Many moons ago, when the Michigan women’s basketball team’s record stood at 0-0, coach Sue Guevara was nearly giddy about the options she would have off the bench this year. Five incoming freshmen were expected to inject some life into a Michigan team that needed new blood.
No one doubted that the Wolverines had a significant amount of depth this year, but there is one problem that has loomed as a shadow over the entire season. All five of Michigan’s freshmen are guards. This recruiting enigma arose when a look down last year’s roster revealed no returning ballhandlers.
For the position they were forced into, it’s hard to blame the freshmen completely for the 3-13 Big Ten record. Despite a fair amount of trials and tribulations, the young guns seem to have grown up enough to comfortably fit into the system.
“We’ve all done pretty well as a class, but there’s definitely room for improvement,” freshman Rachael Carney said. “There’s definitely a promising future ahead.”
Carney earned the starting point guard role on Jan. 12 against Purdue and has held onto it ever since. She rose from obscurity at the end of the bench to sweep the job away from fellow freshmen Mie Burlin and Lauren Andrews, who had recorded a majority of the minutes at the position prior to Carney’s emergence.
At the other guard spot, freshman Niki Reams has changed from a consistent player to an impact player. She has scored in double digits in two of her last three games, and is very capable of compiling the nitty-gritty stats, such as her nine rebounds in Indiana, or her six assists on Sunday against Minnesota.
There’s no doubt that the future of the Wolverines resides in the backcourt. Their play in tomorrow’s Big Ten Tournament game against Illinois may provide the perfect barometer for what next year could hold. Both Carney and Reams carry with them valuable state championship experience form high school. It’s no Big Ten Tournament experience, but it’s a start.
“I don’t think it will be totally new for them,” Guevara said. “That type of atmosphere has been there. And I think the way they see how people like (junior Jennifer Smith) handle it will help too.”
Without getting lost in the spectacle a major conference tournament creates, this young class has to remember its opponent in Illinois comes from early in the Big Ten schedule, when the freshmen were fresh, and the rest of the team was in disarray after a 32-point blowout on its own home court.
“I will definitely use past games and experiences to help,” Carney said. “Basically you just have to take one game at a time. Even though it’s a big deal and a big tournament, it’s just another game.”