Oct. 13, 2009
The rise of the Washington State University women's basketball program continues entering Head Coach June Daugherty's third season with the Cougars. WSU took major steps forward in 2008-09, and the Cougars expect to make another jump in their ascent up the Pacific-10 Conference standings in 2009-10.
Last season Daugherty guided the Cougars to an eighth-place finish in the Pac-10, WSU's highest ranking in the conference since also finishing eighth in 1998-99. WSU also posted double-digit wins for the first time since the 2000-01 season. Neither is a small feat when comparing the leaps made by the Cougars with those made by other teams throughout the country.
Following 2008-09, the Cougars ranked among the nation's top 30 teams in both increasing their win total and increasing their RPI ranking. During the regular season the Cougars won six more games than the previous season, ranking 26th nationally and second in the Pac-10 amongst teams making the greatest turnarounds. WSU also moved up 83 spots in the RPI from the previous season, the second-highest increase amongst Pac-10 teams, and tied for the 28th-highest jump nationally.
The Cougars lose three seniors from last year's squad: Katie Appleton, the 12th women's basketball player in school history to amass 1,000 points in a career; Ebonee Coates, one of only three women's basketball players in school history to block 100 shots in a career; and Heather Molzen, who started a combined 56 games during her final two seasons with the Cougars.
While the senior trio will be missed, the Cougars' turnaround began with a freshman class that garnered national attention when they signed in November, 2007. Daugherty's inaugural recruiting class ranked as high as 16th in the nation - and they did not disappoint in their debuts with WSU.
Two of Daugherty's freshmen, April Cook (14.0 ppg) and Jazmine Perkins (13.8 ppg), led the team in scoring, and ranked sixth and seventh, respectively, nationally in freshman scoring average. The Cougars were the only team in the country with two freshmen ranking in the top 20 on the list.
Cook and Perkins combined for a bounty of all-conference accolades awarded at the Pac-10 Tournament. Perkins was named to each of the three postseason lists, garnering All-Freshman Team honors, as well as All-Pac-10 honorable mention and Pac-10 All-Defensive honorable mention. She was the first WSU women's basketball player to be named to the All-Freshman Team since Alke Dietel in 1997-98. Cook received All-Pac-10 honorable mention and All-Freshman honorable mention accolades.
With the exception of Katie Grad, who redshirted the season due to a foot injury suffered in practice prior to the start of 2008-09, each of the Cougar freshmen started a game last year, and three started 20-or-more. Perkins became the first Cougar freshman in school history to start 30 games, Cook started 29 games and Rosie Tarnowski made 20 starts.
Tarnowski was a versatile player for the Cougars in her debut season, scoring both inside and outside, providing a presence on the glass and getting her teammates involved. She scored in double figures nine times, her rebounding average (5.3 per game) ranked second on the team and she led the Cougars in assists eight times.
Daugherty and her coaching staff signed another nationally-ranked recruiting class in year two, and chances are good that the slew of postseason honors will continue. Ki-Shawna (Ki-Ki) Moore, a 5-foot-8 guard out of San Francisco, was one of the nation's highest-rated point guards and led her squad to the USA Today National Championship with an undefeated 33-0 record; Carly Noyes, a 6-5 center out of Moses Lake, Wash., was a three-time conference player of the year and averaged nearly 20 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in each of her last three high school seasons; and Ireti Amojo, a 5-10 guard out of Berlin, Germany, led her team to a third place finish at the European Championships (Division B), and was also a member of the German National Under-20 Team.
With 10 underclassmen, the Cougars will be one of the youngest teams in the country. However, if last year was any indication of where the WSU program is headed, it would surprise no one in Pullman - or the conference - to see the Cougar women near the top of the conference standings at the end of the 2009-10 season.
Head Coach June Daugherty on WSU's guards...
"The guards are an amazing group - we are very athletic at the position and we have an extreme amount of depth there. As a whole, they have the ability to wreak havoc in full-court situations because of our numbers and the commitment placed on the defensive side of the basketball. On the flip side of that, it helps provide the ability to get out and utilize both steal and rebounding opportunities and get into our running game.
"We hope to use our depth to score quick baskets and wear down our opponents. The biggest thing for us is that we have so much depth at the position, and we are so athletic, that we are going to be able to do things that we couldn't do last year with the injuries.
"The other thing about the group is that they're slashers. They have the ability to either drive and get to the rim or kick to open teammates. We want to space the floor to allow them to use their speed and quickness to finish plays."
Head Coach June Daugherty on WSU's forwards...
"Our forwards are going to be counted on to really run the floor. They need to make it tough for the opponent to guard five players in transition. Their job is to finish inside at a much better level than what we did last year. They have to be able to defend the rebound in order for us to execute our mission of being a great running team and a great pressing team. We have very good size and very good athleticism at each of our forward positions. The expectation is for them to finish inside at a much higher level of play.
"I also think we will see great rebounding this year, and it's not just the forwards. We want to make sure all five of our players are grabbing glass. The only way we are going to be successful in being a great running team is for all five players to get to the glass."