It is unrealistic to expect the Lady Hilltopper basketball team to post 30-win seasons regularly. But if you thought last season’s success was a fluke, then you obviously don’t know much about coach Michelle Clark-Heard.
The Conference-USA Championship and 30-5 mark that the WKU women’s squad posted last season was accompanied by one of the best statistical seasons in WKU women’s basketball history.
“We’re really excited about what we did last year, but we know that we have to move on,” Clark-Heard said. “We’re really excited about where our program is and our expectations are still the same.”
While the expectations of winning will remain the same, the majority of faces on the roster will not. Even with seven players leaving from last year’s team and eight new players coming in, 2014 C-USA Coach of the Year Clark-Heard is not worried.
“Our slogan this year is ‘New Look, Same Goal’,” Clark-Heard said. “We have a lot of new faces and they’re learning a lot and working really hard to do what we ask them. I’m excited every day we come in. I think the coaching staff is excited to continue coaching them.”
One of the returning players is senior guard Micah Jones, who is expected to assume an even larger role this year with Alexis Govan and Chastity Gooch gone.
“I’m extremely excited to get back out there,” Jones said. “We have a lot of talent this year. We just have to put it all together and we’ll have a good shot at accomplishing all of our goals.”
In Gooch’s and Govan’s departures alone, the Lady Toppers are losing just under 50 percent of the team’s total scoring.
“We knew what it was gonna (sic) be like coming into the season,” Jones said. “We’re working hard and [the new players] are really eager to get better every day.”
Lady Topper fans got a first look at the team on Saturday night at the season kickoff for both the men’s and women’s teams, Hilltopper Hysteria. Returning players Jones, Jalynn McClain and Kendall Noble led the way in the red-black scrimmage, and 2014 WKU Sixth Man Award Winner Tashia Brown seemed improved and provided some high energy play for the red team.
Some newcomers to look for this season are freshman guard Sidney Bopp and forward Dee Givens. Both Bopp and Givens are good jump shooters, and this team needs every bit of shooting it can get. Also, look for sophomore Ivy Brown to gain more minutes this season to help compensate for the losses of Gooch and Govan.
It may take some time before the team starts to jell on the court together, but that is to be expected with such large turnover from only one season ago.
“We’re really fortunate that they get a chance to come in during the summer,” Clark-Heard said. “They got a chance to be around each other and work a little bit that way. I’m really proud of our upperclassmen and our captains. Jalynn, Kendall and Micah have stepped up and really tried to take ownership [of this team].”
With practice underway and Hilltopper Hysteria in the books, basketball fever on The Hill is heating up, and fans will be itching to see how this team full of new faces can work together.