After the loss of eight players, including the leading scorer in
the Big Ten, the Michigan women’s basketball team could be
extremely timid to start off the season. But coach Cheryl Burnett
thinks it is too early to worry.
“Entering the second year, we get to build on last
year,” Burnett said. “With seven freshmen, we have to
repeat our building process. But in a way, we are not, since we
recruited them and they know our expectations.”
The graduation of former All-Big Ten player Jennifer Smith and
the loss of senior Stephanie Gandy and six other players who said
they left for personal reasons does not worry Burnett too much. She
feels that the seven incoming freshmen have injected energy to keep
the program progressing.
“Our character, enthusiasm and passion is at a
high,” Burnett said. “It is an exciting time to be a
part of this program.”
The group of seven freshmen has to play an integral role for the
team this season for it to attain its goal of reaching the NCAA
tournament. The three non-freshmen on the roster — seniors
BreAnne McPhilamy and Tabitha Pool and sophomore Kelly Helvey
— feel that the freshmen have made huge strides since coming
to campus in June.
“They have the same expectations as we do,” Pool
said. “They have adjusted really quick so that we don’t
have to stop practice.”
With the Big Ten wide open this season because of several
All-Big Ten players graduating, Burnett feels that Michigan can
make an impact on the conference. How significant that impact will
be depends on how the seven freshmen adjust to Division I
athletics. Burnett and her staff targeted recruits that matched
Michigan’s style of play.
“We have already implemented so much more of our press and
scramble game because we have tremendous team speed,” Burnett
Two freshmen, Katie Dierdorf and Becky Flippin, saw the style
that Burnett emphasized before they came to Michigan. Both Dierdorf
and Flippin are from Missouri and have followed Burnett since her
coaching days at Southwest Missouri State. Their exposure has given
them a head start on learning the offense and defense.
Even with some of the freshmen adjusting quickly, there will
still be issues at the beginning of the season. Rebounding could be
a problem all year long for the undersized team. Michigan will have
to rely on its speed to loose balls, with its tallest player is
just 6-foot-2. But Burnett feels that rebounding is a discipline
that can be learned in practice.
“I believe in the development of skills, what we call the
discipline,” Burnett said. “Rebounding, offensive and
defensive, is a discipline.”
It’s going to take some time for freshmen become more
comfortable. The team has already identified some things it needs
to work on.
“We’re going to have to talk a lot more,”
While the Wolverines are young and have potential excuses for
why they could struggle, Burnett expects the team to contend.
“We have a very unique group of freshmen,” Burnett
said. “I do not think that they are going to play like