Expect more nasty from this incarnation of the CSU women’s basketball team.
New coach Ryun Williams has emphasized the importance of effort and individual accountability with his team, particularly due to its lack of athleticism.
“We aren’t blessed with great athleticism, we lack a little foot speed,” Williams said. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t shut somebody’s tail down, dive on the floor for a loose ball or take a charge. That’s what we’re trying to develop in these kids.”
CSU finished last season 13-17, but its 9-5 record in the Mountain West placed it second in the conference.
This year’s schedule features seven opponents that reached some form of postseason tournament last year, highlighted by four straight home games to open the season against teams the Rams lost to in 2011.
CSU will play Montana State, Northern Colorado, Seattle and Toledo in Moby Arena before embarking on a four game road stretch against Loyola Maramount, Bowling Green, CU-Boulder and Tulsa.
“They’re good payback games to play at home,” senior forward Megan Heimstra said.
The Rams return 10 players, including three starters and the reigning MW Sixth Player of the Year in Heimstra.
CSU possesses depth it has not enjoyed in recent years, which will allow the players to fully commit to Williams’ all-out, effort driven style.
“If you’re going 100 percent coach is going to give you a break,” junior forward Sam Martin said. “It will be easier to make sure you’re going in and doing everything you can because that’s what coach wants.”
Martin leads the returning players in scoring and rebounding. She averaged 13.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game to be named second team all-conference.
Williams’ biggest change has been an attempt to change the culture of the program.
“This group needs to play with a new level of intensity, a new level of toughness and develop a little nasty,” he said. “Combine that with organized execution and I think that can be a winning formula for this group.”
Williams has high expectations for his team, but not a number of wins. He expects them to put forth maximum effort on the defensive end and believes that commitment will lead to results on the hardwood.
“You’ve gotta believe in your kids. We’ve got strengths and it’s our job to utilize our strengths as coaches,” Williams said. “It’s easy to believe in a kid like Sam Martin. It’s easy to believe in a kid like Megan Heimstra.”
That faith has convinced the Rams to set their goals high for the 2012 season: to have a winning record and make a postseason tournament, ideally the NCAA Tournament.
“We want to to start new tradition here,” Martin said. “You’ve got to look for the future and set your goals high.”
Assistant Sports Editor Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.