2011-12 Women's Basketball Season Outlook
Nov. 4, 2011
MALIBU, Calif. - After losing just one senior from last year's squad, the 2011-12 Pepperdine women's basketball team has the experience, knowledge and skill to have an excellent season. The Waves are led by eighth-year head coach Julie Rousseau, who, when asked about this year's team, summed things up in one word -- optimism.
"I am optimistic about our team," Rousseau explained. "We definitely will miss Joy Lelo, but I think our kids have had experiences that have helped them to grow and mature and really have given them a deeper desire to do well. It's fun to be around as a coach. This is a group that has been to two consecutive postseasons and has consistently finished in the top three in the conference. They know what they need to do to improve, and I think they committed themselves to that and they remind themselves of it every day in practice."
Rousseau returns her entire staff from 2010-11, with Darryl Brown back for his fourth season but with the new title of associate head coach, as well as assistant coaches Kristen Dowlingand Dave Johnson in their second and third seasons, respectively. Together the coaching staff has put together a good, balanced team that is set to rise to the next level this season.
The Waves will play their signature defense-minded game, which was effective last season when they led the West Coast Conference and ranked fourth nationally with 12.8 steals per game. The team's turnover margin mark of +8.00 ranked an impressive second-best in the nation. In 2010-11 the Waves went 18-12 overall, 9-5 in the WCC, and played in the postseason WNIT for the second straight season.
The 2011-12 Waves, who will look to build upon past success, are headlined by four seniors, Skye Barnett (Albuquerque, N.M./Cibola HS), Lauren Bell (San Bruno, Calif./Sacred Heart Academy), Jazmine Jackson (Oakland, Calif./Sacred Heart Academy) and Katie Menton (Coarsegold, Calif./Yosemite HS). These four have been the core of the Waves women's basketball program for the last three seasons, and their leadership, experience and growth is set to pay off this season.
"Here is a year that I am excited for because I want to see how our seniors, who have been stellar ambassadors for our program, realize their potential and the leadership that they have brought to our team. I am excited about seeing that come to fruition," Rousseau said.
Jackson returns as the leading scorer from a year ago. She averaged 14.0 points per game while adding 78 steals and 6.1 rebounds per game. Jackson's intangibles don't show up on paper, though. She is the leader of this defensive-minded squad and was named the WCC Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. She is on pace to become the program's all-time leader in steals.
"Jazmine is really the glue to our team on and off the court," Rousseau said. "She is a consummate leader, and she is obviously a great defender. It is not about her, it is about the team. I know she will come in and be the example we need her to be."
Bell is the squad's floor general from the point guard position. She had 117 assists in 2010-11 while being a capable scorer in her own right, as she was second on the team with 11.5 points per game.
"I think Lauren has something to prove, in terms of how much she has worked this summer and how much she has learned throughout the last few years," Rousseau said. "We expect her leadership qualities to be more pronounced than ever before."
Nagged by injuries last season, Barnett is coming into the season with a new focus and appreciation for her athletic ability and what she gives the team on the court. In 20 games started last season, Barnett had 6.5 points per game and was second on the team with 11 blocks.
"Skye is the `X' factor," explained Rousseau. "The energy that she brings to the team and really how much she loves each one of her teammates is infectious and is something that will make our team better. Not having her last year, especially in postseason play, hurt us. We are excited about having Skye back with a renewed sense of confidence."
At 10.7 points per game, Menton is another key returner for the Waves. She could become the program's all-time leader in three-pointers. According to Rousseau, she is a game-changer who was a key aspect to the Waves' success at the end of the year and into postseason play.
"Katie really exhibited how much of a threat she is last year and how much she contributes to our success when she is at her very best," Rousseau said. "She is coming in healthy this year and continues to get better every day.
"Our seniors are very important to us," Rousseau continued. "They are great leaders, they have been great leaders throughout their careers and we are expecting a lot from them. I don't think it could be in better hands than those of our seniors."
T'Keyah Shealy (Englewood, Colo./Regis Jesuit HS), Shay Cooney-Williams (Frisco, Texas/Frisco HS), Kelsey Patrick (Mukilteo, Wash./Kamiak HS) and Audrey Miller(Portland, Ore./Central Catholic HS) are the four juniors on this year's squad. They have played together for the past two seasons with the seniors and their understanding of each other's tendencies should lead to synergy on the court.
Shealy started nine and averaged 20.0 minutes of action per game at the post as a sophomore, and the Waves will look for her to be a significant contributor as a junior.
"T'Keyah battles on the block, and she creates mismatches because she is a versatile player in terms of being able to play with her back to the basket or facing it," Rousseau said. "She has added new skills to her set and I am expecting her to do more this season."
Cooney-Williams is a dynamic spark plug off the bench and gives the team immediate energy at the point guard position. According to Rousseau, she has been working hard over the summer and adds an improved shot to an already impressive perimeter game.
"Shay comes into her junior year with a renewed sense of confidence, which should bring more to both herself and the team," Rousseau explained.
Patrick made 19 starts for the Waves last year as a sophomore, gaining a lot of confidence and experience. She led the team with 15 blocks and contributed 5.8 points per game. Her defensive skill, her experience from last year and staying healthy are keys that should translate to improved success on the court.
"Kelsey should contribute greatly to our team," Rousseau said. "The gifts she has are ones that will help us be able to spread out our defense. She plays with a lot of passion."
Miller has seen limited action in two seasons with the Waves due to injury. She has entered the preseason healthy for the first time and Rousseau and her staff are hopeful that she can get out on the court.
"Audrey has a very high basketball IQ and is a player that understands the game. The knowledge that she brings to our team is going to help us," Rousseau said.
The sophomore class of 2011-12 includes transfer Dori Lansbach (Traverse City, Mich./Traverse City Central HS/North Florida), Jade McNorton (Boise, Idaho/Centennial HS) and Robie Mayberry(San Leandro, Calif./Bishop O'Dowd HS).
Mayberry was a key contributor for the Waves in 2010-11 and was the only true freshman on the squad last year. In 28 games, she averaged 7.8 points per game. She was a WCC All-Freshman Team honoree and ranked second in the conference with a three-point field goal percentage of .412 (40-for-97). Rousseau believes that Mayberry gained a lot of knowledge and experience in her role last year, and as she continues to improve on the finer points of the game, she will be a significant contributor.
Lansbach can play in 2011-12 after transferring from North Florida and redshirting last season. Rousseau is excited to see what she will bring to the table this season, stating that Lansbach has worked hard this summer and came back with a new focus since she is eligible to play.
Although McNorton, who at 6-foot-3 is the tallest player on the team, saw limited action as a redshirt freshman last season, Rousseau feels that she is now ready for the pace and physical play of the college game, saying McNorton committed herself in the weight room and is more confident. That should translate to more playing time on the court.
The freshman class of Grace Leah Baughn (Norcross, Ga./Wesleyan School), Tessa Emerson (Santa Barbara, Calif./Santa Barbara HS), Bria Richardson (Hawthorne, Calif./Serra HS) and Ea Shoushtari(Los Angeles, Calif./L.A.C.E.S.) arrive in Malibu after highly successful high school careers.
On the freshmen, Rousseau says: "They have fit in perfectly with the team. When you look at the accolades of the freshmen, it is pretty impressive."
The shortlist of their accomplishments includes Baughn leading the Wesleyan School to four straight Georgia state championships. Emerson comes to Pepperdine with great pedigree. Her father played college football, her mother played basketball at USC and her uncle played for the Los Angeles Lakers. Richardson brings a level of toughness she developed from playing in a high school program that stressed defense and advanced to the semifinals of the CIF Division III state championship. Finally, Shoushtari, a natural point guard, led the program at L.A.C.E.S. deep into the California state tournament.
With the leadership and work ethic already in place, the Waves have focused on the mental aspect of the game, and Rousseau believes it will be a key to the team's success this season -- especially with a strenuous non-conference schedule that boasts a season opener at perennial national title contender Tennessee and only one home game in November.
"Mental toughness is one of the biggest keys to success," Rousseau said. "We are working every day to be tougher, knowing that our mind is a muscle, and we are going to make it stronger. As we continue to get more physically fit, we are more mentally fit as well."
The Waves' difficult schedule will improve the team's toughness, as they experience the rigors of travel and playing on the opponent's court. The preseason schedule will ready the Waves for conference play, which gets tougher every year.
"Not only are we talking about adding BYU, but we know Gonzaga has established itself as being successful year after year, and I think that we have been consistently successful as well. We just need to take the next step," Rousseau said. "I think for every team in our conference, every game is a battle. Our opponents are exceptional and very well coached. We have to be excellent at what we do. It is about the little things."
There is no question that future is bright for the 2011-12 Waves, as the team's leadership, skill and mental toughness is set to carry them throughout the season.