At 6-foot-6, Krista Phillips is taller than more than half the men’s basketball team, a rarity for a female hoops player.
The sophomore center used her height along with her talent to lead all Wolverine freshmen in games played (29), points (8.0), rebounds (4.3) and blocks (37) last season.
Michigan’s new coach Kevin Borseth, who likes to push the ball up the court, needs Phillips to complement her low-post game by becoming more of a presence on the fast break.
“Obviously, her ability to run the floor and become more athletic is going to be very critical as she moves forward,” Borseth said at Michigan Media Day.
This off-season, the addition of Borseth and four new assistants gave the Michigan women’s basketball program a fresh start – one it needed desperately after four straight losing seasons under former coach Cheryl Burnett.
Borseth’s enthusiasm and lively spirit should bring new energy to a program that needs a positive season. But some of that responsibility also rests in the hands of Phillips.
There’s no time to waste, though – last year’s team finished with a 10-20 overall record and was just 3-13 in Big Ten play. Luckily for Phillips, Borseth understands the importance of her progression and the need for patience.
“I don’t think we can drop the whole boat on her shoulders and say ‘Ok, you go do it,'” Borseth said. “I don’t know that Krista, at this point, is capable of doing that. But at some point in the coming years, I think she is going to have to be, and I think she’s capable of doing that.”
Borseth’s style of play features a lot of shooting, and he de-emphasizes vigorous time trials or weight room tests that others do to focus his team’s attention toward on-the-court work.
“We’ve put a lot of time in shooting the basketball, and we’ve asked them to spend time on their own (shooting) – a significant amount of time, with numbers, to try and make shots,” Borseth said. “That’s probably the biggest thing that’s going to be a challenge for them.”
Phillips should play heavier minutes this season, and combined with an emphasis on shooting, she should be more productive in the assist category after recording just 10 last season.
And this season, Phillips won’t have to worry about the nagging cartilage injury that plagued her last year. She underwent surgery over the summer to fix the problem in her knee.
With five returning starters and four seniors on the roster, the Wolverines have plenty of experience, but ultimately, Phillips is the key to this team’s success.
“Our last coaches thought this was the season,” Phillips said. “And our new coaches think this is going to be the season, so we’re going to go with it.”