ACC Freshmen Are Ready to Contribute

TSR was at the ACC women's basketball media day and recaps the event

Like any competitive conference, the ACC is laden with rivalries. It’s no secret that Maryland hates Duke, Virginia hates Maryland, North Carolina hates NC State, and so on. However, despite these rivalries, every ACC women’s basketball coach could agree on one thing at ACC Media Day: the 2010 freshman class is one of the strongest the league has ever seen.

Head coaches from across the league believe that this year’s freshmen are exceptionally far along in skills development, are extraordinarily eager, and will have the rare opportunity to make an immediate impact.

So why are the 2010 freshmen so impressive? Coaches partially attribute it to the rising popularity of the women’s game and the steadily increasing trend of kids focusing solely on basketball at younger ages.

“Kids are specializing sooner in their careers,” said University of Virginia head coach Debbie Ryan. “They’re not playing tennis, golf, and basketball - they’re playing basketball, basketball, and more basketball. So you’re seeing great skill sets coming in.”

According to Boston College head coach Sylvia Crawley, the 2010 class represents one of the clearest links yet between growing media attention on women in sports and motivation for recruits. “[Freshman] Katie Zenevitch grew up looking up to Carolyn [Swords] and Stefanie [Murphy], and now she has the opportunity to play with them,” she said.

University of Maryland head coach Brenda Frese noticed a similar phenomenon and expects it to continue. “When I look at the future classes, some of their initial reasons for coming to Maryland are because they watched [the 2006] national championship game, or they idolized a player like Marissa Coleman growing up,” she said.

These coaches believe the combination of emerging role models and earlier basketball specialization helps recruits to more readily contribute once they’ve joined a team as well; they’re hungrier to play at that level because they’ve watched it for so long, and are more able to challenge their veteran teammates because they’ve been working on basketball for so long.

And not only are this year’s freshmen more prepared, they are also increasingly more versatile, according to Crawley, Ryan, and Frese.

“The first time I saw [freshman Tiffany Ruffin] play, she had an incredible scoring night, so I said ‘okay, this kid can score,” said Crawley. “The next game, her teammates were scoring, so she didn’t look to score, but she had some incredible passes and she was a one-woman press-breaker.”

Ryan also reports that one of her freshmen, Kelsey Wolfe, has

“surprised the heck out of her.” “I recruited her as a shooter, but she has proven to me that she has overall game,” said Ryan. “She finds the open man, passes extremely well, she’s got good handles, and she just understands the game.”

Frese cites freshman Alyssa Thomas, who can “play four positions, pass, rebound, score, and shoot left handed but is right handed.”

Coaches also happily report that the freshmen are not only physically mature, but emotionally as well. “They’re so talented, but at the same time, they are very unselfish,” said Frese. “They’re just so driven.”

And with such drive comes impressive discipline as well, according to Sylvia Crawley. “A lot of times I find that freshmen just want to get through practice without me calling their name. Then I call their name and their whole body language is like ‘ugh, I did something wrong again,’” said Crawley. “However, this freshman class, they’re looking me in the eye and they’re really processing what we’re saying. They want to get it.”

Because of this exceptional preparedness and will to learn, coaches league-wide are predicting the freshmen’s immediate importance.

“How the freshmen fit in will determine how four or five teams finish in the end,” said University of North Carolina head coach Sylvia Hatchell.

University of Miami head coach Katie Meier thinks that the freshmen are “definitely a huge X-factor in the league this year.” “I think that if you were a betting woman, you’d be scared,” she said. “There’s some really impressive newcomers who are entering the league.”

“I just love coaching freshmen because of the great sense of energy and passion that they bring,” said Coach Frese. “Their ceilings are so high.”

TerrapinTimes Top Stories