Women's Basketball Off to Early Start for Upcoming Season
Oct. 2, 2013
MEMPHIS - -
A pair of rule changes in the college women's basketball games have meant some more interaction and teaching time for the University of Memphis women's basketball team. This summer was the first where the team could have mandatory summer workouts up to eight hours a week, including two hours a week of instruction with the Tigers' coaching staff. A second rule change also means the team is already back in the gym, earlier than ever. The basketball team officially opened their season on Monday.
"College basketball seasons are very long seasons," Head Coach Melissa McFerrin said. "Really since this rule has gone in to effect, we have gone in to our first two weeks that we're allowed to be 20 hours a week kind of gently. Because as a college basketball team, you've always got to be concerned with overuse type injuries, with players getting stale before the season is over with. Our season really spans a true six, sometimes seven months, and our players have been here working out since the first week in June. We had a summer with them with a lot more contact, with is good in terms of development, but it's still a little bit more wear and tear on the players when they've normally had a bit more of a break."
The extra teaching time, however, is something the Memphis coaching staff is utilizing, with a roster for the upcoming season, the Tigers' first in the American Athletic Conference, that does not feature one player with more than one year's experience in a Memphis uniform. Seniors Pa'Sonna Hope and Devin Mack both transferred to Memphis last season, and like the five-member sophomore class, are entering their second year in McFerrin's system.
"The teaching opportunities are important," McFerrin said. "The repetitions in our system are going to be important. However, we have to balance that with what their bodies can handle and what their minds can handle, and for a young team, that typically is one of our greatest challenges. So as the head coach it's going to be important that I yes, manage the teaching, but also manage the fatigue and what they are capable of handling, their pace of learning. I think our young players learn fairly quickly, so that will help us. It's just a matter of getting the right reps on the right things in our system."
McFerrin also has new teachers at her side with the addition of associate head coach Amy Stephens and assistant coach Jessica Bogia. Both bring experience as a head coach to the Tigers to lean on during the transition. Stephens coached for nine seasons at Drake, while Bogia served as the head coach at Keystone College for two years before moving into the NCAA Division I ranks as an assistant coach. They join Erin Grant, who is in her second year on McFerrin's coaching staff.
The new coaches have a new team to learn and a new conference of opponents to scout.
"It's hard to look at anything right now and say yeah, we know what's happening because we do have so much new in our world right now. I think all we can do is attack it. We've got to understand that there's going to be a learning curve with everyone involved -- our new players, our young players, our coaching staff and our conference, and there's nothing we can do about that other than give it our absolute best effort every day in the gym, every day in our scouting sessions and every day when we're going out to recruit players that are coming in to a brand new athletic conference. New is uncomfortable, but new is also good because we've got an opportunity to really expand what our capabilities are at the University of Memphis."
Memphis will play a tough non-conference slate in preparation for its inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference. The Tigers will play five different teams that participated in the 2013 NCAA tournament (Texas A&M, Syracuse, Connecticut, Louisville and USF), including a home-and-home series with both teams from last year's NCAA Championship title game in Connecticut and Louisville. Memphis will also be featured three times on ESPNU as part of the league's television package with ESPN.
The Tigers will open the 2013-14 season with an exhibition game against cross-town foe Christian Brothers, November 2nd at 2 p.m. The Tigers then open the season against in-state opponent East Tennessee State, Friday, November 8th at 4 p.m. in the Elma Roane Fieldhouse.