Women's Basketball Kicks Off 2002-03 Season This Week

Nov. 12, 2002

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The Facts
The USC women's basketball team kicks off the 2002-03 season this week with its first exhibition game against Love & Basketball on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. at the North Gym, and its first regular season game against Northern Arizona on Friday, Nov. 15, at 7:15 at the Sport Arena. Friday's game will be the first round of the Preseason WNIT. The winner of the match-up will face either San Francisco or Colorado State in the second round on Sunday, Nov. 17, at a to-be-determined home site.

All USC home games can be heard live via the internet at www.usctrojans.com. To find the USC audio broadcast go to the 'Multimedia' link at the top of the homepage. You can also follow the game with Live Stats by going to the women's basketball schedule page.

USC, which advanced to the second round of the Postseason Women's NIT in 2002, looks to carry its late-season momentum into 2003. Under sixth-year head coach Chris Gobrecht, the Women of Troy return four starters and seven total letterwinners from last year's squad which posted a 16-14 overall record and 11-7 mark in the Pac-10 to finish tied for fourth place. This season, USC will look to All-American candidates and returning All-Pac-10 first team selections Ebony Hoffman and Aisha Hollans, in addition to 2002 Pac-10 All-Freshman team selection Rachel Woodward to make the difference.

USC In the Preseason WNIT
The Trojans will be making their first-ever appearance in the Preseason Women's NIT, but has twice appeared in the postseason tournament (2000, 2002). USC is the fourth Pac-10 team to compete in the preseason event since its inception in 1996. Pac-10 teams are 3-3 all-time in the tourney.

Hoffman Named Candidate For Naismith Award
Ebony Hoffman was named to the list of women's preseason candidates for the 2003 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award. The Naismith Awards program, now in its 35th year, honors the outstanding college basketball players in the United States. The candidates were selected by a vote of the Board of Selectors comprised of leading basketball coaches, journalists and basketball analysts. Members of the board were asked to name top male and female players who are most likely to be in contention for the award.

USC Boasts Nation's Second-Toughest Schedule
The Women of Troy have a definite challenge ahead of them this season - actually the No. 2 toughest challenge, according to the WBCA and its preseason nonconference strength of schedule rating. The Trojans are ranked No. 17 in overall strength of schedule. The 2003 schedule features Notre Dame (Nov. 29) at the Sports Arena and Tennessee (Dec. 14), who boasts the No. 1-rated toughest schedule, at the Forum, road games against New Mexico (Nov. 23), Pepperdine (Dec. 4), SMU (Dec. 18), Colorado (Dec. 21) and UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 9), and a Dec. 8 match-up at defending national champion Connecticut in Hartford, Conn.

Women Of Troy Earn Preseason Ranking
Athlon Sports magazine ranked the 2003 USC women's basketball team No. 24 nationally in a Preseason Top 25 Poll featured in its College Basketball edition on Sept. 16. USC is one of three Pac-10 teams represented in the poll. Stanford comes in at No. 7, while Oregon is No. 22. Duke received the No. 1 ranking. The Trojans will face seven ranked opponents this season, including Stanford, Oregon, No. 2 Tennessee (Dec. 14), No. 5 Notre Dame (Nov. 29), No. 8 Connecticut (Dec. 8) and No. 21 New Mexico (Nov. 23), with the possibility of playing No. 16 Colorado State (Nov. 17) in the second round of the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament. USC received votes in the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls.

A College Basketball Classic
The USC-Tennessee game on Saturday, Dec. 14, will be an event to remember. In addition to featuring two legendary programs at a legendary arena (Great Western Forum), the afternoon will include a reunion of USC's 1983 and 1984 NCAA Championship teams. The start time for the game has been set for 1:30 p.m. and it will be televised nationally by Fox Sports Net. Between them, USC and Tennessee have won eight national championships - USC owns two (1983, 1984) and Tennessee claims six (1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998).

Hoffman Leads USA World Championship Team To Gold Medal
Finishing with a perfect 4-0 record, the 2002 USA Basketball World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Team claimed the gold medal with an 81-50 victory over host Brazil (4-1) on July 21 thanks to an 18-point, 11-rebound effort from junior Ebony Hoffman. Averaging a tournament leading 102.8 points an outing, the United States had five players finish with scoring averages in double digits, three of whom finished among the top 10 in the tournament in scoring. Leading the charge was Hoffman, who averaged a tournament fourth-best 13.3 points.

Trojans Welcome New Assistant Coach
Steve Brooks, a former prep basketball coach with more than 20 years of coaching experience, was named an assistant coach for the USC women's basketball team by head coach Chris Gobrecht in July. Brooks will be in charge of overseeing the individual development of the USC players, as well as on-campus recruiting, conditioning and scouting. He replaces Colleen Matsuhara, who became head women's coach at West Los Angeles Community College.

Returning Honorees
Forward Ebony Hoffman and guard Aisha Hollans were both named to the All-Pac-10 first team in 2002 - a first for the two standout players and the first, first-team selections for the Women of Troy since the 1999 season (also the first time USC has had two named to the first team since the 1994 season). Rachel Woodward also received her share of honors by being named to the conference All-Freshman team. Woodward finished the season third on the team in scoring (11.3 ppg), assists (1.8 apg) and blocked shots (0.6 bpg), and fourth in rebounding (4.9 rpg).

Rometra Craig To Join Team Dec. 19
A key to USC's success this season is the addition of Rometra Craig (Portola Valley, Calif.) - a 2002 junior transfer from Duke who will be eligible on Dec. 19 (one full year after her transfer date). A unanimous prep All-American at Archbishop Mitty High in San Jose, Calif., Craig was a member of Duke's heralded recruiting class of 2002. Before transferring, the junior averaged 17.9 minutes, 6.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per game with the Blue Devils. Craig will have one-and-a-half years of remaining eligibility at USC.

Two New Additions
There are two new additions to this year's Women of Troy roster - junior college transfer Tiffany Hicks and freshman Meghan Gnekow. Hicks is an experienced point guard who helped lead Iowa Western Community College to its first-ever district championship in 2002, while Gnekow will likely play at the 2/3 guard position and is expected to provide the team with necessary three-point shooting at those positions. She prepped at Lincoln (Neb.) High.

Even Newer Additions
Last week, the Women of Troy added two redshirt freshman walk-ons to the 2002-03 roster. Both academic sophomores, Candace Agonafir and Alessandra Albrizzio enter their first season of collegiate basketball. Agonafir is a 5-11 forward who prepped at Long Beach (Calif.) Wilson High, while Albrizzio is a 5-9 guard who hails from Holy Names High in El Cerrito, Calif.

Head Coach Chris Gobrecht
Chris Gobrecht enters her sixth season at the helm of the USC women's basketball program. Replacing former head coach Fred Williams on May 8, 1997, Gobrecht returned to her alma mater to help guide the Women of Troy back to national prominence. Throughout 24 years of head coaching experience, Gobrecht has amassed a 396-281 (.585) career record with her programs at Cal State Fullerton (six years), Washington (11), Florida State (one) and USC. During her 11-year tenure at Washington, she was twice named Pac-10 Coach of the Year (1987 and 1988). Gobrecht remains the second-winningest coach in conference history with a 171-99 (.633) mark and she ranks among the top 50 active Division I coaches with 396 career victories.

Opponent Notes

Northern Arizona -- Northern Arizona posted a 17-11 overall record and 10-4 Big Sky conference mark in 2002 to finish tied for third place. Under seventh-year head coach Meg Sanders, the Lumberjacks return three starters and five total letterwinners from last season. Among them are senior guards Jen Snitker and Lindsey Foster, who averaged 11.3 and 8.3 points, respectively. Snitker also averaged 4.6 rebounds per game. NAU welcomes five newcomers to this year's squad, including 6-4 center Kim Biswanger from Calgary, Alberta, 6-2 forward Mica DeHoog from Redlands, Calif., and 5-11 guard Heather Robinson from Rochester, Minn.

USC-Arizona State Series Record -- Friday's game will be the first-ever meeting between the Women of Troy and the Lumberjacks.

2001-02 Team Comparisons
Team Ppg Margin FG% 3-FG% FT% Rpg Apg TOpg Spg Bpg

USC 71.7 +5.6 42.1 28.3 70.1 40.6 14.6 21.1 10.1 3.5
Northern Arizona 68.1 +8.3 43.0 35.5 69.0 38.1 16.2 16.7 9.2 5.2

Player Profiles

#3 Rometra Craig (Guard * Junior TR)
This Season: Rometra Craig will begin her first season with the Women of Troy on Dec. 19, 2002... Transferred from Duke midway through the 2001-02 season and must sit-out one complete year to become eligible... Will likely join the team on Dec. 21 against Colorado... A talented guard who brings additional speed and aggressiveness to USC's backcourt... An All-American caliber player.

#5 Meghan Gnekow (Guard * Freshman)
This Season: Meghan Gnekow enters her first season at USC after starring at Santa Ynez (Calif.) County Union High... A guard with the potential of playing at the 2 or 3 spots... Expected to help the team because of her perimeter shooting... An athletic player who can handle the ball and make things happen.

#10 Jessica Cheeks (Guard * Junior)
This Season: Jessica Cheeks begins her third season with the Women of Troy... Was moved to the point guard position as a freshman, but may return to a more natural 2/3 position as a junior... Is a great asset to the team because of her size and agility in the backcourt... An all-around athlete with great instincts for the game... A returning starter.

#20 Alessandra Albrizzio (Guard * RS Freshman)
This Season: Alessandra Albrizzio enters her first season with the Women of Troy as a walk-on.

#21 Erin Young (Forward * Senior)
This Season: Erin Young enters her senior year with the Women of Troy at forward... After joining the team as a freshman walk-on guard, she earned a scholarship for her final three seasons... Her shooting abilities are crucial to the team... Looks to become much more explosive after quiet sophomore and junior campaigns.

#23 Aisha Hollans (Guard * Junior)
This Season: Aisha Hollans begins her third season with the Women of Troy... One of the most gifted guards in the conference and a crucial player to have on the court at all times... Named to the 2002 All-Pac-10 First Team... A 2003 ALL-AMERICAN candidate... A returning starter on the perimeter.

#24 Tiffany Hicks (Guard * Junior TR)
This Season: A transfer from Iowa Western Community College, Tiffany Hicks begins her first season at USC... She has two years of eligibility available with the Women of Troy... A classic point guard who will be relied upon heavily this season... A very responsible player who will defend and get the ball to all the right people.

#32 Ebony Hoffman (Forward * Junior)
This Season: Ebony Hoffman enters her third season with the Women of Troy... One of the most dominating post players in the conference who had outstanding freshman and sophomore campaigns... Named to the 2002 All-Pac-10 First Team... Competed with the 2002 USA Basketball World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Team this summer... A 2003 ALL-AMERICAN candidate... A returning starter in the post.

#33 Rachel Woodward (Forward * Sophomore)
This Season: Rachel Woodward enters her second season with the Women of Troy... A talented passer who runs the floor well... She can catch, pass and finish on the move... Works well in transition and possesses strong rebounding skills... Brings great size to the forward position... Named to the 2002 Pac-10 All-Freshman Team... A returning starter.

#34 Candace Agonafir (Forward * RS Freshman)
This Season: Candace Agonafir enters her first season with the Women of Troy as a walk-on.

#35 Portia Mitchell (Center * RS Junior)
This Season: Portia Mitchell begins her redshirt junior year at USC... Her continued development has made a strong impact on the team... A player with good skills and great size... Continues to mature as a hard-working, responsible player.

#44 Kim Gipson (Center * Sophomore)
This Season: Kim Gipson begins her second season with the Women of Troy... A terrific, big-time physical player who has continued to excel as her skills and understanding of the game have improved... An exceptional, bright athlete whose natural skills will bring her much success.

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