- Adam Glanzman/Daily
By Colleen Thomas, Daily Sports Writer
Published August 19, 2012
Over the past several months, the Michigan women’s basketball team has undergone many changes.
The Wolverines made history as the seventh team in the Big Ten to make the 2012 NCAA Tournament, making their first appearance in the Big Dance since 2001. And under a month after a loss to Oklahoma booted them from the tournament, then-coach Kevin Borseth announced his resignation to return to coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay, his former team.
Michigan hired St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico as the new head coach and things have been rolling along for the program since her hire on April 20. Barnes Arico named her assistants on May 17, and summer camp has just ended for the Wolverines, who hope to repeat last season’s successes.
Michigan lost two senior leaders in Courtney Boylan and Carmen Reynolds, but the incoming senior class is riddled with talent, including three returning starters. Guards Nya Jordan, Kate Thompson and Jenny Ryan, and forwards Sam Arnold and Rachel Sheffer will look to lead the Wolverines to another NCAA Tournament berth this season and make their mark on the program.
“I think we definitely want to consider ourselves part of the building block for this program,” Ryan said. “We want to be part of the first that hang a banner — that is our main goal. I think with five of us, it is a strong base. We all have different personalities and we all represent something different in this program that Michigan needs. I think that we are the building block to create a winning culture here.”
Ryan, along with Jordan and Sheffer, are the three returning starters from last year’s team. They’re hoping that their experience, a talented incoming freshman class and increased depth on the bench can help them make a run at the tournament again.
Jordan, who bounced back last year from a season-ending ACL injury her sophomore year to return to the starting lineup, knows that just making the tournament is not enough, sensing the hunger from her teammates to go further in the tournament. And her fellow seniors feel the same.
“I expect big things from this team,” Ryan said. “Personally, I know from our senior class, we want a championship. That is what we want and what we have set out to do. I truly believe that with the coaching staff and players we have here, that is completely realistic. I expect us to compete every night.”
Added Sheffer: “I think we can compete more than we ever have, at least since my class has been here. I think we can go further than any team in history has. I think we have the talent and potential to go far this season. As long we as we keep working hard and stay together as a team, we can do anything.”
The camaraderie was evident at the end of the 2011-12 season, which saw Borseth’s first recruiting class graduate. But there might have been some doubt when Borseth resigned and Barnes Arico was named head coach, especially with how the team would handle the transition between coaches.
Barnes Arico proved herself at St. John’s, taking a team from the bottom of the Big East standings to a Sweet 16 berth in 2012. In 2006, under Barnes Arico, the Red Storm made its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1988. And in her 10 seasons, Barnes Arico became the winningest coach in program history, amassing 176 wins and five 20-win seasons.
The Wolverines raved about the new head coach, who they hope can help make Michigan women’s basketball a contender in the Big Ten and the NCAA Tournament.
“I think (the coaching change) has been really good for all of us,” Sheffer said. “We meet with the coaches just about every day. It feels like we have known them forever. I think it is a really good change for the program, and hopefully that will show this season.”
Ryan also emphasized the importance of the smooth transition.
“It has been really smooth and really good,” Ryan said. “Coach Arico came in and put together an amazing staff. We bought into her system right away and realized that she is a true winner. How can you not buy into a system that works? Personality-wise and relationship-wise, everything has been smooth sailing. I think it is going to be exciting to watch us this season.”