Making the jump: Women's basketball looks to make splash in first season in Mountain West Conference
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 22:10
Run, gun and have fun to make it to the NCAA Tournament — that’s what the Aggie women’s basketball team is looking to do this year, and if last year is any indication, USU fans, players and coaches are in for an exciting season.
Following last year’s 18-12 record and a second-place finish in the WAC, the Aggies are looking to make their first year in the Mountain West Conference a memorable one. Under the direction of head coach Jerry Finkbeiner, the Aggies are hoping to make a name for themselves.
“We’re the new kids on the block in the Mountain West,” Finkbeiner said. “I know we’re not as big as some of the teams or as quick as some of the teams, but I really feel good about the ingredients that we have. It makes us a little bit unique. We’re going to be a high-scoring group.”
In what will be his second season at the helm of the Aggie program, Finkbeiner is looking to continue to develop and implement his up-tempo style of play. USU has adopted a team motto of “Run, gun and have fun,” and the Aggies are hoping to use that unique identity to achieve success on the hardwood.
USU will look to control the pace of the game by running fast breaks and forcing turnovers.
“There’s a lot of individual freedom,” Finkbeiner said about his offense. “There’s a lot of hands off with game planning. It’s all about creation. It’s all about being fluid. Basketball is a fluid game.
“Our game plan is very simple. We want to attack the basket on the offensive side,” he said. “On the defensive side, we want to attack for steals. We just want to push, push, push.”
A big part of the Aggie’s creative offense this season will be returning point guard Jennifer Schlott. The senior from Mesa, Ariz. will be expected to lead the team this year.
Schlott, who is a two-time all-academic WAC selection, averaged 14.3 points per game with 144 assists last season.
“I want to do whatever I can to help us win and to lead my team,” Schlott said. “I want to get everyone involved and have everyone know their roles, that kind of stuff.”
Finkbeiner said he expects Schlott to get a lot of attention.
“Jenn is our leading stats-getter that is returning,” Finkbeiner said. “That’s important because she is going to be on everybody’s radar from day one. I feel comfortable with that, because I think Jenn can respond to that.”
The Aggies will have two other returning starters in center Franny Vaaula and guard Makenna Williams. Junior guard Elise Nelson is also expected to contribute in a big way, as Nelson will be leading the Aggies through her example.
“Makenna Williams is also going to approach Jenn’s numbers,” Finkbeiner said. “We’re going to have a one-two punch from out front that is going to gain a reputation around the conference. That’s going to be where our strength is early on.
“An unsung factor right now is Elise Nelson,” he said. “If we look at leadership on the team, Elise is the hardest working girl on the floor and off the floor. Elise, as of right now, is a projected starter.”
USU will also look to newcomers to provide value on the hardwood.
“We have three freshmen and three transfers,” Finkbeiner said. “The three freshmen are all at a high learning curve and they are doing a good job of learning the system. Elizabeth Landreth and Shelby Cloninger are both playing well. Inrida Stikas is also a starter right now… There’s going to be a lot of young faces that contribute early.”
Strikas, an incoming transfer from Vincennes University in Indiana, is projected to see significant time.
USU is hoping to make it to the postseason for a fourth straight year. Last season, the Aggies finished their season in the Women’s Basketball Invitational. This year they have their sights set on the NCAA Tournament.
“Every year we talk about going to the NCAA Tournament,” Finkbeiner said. “… That will be our goal this year. There are unknowns about the Mountain West. By the end, we want to be right there shooting for the conference tournament championship, which gets you to the NCAAs.”
Finkbeiner is especially proud to be an Aggie. He has enjoyed his first season at the helm of the Aggies and is looking forward to this upcoming season.
“I consider myself an Aggie,” Finkbeiner said. “I’ve forgotten where I even coached at before. This is a special place. I enjoy the student body, the Aggie spirit and the community of Logan. There’s no looking back for me professionally. It’s just looking forward and taking this program into the future.”
The Aggies, who were picked to finish sixth in the preseason MWC polls, will open their season at 7 p.m. on Nov. 5 when they will host visiting Northwest Nazarene in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.