USC Women Open Season With Galen Center Games

Nov. 10, 2009

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USC opens up the 2009-10 season and head coach Michael Cooper's collegiate coaching career with a home stand at the Galen Center this week. The Women of Troy start the season in a similar position to where they left off last year. USC wrapped up 2008-09 by playing three straight ranked opponents -- beating two of them -- and now the Trojans jump right into the mix with a clash against No. 11 Xavier, as they host the Musketeers in a 1:30 p.m. game on Friday (Nov. 13). USC's next game puts the Trojans up against Fresno State in a 5:30 p.m. game on Sunday (Nov. 15).

This week's games will be broadcast live through Trojans All-Access at with live video along with audio provided by Chris Fisher and Brynn Cameron. Live stats through GameTracker also will be available online through the women's basketball page at

USC is unranked in the national preseason polls, but the Trojans have received votes in the AP poll. Xavier is ranked No. 11 by AP and No. 15 by USA Today/ESPN. Fresno State has received votes in both polls.

USC anticipates the return of McDonald's All-American Jacki Gemelos in January 2010 after the 2006 top recruit has been sidelined for the past three seasons with knee injuries. Out for the season with ACL injuries are 2007 McDonald's All-American Stefanie Gilbreath and freshman Vicky Tagalicod.

The Musketeers went 25-7 overall last season, winning the Atlantic-10 Conference with a 13-1 finish and reaching the NCAA First Round. Xavier head coach Kevin McGuff is in his eighth season with the Musketeers, who return 12 letterwinners and three starters from last year's squad. Ta'Shia Phillips returns as Xavier's leader who averaged 13.9 points and 12.1 rebounds per game last season.

The Bulldogs went 24-9 overall last season, winning the WAC and reaching the NCAA First Round. Fresno State head coach Adrian Wiggins is in his fifth season with the Bulldogs, who return eight letterwinners and all five starters from last year's squad. Jaleesa Ross returns as Fresno State's leading scorer with 13.7 points per game last season.

Just across town, Michael Cooper has been getting a USC history lesson for the past eight years. Now, Cooper is prepped to make his own place in the Trojan history books. USC's new head coach was at the helm of the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks - starring Trojan great Lisa Leslie - through two WNBA Championships and five Western Conference titles. Now, Cooper takes his hoops smarts to the collegiate level as the man in charge of the 2009-10 USC women. Together with a well-rounded staff of associate head coach Ervin Monier and assistants Kelley Gibson and Mary Wooley, Cooper (who as a player was an NBA champion Los Angeles Laker for 12 seasons) takes over a Women of Troy roster heaped with potential and balanced by experience and youth.

Following last season's 17-15 overall record, which was USC's sixth consecutive winning season and fifth straight with at least 17 wins, five Women of Troy earned All-Pac-10 honors. Two of those players - point guard Camille LeNoir and center Nadia Parker - have graduated. The other three - Ashley Corral, Briana Gilbreath and Heather Oliver - accounted for almost 40 percent of USC's scoring in 2008-09. Thanks to the 3-point savvy of USC's lineup, USC ranked second in the Pac-10 in 3-point percentage (.348) and second in overall offense (72.9 ppg) last season. The 2009 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, Briana Gilbreath was USC's third leading scorer and second leading rebounder last season. By her side is fellow sophomore Corral, who set the high 3-point mark for the Trojans and also won Pac-10 acclaim in her freshman year. On the senior side of things, Pac-10 All-Defensive honoree and noted 3-point threat Oliver returns along with captain Aarika Hughes and the versatile Hailey Dunham. Altogether, USC has nine players returning from active duty on the 2008-09 roster.

Anchoring the paint for her third season at Troy is junior center Kari LaPlante, who appeared in every game last season and looms large as a 6-foot-5 threat down low. Sophomore Michelle Jenkins also saw time on the post in her first year as a Trojan. Aarika Hughes and Hailey Dunham both played the post in spurts last season. Both boast plenty of talent in the guard slots as well, but the seniors' size and strength make them a viable option for the Trojans at the post as well.

For the past few seasons, a pair of Trojans have been waiting in the wings to join their teammates in competition. Both McDonald's All-Americans on the way out of their high school careers, Jacki Gemelos and Stefanie Gilbreath both fell prey to repeat knee injuries and have yet to see gametime as Women of Troy. Gemelos has been sidelined since entering USC in 2006 - missing three complete seasons and likely out until January 2010 as she heals up from a fourth knee surgery. Gilbreath also came to USC after undergoing knee surgery in 2007 and was on pace to play alongside her younger sister Briana for their first seasons in 2008, but Stefanie reinjured her knee and missed the 2008-09 season. In another frustrating turn of events, Stefanie has suffered another knee injury during the offseason and will be out once again for her third consecutive year on the sidelines.

If you're keeping count, the return of Jacki Gemelos to action bulks up the tally of active McDonald's All-Americans on the USC roster. With Gemelos and Stefanie Gilbreath as the resident All-Americans who very unfortunately fell victim to injuries, 2008 McDonald's All-Americans Ashley Corral and Briana Gilbreath move into relative veteran status. Gemelos, Corral and the Gilbreath sisters can now count one more elite prep product among their posse, as incoming freshman Christina Marinacci joins the USC roster as an All-American honoree for the 2009-10 campaign.

As in 2009, postseason play kicks off on USC's home court. At the 2009 Pac-10 Tournament at the Galen Center, the Trojans served up a quarterfinal upset of then-No. 16 Arizona State before taking down No. 2 California in the semifinals. The Trojans turned a lot of heads with their late push during the conference tourney, and they'll have a chance to take the tournament by storm once again with the 2010 Pac-10 Tournament coming back to the Galen Center from March 11-14.

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