On Women’s Basketball: Seeds to the season in place for blossoming year

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Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico has brought positive energy to the program. Buy this photo

By Greg Garno, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 13, 2012

The seed was planted with a smile.

Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico stood at the podium during Michigan Media Day in October.

With a smile, she answered questions about her team’s outlook and composition.

With a smile, she answered questions about the slew of injuries to begin the season that hampered her capability to install her a high-tempo offense.

This season has the potential to become one of the Wolverines’ strongest in recent years, and Barnes Arico is at the heart of that opportunity.

The smile — the one you get when you eat a Zingerman’s Reuben or watch videos of kittens on YouTube — was plastered across her face.

And now that the seed is planted, she’ll have to help it grow.

Barnes Arico has plenty of soil, water and sunlight to help her first Michigan team grow. She has a group of five returning seniors — three of which return as starters — to hold her team together. She also has a core of bench players to provide the energy to a team that will grow fast.

Led by guard Jenny Ryan and center Rachel Sheffer, her squad has the experience to win close games, like a two-point loss to Michigan State or a one-point loss to Iowa last season.

She has her leading point scorer in Sheffer, and her leader in assists with Ryan. The two are also her top two rebounders.

Barnes Arico is also optimistic because two of Michigan’s leading scorers through two games — sophomore guard Brenae Harris and senior guard Kate Thompson — have unexpectedly stepped up in the season, even though neither started a game last season.

With a smile, Barnes Arico watches her freshman point guard adjust to a new style and new level at the collegiate game. Madison Ristovski, named Michigan's Miss Basketball last season for Grosse Pointe Woods University Ligget, adds to a loaded group of guards and may receive a chance to start.

Barnes Arico has a system designed to take advantage of her guards, a system that moves faster and allows for more shooting opportunities.

Most importantly, she has a smile that brings a presence of never-ending enthusiasm to a team that watched its former coach leave for home.

“I always have energy,” Barnes Arcio said. “I told the girls after the first day, ‘You might think this is the energy that I’m only going to have on the first day and it’s not going to be here everyday, but this is who I am and this is how I’ll be every single day.’ I think it’s really important that I act the same way all the time.”

But a seed must also endure flooding rains, the wind and of course the dreaded squirrels.
The Big Ten flood of talented teams has rarely been a warm or hospitable welcome to a new coach, and will challenge Barnes Arico early. The wind of a fast, new system could wear down a team that will be running up and down the court more often than before. Centers like Iowa’s Morgan Johnson will dominate in the post over a lineup that lacks height.

But the seed, with that smile, is also a reason to be excited for Michigan. Barnes Arico, in her 16th season, comes from St. Johns after leading the Red Storm to a Sweet 16 berth and a 24-10 record, knowing how to build a program.

And the players are aware of her record.

“It takes about a half second to understand that it’s a program that works,” Ryan said. “It’s a philosophy that works. You can’t go against tradition and history and stats and that’s what she has.”

But Barnes Arico still has that smile now. And as her enthusiasm grows, your enthusiasm may, too.

It’s growing on me at least.