In his 27 years of coaching, Kevin Borseth has never seen this before.

For the Michigan women’s basketball team, the 2009-10 campaign may be the most important one in program history.

At the very least, with six freshman on the team, this first-year class is the building block for the future of the program.

“Other than junior college, when I had to recruit my first class, I’ve never had a year where I’ve come in and we haven’t had a lot of experienced players coming back,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “No, I’ve never been in this spot. But I think it’s fun. There are a lot of unknowns. We’re trying things we’ve never tried before.”

While he recognizes the team’s potential pitfalls, Borseth remains positive about the future of the program.

“It’s going to work,” Borseth said. “It’s worked every other place, and it’s going to work here.”

With the Wolverines picked to finish last in the Big Ten in both the media and coaches’ poll, a successful season would serve as the catalyst for a rebuilt program.

“I think Coach did a really good recruiting job, because these players that came in, they’re smart,” redshirt senior forward Ashley Jones said. “They’ve picked up everything very quickly and they’re being vocal as well.”

The team’s ranking is based on the unknown of so many first- year players. And this season’s success will depend largely on whether Borseth can find a balance between playing his more experienced veterans and talented freshmen.

“Generally I favor upperclassmen,” Borseth said. “Kids that have been through the rigors, that understand the sense of urgency that’s involved at this level of play.”

By looking purely at the numbers, Borseth won’t be afforded that luxury with a team that has more freshman (six) than upperclassmen of any kind (four).

“We don’t necessarily want to have to count on young kids too often, but we’re in that position now in our program,” Borseth said.

The team will rely heavily on the leadership capabilities of those few upperclassmen if it hopes to have any amount of success.

“I think all the upperclassmen are really picking up their vocals,” Jones said. “I wasn’t as vocal in previous years, but now that I understand the game more, I’m more confident that I can just, you know, direct people. And I noticed that from all the upperclassmen.”

Even sophomores Courtney Boylan and Carmen Reynolds will need to lead on the court and off it, vocally and by example.

“It’s weird because being a sophomore, I feel like I’m an upperclassman because we have so many freshmen,” Boylan said. “So I think my role this year is just going to be to be a leader and to do whatever I can to help us not only get better every day, but start winning games.”

The Wolverines will take their first step today in the season opener against Ball State. The Cardinals won the Mid-American Conference Tournament last season, made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in history and upset two-time defending champion Tennessee as the 12th seed.

“We’re playing against a team that thinks they can win the NCAA Tournament, because they beat Tennessee last year,” Borseth said. “So that really carries a lot of weight. You look at a team coming in that thinks they’re ready to tear the world apart and a team coming in that’s not really sure what happens in a game scenario.”

Ball State returns three of their top four leading scorers from last year’s team and will be a legitimate test for the young squad as Borseth figures out which combinations work best on the floor in actual game situations.

“It still feels, kind of like, extended reality almost,” freshman Kate Thompson said. “Just like so far in the future but I’m getting so amped because it’s here.”

This season probably won’t be the best in the program’s history, considering struggles commonplace for any young team are expected.

But that doesn’t alter the importance of this year, for the present and future.

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