Washington State senior Kate Benz kicks off the 2006-07 season of Kate's Chronicles as she continues to share her experiences with the Cougar women's basketball team. The forward from Portland, Ore., chronicled life as a Cougar during both her sophomore and junior seasons and will continue her accounts throughout her senior year. Please visit www.wsucougars.com for access to current and past entries.
July 27, 2006
Joining a collegiate basketball team is nothing like signing up for a spot on the local YMCA roster - it's like attempting to become a part of a family.
Imagine trying to walk into a home where traditions had been set, personalities and attitudes are familiar, and the temperaments of the heads of the household are understood. This is exactly what our new freshmen are experiencing right now. This summer our team has welcomed five new members, and in the fall we will add another to the Cougar family. This transition is not easy, but with overly-sympathetic coaches and supportive new teammates, we are all trying to make the shift from high school to college a bit easy for all of them.
They have traveled from near and far to Pullman in hopes of helping our program rise to a new level. Although first impressions are not always accurate, here is a quick glimpse at my thoughts of each of the five who are on campus this summer.
Guard Colleen Betteridge (Seattle) is perhaps one of the best passers I have ever played with. This is not a statement I would ever throw around lightly. After our first open gym together, I immediately called my parents and told them I felt like I was playing with the point guard from my AAU team when I was in eighth grade. In almost ten years of basketball, I have never felt the type of on-court chemistry with a guard that I did in one game of pick-up with Colleen. We call her Coco, and we're anxious to see what she can do once official practices begin.
After tearing her ACL during her senior season, center Shanice Brown (Elk Grove, Calif.) rehabbed and is ready to run with the Cougs. At 6 foot 4, Shaq - as we call her - will challenge our post players because of her aggressiveness and size. Shaq is a self-proclaimed people-person, and when she's not chatting on her hot pink cell phone, she will strike up a conversation about anything with just about anyone.
As the summer progresses, point guard Nakejia Kelly (New York) has been breaking out of her shell. Traveling from the Big Apple to the Lentil Capital of the World would be transition enough for one person, but Nakejia has been open to new experiences and getting to know life and work on the West Coast. Nakejia is speedy, athletic and aggressive. When she receives an outlet pass and sees a lane to the hole, she'll whip down the court, swivel through traffic and lay it up effortlessly. It's quite something to watch, and I'm sure fans will say the same.
Another quality fans will appreciate is the hard work of guard Jamie Roupp (Ashland, Ore.). Jamie is a hustler and a sacrificer - intangible qualities that are paramount to teammates and coaches. She is not afraid to take charge on the court, and she shoots the three well. I jokingly say I am just excited to have another Oregonian on the team, but in all seriousness, Jamie will bring enthusiasm, dedication and talent from the guard position to the team come fall.
Rounding out the pack of freshmen is forward Marisa Stotler (Chandler, Ariz.). Marisa and I have been doing our extra workouts together over the course of the summer, and I have learned a lot about her as a player and a person. The thing that stands out the most to me - and every other teammate for that matter - is her ability to make crazy shots. Every time I feel like I have her guarded tightly and there is no way she could make a shot over me, she turns around and nails one in my face. This is a wonderful quality to possess as a basketball player because it easily frustrates opponents. Marisa is small for her position, but I suppose I can speak from experience that size really does not matter.
Just as we are getting comfortable with each other on and off the court, we will take a break from school and workouts to get a few weeks rest at home with our families. Once school begins at the end of August, our team will be complete. Although it is difficult having teammates graduate and learning all about new girls every year, the Cougar family is always growing and welcoming. Now that first impressions have faded, we're anxious to see what the fall will bring.
Official Website of Washington State University Athletics | Bohler Athletic Complex | PO Box 641602 Pullman, WA 99164-1602 | 1.800.GO.COUGS