In today’s economy, finding something to invest in may not always be easy. Along with the stock market, the West Virginia University Women’s Basketball team had its shares of ups and downs last season. With a revamped coaching staff and five new players added to the roster, the mountaineers’ stock seems to be on the rise for 2009-2010.
“I’m very excited,” said Associate Head Coach George Porcha of the upcoming season. “[Head] Coach [Mike] Carey has done a fantastic job with staff and player personnel. Our depth and talent has greatly improved.”
And improved it has.
Juniors Madina Ali and Vanessa House along with redshirt freshman Jessica Capers all return from injuries and will give the mountaineers some much needed depth.
“Ali, House and Capers are hungry to play,” said Porcha. “You can see it in their off-season workouts. We are expecting great things from them.”
Ali may have the biggest impact with her return. A six-foot forward, Ali is an athletic, physical player who will help the mountaineers on both ends of the floor. But her greatest asset is something that’s not always seen in the box score.
“Madina is a true leader on and off the court,” said Porcha. “She makes our job easier.”
Ali and her veteran teammates must also find a way to lead the five new players added to the team, three of them being freshman.
The mountaineers have brought in freshmen Asya Busse, Akeema Richards and Antishia Wright, along with sophomore transfers Ayanna Dunning and Tonia Williams.
Dunning, a transfer from LSU, and Williams, a transfer from South Carolina University will have to sit out the 2009-2010 season in compliance with the NCAA transfer rules. Both have three years of eligibility remaining.
The three freshmen however will be expected to contribute right away.
“They are going to have to produce,” said Head Coach Mike Carey. “We lost our starting point guard in Ashley Powell and our second leading-scorer in Takisha Granberry. We need the depth.”
Richards and Wright, two athletic guards, will give a boost to the mountaineer backcourt and be a great compliment to returning junior guard Sarah Miles.
Miles, who was named the Big East’s Most Improved Player last season, is expected to have a breakout season.
“We really expect Sarah to build on what she did last season,” said Porcha. “She has to be mentally and physically tougher than she was and really be an extension of Coach Carey on the court.”
In the frontcourt, the mountaineers will be looking to freshman center Asya Bussie to contribute and help Ali and returning sophomore Natalie Burton control the paint.
“Bussie has great potential,” said Carey. “She is one of the best freshmen we have brought in at the center position.”
With two centers over six-foot-four, the inside presence of the mountaineers may force teams to neglect the perimeter, where guards like Liz Repella have made a living.
Repella, a junior forward, led the team in scoring last season with 16.5 points per game while shooting 34% from behind the arc. She was second on the team with 66 three-pointers.
“We expect Liz to have a lot more confidence after last season,” said Carey. “We need her to pick up where she left off and really be a leader for us.”
With so many players expected to contribute, the mountaineers still have an ace-in-the-hole that many people haven’t heard about.
Korinne Campbell, a transfer from Minnesota, is finally eligible. According to Carey, if you haven’t heard this name by now, you will.
“Korinne has potential to be a force in the Big East,” said Carey. “She is so versatile and can score from anywhere on the floor. We are very excited to have her playing again.”
The pressures to perform are high for this young team. There is not a single senior on the roster. But with veteran leadership and good chemistry, the WVU Women’s Basketball team is poised for an NCAA Tournament berth.
“Every year, teams take on different identities,” said Porcha. “We have better leadership this year and we like the pulse of the team. Our chemistry is one of our strong suits.”