Learning A New Game

Jan. 24, 2008

By Allen Wagner
The Daily

SEATTLE -- They are the final recruiting class of former UW women's basketball coach June Daugherty -- freshmen Mackenzie Argens, Kali Bennett, Jess McCormack, Sarah Morton and Katelan Redmon.

When Tia Jackson was hired to replace Daugherty earlier this year, many of these new recruits were unsure about the fresh start the team was about to get, but they soon realized a great change was made.

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Redmon, a four-year letter winner at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane before coming to the UW, said the experience of being on the team as a freshman was easier because the coach and a lot of the players were new.

'We were all like freshmen since nobody knew what to expect,' Redmon said. 'Even the seniors didn't know what was to come, so it kind of made it easier for everyone to start fresh.'

Redmon, like many other freshmen who attend the University of Washington, felt some degree of homesickness, but she had the benefit of being closer to home than others on the team.

Bennett, who was a team captain at Ventura High School in Southern California, and McCormack, a star player from half a world away in Auckland, New Zealand, both said it was tough to be in school, practicing and competing while living so far away from home.

'It's kind of tough,' McCormack said about missing her parents. 'They're on the other side of the world, so it is hard.'

Being able to overcome homesickness and the standard 'new student' sentiment was made easy for the new recruits because of the newfound attachment and friendships they've developed since arriving at the UW. It's the one thing they all agree on: The bonds they have created within the team made things much easier.

'Having a team with you for support and having an automatic group of friends, you know it's going to help you out,' Bennett said.

Players need all the support they can get with Pac-10 play in full swing, leading to higher levels of competition and tougher practices and workouts.

Senior Emily Florence, who has been with the Husky women all four years, noted that there seems to be increasing pressure to perform.

'Having a team with you for support and having an automatic group of friends, you know it's going to help you out.'
UW freshman Kali Bennett

'It's always hard as a freshman coming in,' Florence said. 'It's such a big step. For me it was a huge adjustment, because I wasn't used to tough-tempo, long practices. I think practices every year have gotten harder, so I'm sure it's a little tougher on the freshmen.'

First-year coach Tia Jackson has always been a believer in hard work and smart, fast-paced basketball, as evidenced by her coaching style and previous interviews. The freshmen class seems to understand Jackson's style and believes that, despite tough practices and workouts, they are getting a lot out of the process.

'They're definitely hard, they're always challenging,' McCormack said about Jackson's practices. 'You're going to go in there and you're going to get a good workout, but you're definitely going to be learning.'

Learning has also come easy for the incoming freshmen because of the team's connection. The freshmen can ask the seniors for advice anytime, and the seniors are more than happy to help out.

Bennett and Redmon both said they looked to Florence for both on-the-court and off-the-court advice because of her experience as a player and student. Florence agreed that the reason many of the freshmen see her as someone to talk to is because of her experience.

'I just try to help them get through practices every day,' Florence said. 'We have a ton of freshmen, so you just try to help out everybody because this is new for them.'

The freshmen are still learning the ins and outs of the college game, but with such a tight unit and strong camaraderie, it is hard to imagine the Husky women three years from now without this core group of five, a group that not only gets along on and off the court, but gets serious when game time rolls around.

'I think it's a good advantage,' McCormack said. 'We've got a good group here that's going to go through the four years. We're going to continue to build and it's going to be a huge asset later on.'

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