Michelle Smith WBB Feature: WSU's new coaching staff helps Hristova reach new heights
Borislava Hristova, also known around the Pac-12 as “Bobi,” is on the same page as her new head coach, Kamie Ethridge.
The Washington State redshirt junior and Ethridge agree: Ethridge has been hard on her most experienced player and leading scorer.
“I know it’s because she knows I can do what she expects,” Hristova said. “She has challenged me a lot to be the best possible player I can be. She is really hard on me, but that is making me a better player.”
There might be one exception to that. Following Hristova’s career-best 38-point performance against Washington last weekend, a performance that earned her Pac-12 Player of the Week honors, Hristova said it seemed like Ethridge might have taken it a little easier on her in the postgame film session.
“She knew I had a good game, and she didn’t get on me, and I told her ‘Don’t do that. I like it. It makes me better. It’s good for the team and it’s good for me.’”
Hristova, the Varna, Bulgaria native, currently ranks second in the Pac-12 in scoring at 23.2 points a game (seventh in the nation). She has always been a strong scorer for the Cougars, averaging 17.7 points a game in her career. This season represents her highest scoring average, including seven games of at least 20 points and three games of 30-plus points, the most by any player in the Pac-12 so far this season. Against the Huskies in Seattle – where WSU hadn’t won since 2015 – Hristova went 16-of-24 from the floor, including four 3-pointers and added five rebounds.
“I have always known she is an unbelievable player and someone who can help us be successful,” Ethridge said. “Going into the Washington game, she was shooting 45 percent from the field and I told her I thought she could shoot better. She was missing a lot of easy baskets and things we have seen her make before. For her to put in the kind of effort she did against Washington, with the ball in her hands … she had a better presence on the floor, the ball didn’t stick in her hands like it has earlier in the season. She was better on defense, better on the boards, better in transition. That is what we have been preaching to her. For us to be better, she needs to have those kind of nights.”
Ethridge said she has challenged Hristova to become a better all-around player.
“She is always going to get her points, she is a very solid offensive player, but I want to make her a more complete player. I want to see her get eight assists in a game, eight or nine double-doubles for the year. She does those things and that will consistently help us win more games.”
The Cougars win over the Huskies pushed their record to 6-6 heading into a difficult weekend against two ranked teams – Oregon State and Oregon. The Cougars have won four of their last six games after a 1-4 start.
Hristova said that her team is starting to adjust to the new staff and the new system.
“I think we are getting close to being the team that we are,” Hristova said. “It’s hard to change your environment. But everyone has had enough time to find their new role.”
Ethridge said that Hristova has been “a sponge,” that she has “opened her arms” to the new staff and a new way of doing things.
“I need her to grow and mature as a player and I am starting to see her grow into the player I know she can be,” Ethridge said.
Hristova will have one year of eligibility remaining after this season, the result of a season-ending injury two years ago. She will graduate in the spring and then make a decision about whether she wants to return for a fifth season.
In the meantime, she feels her game has matured by the nature of being a year older and the nurture of a coach with high expectations.
“I don’t want to be a one-way player,” Hristova said. “I want to not only score, but get my teammates involved and help them find wide open shots. We still have a lot of games to go.”
Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, the San Francisco Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse. For previous Michelle Smith features on pac-12.com, visit the archives page here.