Huskies Might Be Daughterty's Best

Nov. 12, 2006

SEATTLE (AP) -- The Washington Huskies know they're going to begood, better than last season's 19-victory team that went to theNCAA tournament and perhaps better than any of coach JuneDaugherty's previous 10 teams.

Now, it's just a matter of going out and playing up to theirpotential -- and avoiding injuries, Daugherty said this week.

'We're on our way,' she said. 'I like this group a lot. We'retalented, we're deep with experience and if we can stay healthy, itcould be a great season.'

Back from last season's team, which had a 19-11 record,including an 11-7 tie for fourth place in the Pac-10, is anexperienced group of starters headed by senior guard Cameo Hicks.

The athletic, 5-foot-10 Hicks led the Huskies in scoring (15points) and rebounds (5.6) as a junior. She's one of 30 preseasoncandidates for the 2006-2007 John Wooden Award for women and one offour Pac-10 players up for the honor.

Also back are 6-2 junior center Andrea Plouffe, 6-1 seniorforward Breanne Watson and junior guards Emily Florence andDominique Banks, though Banks is still recovering from surgerySept. 15 prompted by stress fractures on both legs. Banks isexpected to miss the first two months of the season.

Banks' starting spot is expected to be filled by 5-9 sophomoreguard Stephanie Clark, who shined in Washington's two exhibitionvictories, scoring 20 points as a starter in a win over Universityof Regina and 19 points off the bench as the Huskies beat theAustralian Institute of Sport. She also had 13 rebounds in the twogames.

Clark played in 14 games as a freshman in 2004-2005 andredshirted last season, when the Huskies had senior guards KristenO'Neill and Nicole Castro, both now graduates.

'It gave her a chance to gain some good maturity and strength,and really learn the system both offensively and defensively,'Daugherty said. 'It was a great situation for her to be able towork every day and not have the pressure on her.'

Daugherty said Clark will be a major player this season.

'There's no doubt Stephanie's a talent,' the coach said.'She's very athletic and is very quick. Every day I see hergetting more and more confident.'

Senior forward Jill Bell, who will be a key player for theHuskies off the bench this season, is a big fan.

'Stephanie is an awesome player,' she said. 'She's a slasherand a driver who is very athletic and who gets on the boards.'

The 6-foot Bell's college career has been plagued by kneeproblems. She averaged 5.1 points and 3.9 rebounds coming off thebench last season after arthroscopic left knee surgery for a tornmeniscus cartilage. In exhibition play, she had 16 points and sixrebounds against the Australian team.

She said her knees feel better than ever due to lots of rest.

'I took all the spring off and didn't do any individualworkouts,' Bell said. 'I took three or four months off completelyfrom doing anything.'

Then there's a pair of talented freshmen: 5-10 guard SamiWhitcomb, who had 26 points and 12 rebounds in Washington'sexhibition games; and 6-2 center Laura McLellan, who had sevenrebounds and two blocked shots in the Regina game. Whitcomb startedagainst the Australians.

Watson, second on the team in rebounds last season with five pergame, would like to be first in rebounding this season.

'I worked a lot this summer on my strength so I can be a littlemore physical inside,' she said. 'That's kind of the thing Ifocus on when I go out on the court.'

Daugherty has coached five Washington teams into the NCAAtournament, including her 2000-2001 Pac-10 co-champions, whoreached the NCAA tournament West Region finals.

She liked what she saw in this month's exhibition games.

'I liked the fact that we got up and down the floor,'Daugherty said. 'We also did a great job of forcing turnovers inboth games. I think we played very hard and played very aggressiveon both ends of the floor.'

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