North Texas Daily

Women’s basketball to lean on versatility

Women’s basketball to lean on versatility

Women’s basketball to lean on versatility
October 30
00:00 2014

Scott Sidway / Staff Writer

For the Mean Green women’s basketball team, the 2013-14 season was ravaged by injuries. By the end of the season, five of the team’s 15 players, including three starters, were sidelined with season-ending injuries and forced to miss large chunks of the season. As a result, the team finished 12-18 and seventh in the Conference USA standings.

Despite returning four of those five players for the upcoming season, in addition to adding two transfer students, North Texas was picked to finish two spots lower in the standings in this year’s C-USA preseason poll.

“They had us ranked at ninth,” senior forward Briesha Wynn said. “That was a mistake.”

The preseason ranking for the Mean Green put a chip on the players’ shoulders. Wynn, who led the Mean Green last season in points, assists, rebounds, and steals, said her team has embraced the underdog role.

“I think we’re the underdog. But I believe in my team, and I think our team is really gutsy,” Wynn said. “They have a lot of fight, so we’re going to surprise a couple of people this year.”

With a nearly clean bill of health, this year’s squad will feature an upbeat offensive and defensive philosophy that focuses on pushing the tempo up and down the court. Head coach Mike Petersen said he believes his team is collectively the fastest in C-USA.

“When we put a lineup out there, it’s just hard for me to picture a team in our conference that can put a lineup out there, one through five, that is as fast as we are,” Petersen said. “They might be able to put a one out there that is faster than us at the one, or a three out there that is faster than us at the three. But from one through five, we’re going to have the fastest team on the floor.”

With an emphasis on an up-tempo offense, Petersen said he is teaching his players to not sacrifice basketball IQ for speed.

“It’s about taking advantage of every opportunity and playing fast with a purpose,” Petersen said. “It’s not just get the ball and flick it up the court somewhere and chase it. When we play fast, we play fast with a purpose and we play fast with structure.”

An up-tempo offense typically begins at the guard position, but what could separate this team from others in the conference is having forwards who are athletic enough to run the floor consistently. Junior forward Acheil Tac, the tallest member on the team, said the Mean Green bigs have unique abilities.

“We’ve got post players that can run up and down the floor, and you don’t see that very much,” Tac said. “You usually just see the guards. So with that and us being long, it’s going to be hard to beat us.”

Tac recently injured her foot and could miss some time to start the season. However, she said the Mean Green’s versatile roster will help the team stay afloat in case of injury.

“We have a couple of post players who can play four and five, and I’m now a three, four and five,” Tac said. “It just works better that way because if somebody is hurt or can’t play, you can put somebody else in that spot and be fine.”

In the offseason, the team lost its second, third and fifth leading scorers from last season. Guard Laura McCoy graduated while fellow guard Janis Peterson left the program. They were the team’s leaders in three-pointers last season.

North Texas will also be without forward Alexis Hyder, who transferred to Louisiana State University in July. She was the Mean Green’s primary post presence last season, shooting more than 50 percent from the field and registering 13 double-doubles in her two seasons in Denton.

In order to replace these losses, the Mean Green will be leaning on two transfer guards: 5-foot-8-inch Teadra Jones from Pensacola Junior College and 5-foot-1-inch Kasiney Williams from Baton Rouge Community College. Jones averaged 13.9 points and 4.1 assists last season, while Williams averaged 7.7 points, 2.8 assists and shot 37 percent from three-point range.

For Jones, the opportunity to play for Petersen and in a more competitive conference made North Texas her most attractive offer.

“I could have gone to Southern Miss, but I think I’d rather have a good bond with my coaches,” Jones said. “I felt that my coaches would look out for me here, on and off the floor.”

Despite some key contributors leaving, the Mean Green feels that getting a majority of last year’s injured players back can make the team competitive again. Senior guard  and captain BreAnna Dawkins said this team can compete for a C-USA title.

“My expectation is to just get there first and take it one day at a time when we get there,” Dawkins said. “And if we get in there, then we’re going to win it. I guarantee that we’re going to win it.”

Featured Image: Terra Ellison, right, attempts to block Bria Frierson from scoring during the Basketball Madness scrimage match on Oct. 23 at the Super Pit. Photo by Harris Buchanan – Staff Photgrapher

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