College of DuPage women's basketball team aims to improve after last season
The College of DuPage (COD) women's basketball team is several weeks deep into training camp, and as they fast approach their season opener on Nov. 3 against Oakton College, they are looking to take the next step after making some notable changes this year.
The Chaparrals finished 9-18 last season, and head coach Ryan Connell, who is heading into his third year with COD and is also the college's softball coach, thinks this could be a rebound season for this group of women.
"This 2016-2017 season looks to be a good, solid group of girls," Connell told DuPage Policy Journal. "We are getting ready to compete in probably the toughest conference in the country, but we're looking to improve on our record from last year. Honestly, I feel we might surprise a few people this year."
Several changes to both the team and the coaching staff have Connell optimistic about the upcoming year. This year's roster features seven freshmen out of a total of 11 girls, so the overall makeup of the squad is the first big difference. Connell feels he's added some much-needed speed to his group.
"We're looking at getting up and down the floor as quick as possible and having a strong transition game," Connell said. "We're really working on getting out and getting down the floor and getting a quick shot off. 'Get out and run.' That's our motto at the moment. We're looking at running possibly some different schemes than we've run in the past due to our quickness and to our size, so it should be a quick learning process for the seven new girls, but we've already got them on the right page for the moment."
Some of those incoming players include Anna Jovanovich, who will bring shooting and quickness to COD's group of guards, and Jessica Jean-Baptiste, who brings defense and length to the front court. They'll be joined by sophomore returnee Jasmine Shepard, who averaged 5.9 points and 1.2 assists per game as a freshman. She'll be asked to provide leadership for this mostly young team.
COD also has some different staff surrounding Connell. They dipped into the former DuPage graduate pool to bring some players back to the school who have had success to impart that wisdom upon this year's crop of developing players.
First, the team brought back former player Donna Korber. Korber spent some time at COD before moving on to Southern Utah, where she played Division I ball. She'll be helping the players adjust to the complexities of the college game.
"Donna is kind of the realist at the moment," Connell said. "With the seven new girls that we have in for this year, Donna is a mentor to these new girls and is just explaining how college basketball works. It's a much different game than the high school game, and it's a lot more physical. She's being an all-around coach and mentor for these girls at the moment, trying to build their confidence and get them to where they need to be."
The team also brought back former COD player Melissa Miggins to help with the coaching duties. Connell said she's been a great addition to his staff.
"She is primarily working with our post players and building their confidence in their abilities," Connell said. "We do have one of our returnees from last season, Jasmine Heath, who did vastly improve from last summer by working with Melissa, so Jasmine is going to be quite a force for us this year."
Ultimately, Connell feels this group is ready for success, mainly due to their hard work. Connell expects his players to not only be good on the court, but he also expects them to be good students and top-notch communicators as well. All of those factors combine to make a potentially winning team, which Connell hopes ends up in a regional playoff berth for his squad this year.
"The best quality that I look for is not only just to be able to get it done in the classroom, but also having a strong personality," Connell said. "I'm a very high-energy person that's always on the go, so they need to be able to communicate and keep up with our coaching staff and make sure that they're able to interact with us...We're gaining every day. They're getting better every time that they step on the floor. We're still working on that team unity. We're improving every time that we get out there."