2003-2004 Pepperdine Women's Basketball Outlook
Sept. 8, 2003
Over the course of the last six years, Pepperdine women's basketball has established itself as one of the top programs on the West Coast and a perennial participant in post-season play. During that time, the Waves, under the direction of head coach Mark Trakh, have compiled an overall record of 128-56 (.696), finished either first or second in the West Coast Conference (WCC) five times, won three outright regular-season titles and made five consecutive post-season appearances, including three NCAA Championships showings.
Despite its impressive run of success, Pepperdine enters 2003-04 with higher expectations than just winning the WCC title and advancing to the NCAA Championships. The Waves and Trakh, who is beginning his 11th season in Malibu, are seeking a first-ever Top 25 ranking and making a run in the NCAA Championships.
Trakh welcomes back nine letterwinners, including four starters from last year's team that went 22-8 overall, won the WCC regular-season title with a 12-2 mark, captured its second straight WCC Tournament championship and reached the NCAA Championships for the third time in school history.
The 2002-03 season marked the third time in the last four years that Pepperdine advanced to the NCAA Championships. After defeating Santa Clara, 69-57, in the title game of the WCC Tournament, the Waves earned the conference's automatic berth and received a No. 12 seed in the West Regional and opened against No. 5 seed Louisiana Tech in the first round.
Pepperdine traveled to Ruston, Louisiana, where it succumbed to the Lady Techsters, 94-60, before 4,000 fans at the Thomas Assembly Center on the campus of the Louisiana Tech.
The Waves won 14 of their last 17 games and reached the 20-win plateau for the sixth consecutive season, becoming the first team in WCC history to accomplish the feat.
"We had a tremendous season last year winning 22 games, capturing both the regular season title and WCC Tournament Championship and reaching the NCAA Tournament," Trakh said. "We overcome adversity throughout the course of the year as we lost players to injury, but had terrific senior leadership and group of players that were tremendously focused and very badly wanted to win the conference championship and return the NCAA Championships.
"It was a disappointing conclusion to the year as we did not play our best game and ran up against a tremendous opponent in Louisiana Tech," Trakh said. "That experience and disappointing feeling is going to be something to build on as we enter the upcoming season and our returning players are focused on taking the program to even greater heights this year."
Heading the list of returning players is senior guard Shandrika Lee, who was having an All-American-type season before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in the 11th game of the season that sidelined her for the remainder of the year.
Before her injury, Lee was leading the Waves in scoring with a 17.6 points-per-game scoring average. Additionally, Lee was the Waves leading scorer in seven of 11 games and had the team's top-five highest point totals, including a career-high 30 points against Wisconsin in the championship game of the Pepperdine Holiday Classic.
Lee was named the "Most Valuable Player" of both the Pepperdine Thanksgiving Classic and Pepperdine Holiday Classic.
"Losing Shandrika was a big blow to the ballclub," Trakh said. "She was having a tremendous year and was a real team leader for us. However, her injury forced some other people to step up and perform and we received significant contributions from a number of players.
"As a result of Shandrika's injury, we had real balanced scoring throughout our line-up as no player averaged in double-figures. We did, however, have five players average between 9.9 and 8.6 points a game," Trakh added.
Lee, who expected to be fully recovered from her injury, will lead the backcourt that also consists of junior Shanell Law, sophomore Alicia Komaki, and freshmen Lauren Wenski (Lenexa, KS / St. Thomas Aquinas HS) and Kerra Wodarski (Oregon City, OR / Oregon City HS).
Law started 15 of Pepperdine's final 19 games and averaged 11.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.7 steals a contest en route to earning All-WCC honors. She averaged a team-high 12.4 points during conference play and had several big games down the stretch, including the game-winning basket at the buzzer against Santa Clara that helped the Waves take control of the WCC race.
Komaki saw significant playing time during her rookie season, appearing in 21 games and averaging 2.9 points and 1.1 assists a contest while playing the point guard position.
Looking to fill the voids left by the departure of WCC "Player of the Year" Tamara McDonald (9.5 ppg., 3.8 rpg., 2.8 apg., 1.7 spg.) and Damaris Hinojosa (honorable mention All-WCC), will be Wenski and Wodarski.
Wenski is a three-time All-State performer and earned Nike All-American honors after averaging 18.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 3.0 assists as a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Kansas. She is the St. Thomas Aquinas High and Eastern Kansas League career-scoring leader and holds the state record for consecutive games played (100) at the varsity level.
Wodarski averaged 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals a game at Oregon City High, while helping her team to a 33-1 record and the Oregon State Division 5A Championship. She was a McDonald's All-American nominee and a third team All-State pick.
Junior Syretta Stafford is also new to the Pepperdine program after transferring from Colorado. Stafford, who averaged 4.5 points and 1.3 steals in 21 games for the Buffalos last year, will sit out the 2003-04 season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules.
The front line will be experienced with the return of four players who saw significant playing time last season plus the addition of four new players, including junior Shannon Mayberry and sophomore Kelly Greathouse, who both redshirted last year. Mayberry missed all of the last season recovering from a leg injury and Greathouse sat out the year after transferring from North Carolina State.
Other additions to the Waves' roster include Jasmine Clarendon (San Bernardino, CA / Eisenhower HS) and Teiosha George (Palmdale, CA / Palmdale HS).
Junior Nicole Funn is Pepperdine's top returning player along the front line after averaging 9.7 points and 5.0 rebounds a game en route to receiving honorable mention All-WCC. Juniors Jennifer Lacy and Kelli Spencer along with sophomore Kelsey Ball also return after playing productive minutes last season.
As a senior at Eisenhower High, Clarendon averaged 18.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals a game. She was tabbed the Citrus Belt League's "Player of the Year" and was also chosen the San Bernardino Daily Bulletin and San Bernardino Daily Sun "Player of the Year."
George was named the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News' "Desert Area Player of the Year" after averaging 18.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0 assists a game as a senior. She was also chosen the Antelope Valley League's "Player of the Year" and was a first team CIF Division IAA pick.
"I am really excited about our incoming class," Trakh said. "We have brought in some very impressive student-athletes who have excelled on the basketball court and been a part of successful programs. I am looking forward to coaching them and implementing them into our program."
Once again, Pepperdine has assembled an impressive non-conference schedule that includes five teams that reached last year's NCAA Tournament, including home contests against defending national champion Connecticut and Stanford. The Waves will also host two tournaments Yellow Book USA Turkey Shootout & Pepperdine Holiday Classic) during the season. The Yellow Book USA Turkey Shootout includes Oklahoma, which competed in the NCAA Tournament a year ago and the Pepperdine Holiday Classic includes Texas Christian, which reached the NCAA Tournament last season.. The Waves will also play a home game against NCAA participant Michigan State (December 17) and a road contest against Texas Tech (Dec. 14).
Pepperdine opens its 2003-04 season on Friday, November 21, when it hosts Stanford at Firestone Fieldhouse.
Pepperdine begins West Coast Conference (WCC) action on Thursday, January 8, when it travels to the Northwest to take on Gonzaga. The eight-team WCC Tournament will be contested Thursday, March 4 through Sunday, March 7 at Santa Clara's Levavey Center, with the winner earning the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.