No Burnouts

After playing for the Nigerian national team in the FIBA Women's World Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil during September, West Virginia center Yinka Sanni jumped right back into a grueling workout regimen to prepare for the 2006-07 basketball season. Worries of burnout were voiced, but the anchor of WVU's inside game says that isn't a concern.

"I don't feel like you can get burned out playing," said Sanni, who obviously relishes every moment she can get on the court. "Right now I am just excited to be back. I'm just trying to get better and get in good shape for the season."

Sanni, who didn't take any time off at all between the tournament and returning to West Virginia, is driven by the desire to improve. Staying in Morgantown over the summer isn't out of the norm for her.

"I've been here for the whole summer every year," Sanni said. "I try to focus on classes, and then focus on basketball during the season. There's nothing better than improving. I want to work hard and get to my peak."

One of the items on Sanni's checklist is developing enough speed and endurance to keep up with the guards on the team in head coach Mike Carey's up tempo system, which will likely hit an even higher gear this year with more pressing and full court play.

"Coach Carey certainly isn't slowing anything down," Sanni said with a laugh. "I'm trying to get up and down the court as quickly as I can."

Sanni will also be stepping into a leadership role on the team, especially in the absence of Meg Bulger, who underwent knee surgery again over the summer. She will be facing twin challenges – trying to fill some of the gap left by Bulger, and also helping the large number of youngsters assimilate themselves into the team.

"I'm just trying to work together and brining the team together. I can't focus on what we should have or could have. I have to provide leadership, and keep the same focus both on and off the court.

"On the court, I want to help the freshmen and the transfers. I can help them prepare for Coach Carey. I know what he will accept, so I can help them learn what's waiting for them. Off the court, I want to try to bring everyone together. I'll help them get used to their classwork, and help them get used to everything that college brings.

For myself, I am trying to focus on rebounding and playing a good floor game," said Sanni, who doesn't look for personal honors or glory. "I don't think I need to score more to make up for Meg. I need to concentrate on rebounding and playing inside."

Such comments must certainly make Carey happy, as they would any basketball purist. However, they also have to be pleasing to Sanni's mother Ola, who didn't allow her daughter to play basketball until she had proved her worth in the classroom and was convinced that the extracurricular activity wouldn't harm her academic work. With all the opportunites basketball has opened for Yinka, it would seem natural that she would have a couple of ‘I told you sos', for her mother – but like most parents, Ola always remains in control.

"I have talked with her about it. She'll say, ‘I can still take you out right now, so don't test me!', Sanni said with amusement. "Her decisions were probably good for me, and I know she is very proud of me. And I know that if anything happens in basketball, my grades can bail me out. I will graduate next summer, and start graduate school after that."


Sanni enjoyed her experience playing for Nigeria, but admitted it was somewhat strange to play for another country.

"It was definitely an odd feeling," Sanni said. "I am so used to playing with West Virginia, that going to a different team and taking on a different role was very strange. As a young player, I was excited to go and play for them. But I played as a forward there, and didn't do the same things I do at West Virginia. On that team I was taking the ball out, setting picks, and playing as more of a role player."

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