DePaul Women's Basketball - Plenty of Depth

As the 18th ranked DePaul Blue Demons women's basketball team prepares to open their season tonight, one of their biggest keys to success is to get their preseason All-American center - Khara Smith back. "We need to get Khara back healthy," said Coach Doug Bruno. Smith has sat out the two exhibition games with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the bottom of the foot. She has participated in practice for two weeks now.

Khara is expected to play in Friday night's regular season opener vs. the Harvard Crimson. "She won't be full strength as the season starts. We'd like to have her full strength as the season moves along."

Smith is easing her way back onto the court. "I'm just now working my way back into practice," said Smith. "I've been running on the treadmill and doing lots of cardio things. Our medical staff is telling me to take my time and ease myself back into things."

Besides Smith, Bruno has a solid nucleus returning from last season and a few newcomers. Three other starters return – guard Allie Quigley, forward Jenna Rubino, and forward Erin Carney. Bruno is pleased at the amount of depth that he has on this team. "We return four starters," Bruno remarked. "What I'm already realizing about this basketball team is that it's a deep team. It's one of those clubs where a lot of kids can play."

"Jenna Rubino has had a great summer," observed Bruno. "Claudette Towers is returning and could have a breakout season after four years." Towers is overcoming the challenge of playing with diabetes. "It is a great story because she's really overcome an awful lot of adversity to put herself into her fifth year to help us have a great season."

"Ciarra Johnson is very much improved," divulged Bruno. "Our two freshmen coming in, Erin Cattell and Holly Medley, are both good basketball players that are ready to contribute already. You also have Lauren Levine who's coming back off a three year hiatus because of knee surgery that can provide some play. I'm very remiss here because I've not talked about another very improved player and that's Caprice Smith. So there's just a lot of depth here."

For a team that favors an uptempo style of basketball, the depth can only help. "We can use the strength in numbers, by just throwing the kids at people in waves," stated Bruno. "It's something we haven't had a lot of the last three years, it's been pretty much an eight person rotation."

Among the newcomers are three transfers from Big Ten programs – guard Rachael Carney (Erin's sister) from Michigan, guard Missy Mitidiero from Illinois, and forward Suzanne Morrison from Northwestern. "Rachel and Missy are both very fine players, they come with Big Ten experience," Doug said. "(Suzanne) gives us some very important depth inside."

With such a deep team, where do the Blue Demons need to improve? "We have to defend better. There is still some lack of attention to detail defensively," remarked Bruno. "We need to get better in our full court press package."

This year's DePaul squad must overcome the loss of guards Charlene Smith and Jenni Dant. Quigley, Mitidiero, Towers, and Rachael Carney may all share time at the point guard position. But who will replace the leadership that Dant brought to the game? "Everyone is stepping up and trying to fill that role," offered Khara. "My role in leadership is, with the most experience on the team, to use that experience to help everyone get better every day."

Although Smith is a center she provides leadership. "Khara has been a post player that really has been a coach on the floor," Bruno stated.

The Blue Demons open their season against the Harvard Crimson at the DePaul Athletic Center at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the opening round of the two-day DePaul Invitational.

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