Daugherty unabashed assessing Cougs' future

WASHINGTON STATE women's basketball coach June Daugherty is unabashed in her enthusiastic assessment of the freshmen- and senior-heavy team she'll put on the court this winter. "We've got an opportunity this season for one of the biggest turnarounds nationally -– ever," she told CF.C last week.

And Daugherty knows something about big-time turnarounds. Under her watch, the Washington Huskies went from ninth place in the Pac-10 in 2000 to the conference title in 2001. It was the greatest turnaround in Pac-10 women's history. She worked similar magic as head coach at Boise State in the 1990s.

Daugherty isn't predicting a championship for WSU this season. But the days of five wins per season -- the Cougs have averaged 4.75 per year in this decade -- are over.

"Cougar fans better get their season tickets because they've never seen the type of athleticism that's coming in here. It's unbelievable," she said, referring to the nationally touted recruiting class of seven that will be joining the program.

The incoming guards are lightning quick -- which will go far in curing one of the Cougs' biggest bug-a-boos last season: breaking the press -- and the posts can flat out play, she says.

The guards are Washington Player of the Year Katie Grad of Auburn-Riverside; California All-State honoree April Cook of Long Beach; All-Area pick Danielle LeNoir of Los Angeles; and Street & Smith's All-American Jazmine Perkins of Berkeley, Calif.

The posts are Sporting News honorable mention All-American Jessica Oestreicher of Redding, Calif.; Philadelphia Player of the Year Rosie Tarnowski; and Lexie Pettersen, a record-setting scorer and rebounder at Spokane's Shadle Park.

Oestreicher, at 6-foot-8, will be the tallest player in the Pac-10 and the tallest freshman in WSU history. WSU had one other player, Kathy Weber, who stood 6-8 but she was only 6-6 when she arrived on campus for the 1990-91 season.

"We're building something really special here," Daugherty says. "The egg is here -- and the chicken is going to rise soon ... I really encourage Cougar fans to follow us for a year and document it -- it's really going to happen. We're changing the culture and attitude about women's basketball. I'm hopeful the fans will embrace this team – and bring a neighbor with ‘em!"

This past season, home attendance climbed a whopping 363 percent over 2006-07. WSU averaged 1,824 fans per home, up from 503 the year before. Home attendance soared under Daugherty's tenure at both Boise State and Washington.

HOW MANY OF THE seven incoming freshmen will see immediate playing? "I hope they'll all have an opportunity to play right away," Daugherty says. "It depends on how hard they work in the weight room and on the track between now and the start of practices. That adjustment from high school to college is dramatic."

The youngsters will join a team that returns its leading scorer (All-Pac-10 honorable mention pick Katie Appleton), leading rebounder (Heather Molzen) and top assist person (Pac-10 All-Freshman honorable mention choice Kezia Kelly). Appleton and Molzen will be seniors in 2008-09 and Kelly a sophomore. Those three led the Cougs in minutes played last season, followed by two true freshmen who figure to be faster and stronger in 2008-09, Jasmine Williams and Katie Calderwood.

SINCE HER REBOUND from cardiac arrest one year ago this week, Daugherty has joined forces with The Hope Heart Institute, a renowned Seattle-area non-profit organization focused on cardiovascular research and education. Daugherty has been a powerful voice in The Hope's fight against heart disease, which is the No. 1 killer of women in America.

This August, she'll be The Hope's featured attraction at youth basketball clinics in Renton, Tukwila and Seattle.

Why a youth basketball camp to help spread the gospel about a disease that mostly affects adults?

Because the percentage of overweight children and teens has more than doubled in the U.S. in the past 30 years. Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults, which in turns increases their risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic conditions.


• Cougar sophomore-to-be Kezia Kelly, who doesn't turn 18 for another two weeks, has been picked for the junior national team this summer in her native New Zealand.

• Daugherty will have four slots available in her 2009 recruiting class and already has filled one of them. Germany's Ireti Amojo, who played as an exchange student at Auburn-Riverside with Katie Grad in 2006-07, verbally committed to the Cougs earlier this year. She's a 5-10 wing.

• Daugherty has been a popular dinner speaker this off-season, serving as the keynoter at sports banquets held at Auburn-Riverside High and Los Angeles' Narbonne High. Two of her incoming freshmen – Katie Grad and Danielle LeNoir -- hail from those schools. Daugherty also will be the featured attraction at the Colville High sports awards dinner tomorrow.

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