rest of the Conference better take notice ... Head coach Mark Trakh and company are coming off a 17-13 campaign (10-8, Pac-10) ... The Trojans looked to be NCAA Tournament-bound, but dropped their last four contests after putting together a string of as many wins from Feb. 7-21.
Leading the way this season is SR G Camille LeNoir, a third team All-Pac-10 performer in 2007-08 ... LeNoir battled a hip injury all season, but did not let that keep her sidelined, missing just two games during the year ... She is the team's second-leading returning scorer, averaging 11.0 points to rank 17th among all players in the Pac-10.
If there had been a 'Most Improved' award in the Conference last season, SR C Nadia Parker certainly would have been in contention ... The 6-3 post averaged 12.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and a .565 field goal percentage to rank 11th, seventh and second in the Pac-10, respectively ... Parker, a second team All-Pac-10 selection, suffered a partial tear of her MCL late in the season, but look for her to be back in the paint for the Trojan's opener.
Six freshmen will suit up for the first time for the Women of Troy this season, but none more anticipated than RS FR G Jacki Gemelos, considered to be the best player in the country coming out of high school in 2006 ... Gemelos suffered back-to-back torn ACLs, forcing her to sit out 2006-07 and 2007-08 ... Look for the phenom to bounce back, logging serious minutes this season ... In somewhat of a similar situation, RS FR G Stefanie Gilbreath endured the same injury just before the 2007 McDonald's All-American Game ... Gilbreath will be playing for the first time this season and will be joined by her sister, FR G Briana Gilbreath, who is one of four McDonald's high school All-Americans on the current USC roster.
THE 2008-09 WASHINGTON HUSKIES
Washington comes out of the gates in 2008-09 looking to better its 13-18 overall record (8-10, Pac-10) and sixth place finish in the Conference last season ... Head coach Tia Jackson has been at the helm of the Husky program for one full season now, ending last year on a solid note as the team pulled off a Top-10 upset of California (9th, 74-66) in Seattle on Mar. 2.
UW returns just one starter in JR G Sami Whitcomb, but five additional letterwinners who saw action in a combined 136 games ... Whitcomb is the team's leading returning scorer with an 11.2 ppg average ... A March 3, 2008 Pac-10 Player of the Week, Whitcomb earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 Defensive Team honors after she proved to be a serious theft on the ball, averaging 2.0 steals per game to rank third in the league.
The Huskies will rely on the experience of post player JR F/C Laura McLellan who averaged 7.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and a 59.5 field goal percentage in 23 games last season ... 6-3 RS FR F/C Mackenzie Argens is coming off a torn ACL after playing in just four games last season, but should provide much-needed height and depth in the paint.
Seven newcomers join the Husky ranks this season, including five freshmen and two junior college transfers ... Highlights from Jackson's first signings: 6-1 F Liz Lay (Oklahoma City, Okla.) was ranked as the 18th recruit in the nation by HoopGurlz.com, third at her position ... 5-10 G Kristi Kingma (Mill Creek, Wash.) was ranked No. 44 in the nation by HoopGurlz.com, 14th at her position ... 6-2 F Mollie Williams (Cerritos, Calif.) was tabbed No. 64 in the nation by the Dan Olson Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, and 14th at her position ... 5-8 G Christina Rozier (Miami, Fla.) and 5-11 F Lydia Young (Detroit, Mich.) will come to Seattle after having spent the past two seasons as teammates at Southeastern Illinois Junior College ... 5-10 F Charmaine Barlow is a two-time second-team All-Metro League selection out of Chief Sealth High School ... 5-6 G Nicole Romeo (Adelaide, South Australia) was named the 2007 Merv Harris Medal winner, awarded to the best women's U-21 player by the Australian Basketball Association.
THE 2008-09 WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS
There is excitement in Pullman as Washington State head coach June Daugherty returns nine from last year's 2007-08 squad, and adds a seven-player recruiting class ranked as high as 16th in the nation, making it the most heralded class in Cougar history.
Highlights from Daugherty's signings: 5-8 G Katie Grad (Auburn, Wash.) was named the 3A Washington State Tournament's most valuable player en route to leading Auburn-Riverside High School to its second-consecutive state championship ... 6-8 C Jessica Oestreicher (Redding, Calif.) was named an honorable mention All-American by The Sporting News ... 5-8 G April Cook (Long Beach, Calif.) was named first-team all-state and was a McDonald's All-America nominee, as Long Beach Poly finished the season as the nation's second-ranked team by USA Today, ESPN and HoopGurlz ... 5-6 G Danielle LeNoir (Los Angeles, Calif.), a McDonalds All-America nominee, was named to three different all-tournament teams ... 6-1 F Lexie Pettersen (Spokane, Wash.) was named first-team All-Greater Spokane League and honorable mention all-state by the Associated Press ... 6-1 G/F Rosie Tarnowski (Philadelphia, Pa.) was recognized as the top senior girls' basketball player in the city of Philadelphia by the William Markward Memorial Basketball Club, becoming the first female to be honored in the 62-year history of the club ... 5-10 G Jazmine Perkins (Berkeley, Calif.) was named a Street & Smith's All-American and earned all-league honors after leading Berkeley High School to the 2008 league title.
While there will be a plethora of new faces donning the crimson and gray, leading the way will be SR G Katie Appleton and SR C Ebonee Coates ... Appleton is coming off a junior campaign in which she led the team in scoring (12.0) and steals (45), while Coates improved dramatically in the paint, averaging 7.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks last season ... Coates suffered a concussion during Pac-10 play, but should be back in prime form for WSU's opener.