Post Position

Last year, WVU center Yinka Sanni was thrown into an unexpected starting assignment when hard-luck teammate Yelena Leuchanka was again sidelined with a season-ending knee injury. Although she wasn't expected to do a great deal more than hold the fort at that spot, she gave the Mountaineers solid production while battling some of the best post players in the country.

This year, the sophomore is much better prepared for the rigors of the toughest conference in the country. "Last year was different because I came [to West Virginia] straight out of high school," said the friendly Sanni, who will be counted on to provide scoring punch along with all-Big East pick Meg Bulger for the Mountaineer women's team. "This year, I have a year and a summer of experience. We worked hard over the summer. I stayed -- we all stayed -- the whole summer and did extra work, extra running, things like that.

"Coming out of high school I didn't know what to expect. I came in with a whole different atmosphere with the Big East and the pressure and everything. Now it's just kind of a smooth transition."

Helping in that transition last year were Sanni's experienced teammates, who relieved some of the stress placed on the freshman.

"It was a lot of pressure, but I guess we handled it well," she recalled. "My teammates were very supportive. Meg Bulger, Yolanda Paige, Sherell [Sowho], they all were upperclassmen and they helped me and guided me. They made it easier that whole season and helped me out tremendously to do well."

This year, with Paige and Sowho gone to graduation, Sanni will make another transition – from callow freshman to team leader. She will have to teach many of the same lessons she learned just a year ago to her new teammates. She won't back down from that task, but she also defers to Bulger, the acknowledged leader of this WVU squad.

Another side effect of the departure of the pair of high scoring guards is a shift in focus for the Mountaineer offense. Gone will be the emphasis on fast-breaking, perimeter-oriented play, to be replaced by an inside attack that plays to the strengths of Sanni, Leuchanka, Chakia Cole and, at times, Bulger on the front line. That seems to put the pressure right back on the broad shoulders of the sophomore, but she doesn't view it in that manner.

"I don't think about that a lot, because I know as a team we will come in strong," said Sanni. "We have Meg Bulger and the point guards. I feel that it will be an easy transition because I will do what I have been doing since last year. I'm still playing at the post. I have not changed my position."

Sanni hopes to help WVU, which has typically been undersized and at a disadvantage against some of the bigger and stronger teams in the Big East, to be more competitive in the paint in conference games. With a pair of freshman point guards, and only Bulger as a proven outside shooting threat, she will likely have to improve on her performance of a year ago if the Mountaineers are to make a serious run at postseason play.

To that end, she did a lot of work during the summer, including attendance at Pete Newell's Tall Women's Post Camp in Montery Bay, Calif., during July. Sanni made so much progress during the camp that she was named "overall player showing the most promise" among the 50 young women at the event. With everything she learned at the prestigious event, Sanni will likely better her averages of 7.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game of a year ago.


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