Almost Before She Knows It, Lappe’s Season Is On Her

BOULDER – In the public eye, media day usually marks the official beginning of the season. On Wednesday, University of Colorado women’s basketball coach Linda Lappe and several of her players faced  cameras and microphones, discussing what is to come in the 2014-15 season. It was almost as if time had skipped six months, something Lappe noted in her press conference.

“It seems unreal that in about a week and a half we’re going to be playing in probably the best preseason tournament there is in women’s college basketball,” Lappe stated. “It’s the Preseason WNIT Tournament opening up against North Dakota (Saturday, Nov. 15 6 p.m.) who was an NCAA Tournament team last year. We are excited about the opportunity to get the season underway and to hit the court.” 

Yet the narrative of the upcoming season changed during the preseason, when sophomore forward Arielle Roberson suffered an ACL injury that will sideline her for the year. But Lappe does not want that to be what defines the team this season. Instead, she focuses on the group of women she has right now, describing them in one word: “solid.”

Unfortunately, it is hard to overlook the significance of Roberson’s injury.  Most of the Buffs’ early work has been adjusting to a season without her in the frontcourt, much like the men’s basketball team had to do with guard Spencer Dinwiddie from January on last year. Lappe will look for players to step up, citing Haley Smith has one of the top forwards to step into one of Roberson’s many roles.

“On the floor, it’s about everybody else stepping up,” Lappe says. “We have to look for Haley Smith to step in to that role. She has one year of experience. She started the second half of last season. She was playing her best basketball in March. But, she’s really going to have to step up and maybe play multiple positions.”

Another frontcourt member who is poised to have a bigger role in the team is Jamee Swan. Swan, now a junior, had a breakout season in 2013, leading the team in field goal percentage (.505) and blocked shots (36). But she knows that she cannot shoulder the load alone, and cited the importance of depth at the forward position, which is something the Buffs have a lot of.

“I think it’s huge,” says Swan. “Our starters or people that are usually going to be on the court aren’t going to be as tired and we’re gonna have people that will be able to give them breaks. “

Lappe touched on a number of important questions coming into the season, including the increasing level of parity in the Pac-12, changes to the offensive and defensive system, as well as her new assistant coach, Jamie Carey. Carey comes in with experience as a point guard in the WNBA as well as being the assistant national team director for USA Basketball. Lappe notes that Carey brings an x-factor to coaching that will help her backcourt emphatically this season.

“Anybody can teach point guards skills and Jamie does a great job with that. But, she also teaches the mentality,” says Lappe. “She teaches Brecca (Thomas) how to step onto the court; get your shoulders back, get your heads up. She wants our point guards to have the most confidence of anyone on the floor and bring it every day.”

MEDIA DAY NOTABLES:

  • Roberson and Dinwiddie can swap injury stories; Dinwiddie also was sidelined by an ACL tear. She touched on their communication following Roberson’s injury, and the advice the current Detroit Piston point guard gave her. “He was there, saying you gotta be positive all the time for them, and you don’t want to let them see you down. When I feel bad, he’s the one I can turn to and it cheers me up that he puts it in perspective like, ‘I’m better now.’”
  • Roberson, like Dinwiddie, is planning on taking on a more player/coach-like role with the team, providing help wherever she can and helping her teammates from the sideline. “I’m just trying to give advice where I can,” she said. “I know for games, I’ll be doing stats but I’ll be keeping track of post work. That will really help us as a team.”
  • Lappe had high praise for Thomas, who comes in to help a backcourt that is lacking in depth. Thomas’ work ethic has impressed Lappe, along with her desire to constantly get better. Said Lappe: “The good thing about Brecca is that she’s a great communicator. She’ll come into my office and say, ‘Hey coach am I still on track where you see me going and what else do I need to be working on?’ Then she goes and she does it. She’s one of our hardest workers on the team. “
  • CU was voted No. 10 in the preseason Pac-12 media poll. While some view this as a slight, Swan actually welcomes the placement, believing it gives the team the opportunity to sneak up on teams during the season. Without the hype, the team has, according to Swan, “Nothing to lose and everything to gain.” Lappe doesn’t care much for outside opinions, only focusing on what she expects out of the team and what the players expect out of themselves. “We want high expectations, we have high expectations and so it doesn’t really matter what other people have for us,” she said. “We’re going to do what we do and play the basketball that we play.”
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