Photo by Hanna Grannis

Women’s basketball starts season with new coach, expectations

By Maddie Lee ///Sports Editor

The back wall in the women’s basketball locker room gleams white with a fresh coat of paint; it is a clean slate, a new start and a metaphor for the season.

The Pioneers face the 2014-2015 season with 10 first-years on a roster of 16 and an entirely new coaching staff.

A week and a half into practices, it is impossible to predict what the season holds for this inexperienced team, but the expectations are set high. Lewis & Clark’s women’s basketball has a tradition of success to uphold.  Prior to the 2013-2014 season, the Pios went three straight seasons finishing in the top two in conference, leading the NWC in 2011 and 2013.  They finished tenth in the nation in the 2011- 2012 season.

With such a young team, however, only four members of the team were there for the last time they lead the conference.  In addition, the women’s basketball team graduated six seniors last year, four of whom were starters. Juli Fulks also left her ten-year LC coaching post behind for Transylvania University.

“We’re here standing on the backs of other people,” Women’s Basketball Coach Asha Jordan said. “I don’t want to forget that, and I don’t want my team to forget that, and we’re going to have to earn everything this year.”

With so much fresh talent and so many new pieces to the puzzle, every spot is truly up for grabs, which fosters a much different atmosphere than the LC women’s basketball team is accustomed to.

“[Playing time] is not set in stone,” said forward Casey Zinn (’15).  “No one has their spot; it’s open for anyone who wants to take it. So I think our whole team is working hard because they do see those opportunities.”

 

New faces

The hiring process for Fulks’s successor was no short process.  After the candidates were narrowed to three, the players were incorporated into the process.  The timing coincided with the LC summer basketball camp, so 14 players were in town and able to be involved.

They interviewed each candidate and filled out an evaluation form.  The form included the coach’s strengths and weaknesses, and in the end the players recorded whether or not they recommended the coach. Athletic Director Shana Levine then met with the five upperclassmen to discuss their assessments of each of the coaches. After gauging the player’s responses, Levine had the final say.

On Aug. 1, the athletic department announced Jordan’s hire.  She has coaching and playing experience in all three divisions of the NCAA.  She played for the University of Albany, the University of Southern Indiana and Occidental College. While this is her first head-coaching job, Jordan gained coaching experience at Anderson University in South Carolina, Winthrop University, Pepperdine University and Occidental College.

Jordan stepped into her head-coaching role with no returning assistant coaches and Zinn as the only senior on the team. Just before practices began, Reese DeHart (’15) made the difficult decision to leave the team.  She wanted to focus on academics and was displeased with the way the team was being run.

Leadership has become an important question for this team. The team has not yet named captains, and Jordan has chosen to put off doing so to see who steps up into leadership roles in practice and in the face of adversity.

 

Hitting the ground running

During her interview with the players, even before being hired, Jordan promised them she would not look at film from last year. She wanted to give them the chance to prove themselves to her once practices started, without performances from the past year influencing her judgment.

The team rose to the challenge.  In order to prepare for season, the team ran three days a week and lifted four days a week with Strength and Conditioning Coach Angela Dendas, and the upperclassmen organized open gym four days a week.

Then, a week before practices started, the team first experienced a taste of Jordan’s no-nonsense coaching style, when they lost the access to their locker room.

The prior condition of the locker room is up for debate.  There is a consensus that it was messy, but the perceived severity of the situation varied from person to person.

“It wasn’t dirty as in there was trash everywhere and there were bugs on the wall and things like that,” DeHart said. “There [were] 18 of us in one locker room with exactly 18 lockers.  There [were] going to be clothes and shoes and everything everywhere.”

From Jordan’s perspective however, she said, “The [state of the] locker room wasn’t just things not in lockers; it was filthy, unsanitary and [there was] no place to even sit because of the amount of stuff.”

Because of this, on Oct. 4, Jordan informed the team that the code was going to be changed on the door. They were given through Oct. 6 to clear their things out, and they would get the chance to earn their locker room back in practice.

The move was met with some resistance. DeHart was one player who was upset about their dislocation.

“That’s the team’s space to get ready, to get mentally prepared for practice, things like that. Now they don’t have anything,” she said.

At press time, they were still without a locker room.

Next, the team learned the extent to which Jordan values communication from her players. In one of the first emails she sent the team, Jordan articulated that she requires that all emails be replied to within 24 hours and all texts be replied to within three hours.

Before practices began, the team racked up a debt of 22 suicides in a combination of violations of communication rules and late paperwork.  They completed these, each under 35 seconds, spread out over the first couple weeks of practice. Every suicide for which the whole team did not finish in time was not counted toward the 22.

 

The pay-off

Not wasting a moment of the available practice schedule, practice began at midnight last Wednesday. The team played five-on-five, giving the coaches a chance to see their off-season work in practice.

They practiced again that evening. Their practices are three hours long, six days a week.  While it is too early to determine how such a young team with new coaches will be able to perform this season, Zinn is excited about the raw talent she sees on the team.

“We have enough talent to surprise a lot of people,” she said.

After finishing fifth in the NWC with a .500 winning percentage in conference last year, the team is has a drive to meet the high expectations traditionally imposed on the LC women’s basketball.

“I think our returners feel like they have something to prove,” said Jordan. “Not only to themselves, but to everyone else.”

She is excited about the potential she sees in their practices. “The energy of our team is absolutely incredible,” she said. “We have 17 people who are enthusiastic, who want to be there, who want to be better, and they’re working hard.”

Over the next couple of weeks they will continue the pattern of hard work they have established in the first week and a half of practice. Their first game will be an exhibition at Portland State University on Nov. 8 at 5 p.m.

 

 

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