Being young isn’t always bad.
And the Michigan women’s basketball team, whose roster includes six freshmen, has the stats to prove it.
The Wolverines haven’t started the season 3-0 since the 2007-08 season, and they haven’t scored 91 points in a game in Borseth’s tenure at Michigan – until last night. Better yet, nine underclassmen notched a combined 65 of those points.
Borseth normally sticks with conventional wisdom and plays veterans over freshmen. He broke the habit this season out of necessity, but it has proved rewarding.
“We don’t necessarily want to have to count on young kids too often,” Borseth said at Big Ten Media Day on Oct. 29. “But we’re in that position now in our program.”
Borseth had high expectations for freshman point guard Dayeesha Hollins right from the start. But he was undecided about which other newcomers to start until the week leading up to the season opener.
“She is my kind of player, she really is,” Borseth said of Hollins. “If I was teaching a kid how to play that is how I’d teach her.”
Hollins never played point guard until she came to Michigan, but she has learned quickly. After appearing hesitant in her first game, she has since played with confidence, getting the rebounds and the shots that Borseth knew she could. Against Southern Mississippi, she scored a game-high 18 points.
But she is still just learning, and readily receives input from coaches and players. At 5-foot-6, Hollins is the shortest player on the team. Her new position forces her to have control of the ball and lead the team on the floor – and she is still very much learning on the job in her first few months in the program.
“I’m comfortable with it now,” Hollins said of the point guard position. “When I first got here I wasn’t. I didn’t want to be too extreme, like telling seniors what to do or whatever. But I’ve gotten more comfortable in just playing.”
And she isn’t alone.
Fellow freshman Jenny Ryan also made her collegiate debut in the season opener. Borseth was confident that Ryan “got it,” but couldn’t articulate exactly what that meant – just that she could be expected to contribute.
She quickly proved him right when she played the entire first half in the opener on Nov 13. And Ryan won’t be seeing the bench any time soon.
The Wolverines went 10-20 last season with five seniors on the roster, four of them regular starters. Age obviously doesn’t guarantee success. But experience can.
Last year in mid-season, Borseth started then-freshmen Carmen Reynolds and Courtney Boylan. And they proved they belonged on the floor, making promising contributions on offense.
“She’s good in traffic,” Borseth said of Reynolds after a loss to Penn State last February. “She can shoot well. She passes well. She sees the floor. She’s got really good hands, so if you throw it in there and you collapse on her real fast she’s just able to make some real quick decisions that most players aren’t able to make.”
She and Boylan proved to be constants in an uncertain future for Michigan basketball.
Reynolds and Boylan feel older than sophomores and have taken leadership positions both on and off the court this season. Boylan was giving Hollins tips from the bench in last night’s game, and Reynolds was the second-highest scorer, behind only Hollins.
The six freshmen and three seniors on this year’s squad spell future experience and success – especially when the freshmen are already gaining the experience and scoring the points necessary to make a difference.
“We are going to have these kids for the next four years,” Borseth said before last week’s season opener against Ball State. “So that’s really our base. They will be here for the next four years, which is good. Bad news is we start them fresh. The good news is, down the road, they are going to have a lot more experience. So every year we don’t start over again.”