Lady Frogs begin quest for eighth straight NCAA bid
Oct. 30, 2007
With Thursday's exhibition opener drawing near for the TCU women's basketball team, GoFrogs.com takes an in-depth look at the 2007-08 Lady Frogs. TCU matches up Thursday at 6:30 p.m. against the All-Stars, a team comprised of several ex-college standouts. Admission to the game at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum is free.
The regular season begins Friday, Nov. 9, at 6:30 p.m. with a WNIT first-round game against Radford at the DMC.
Much like any other squad in the nation, the TCU women's basketball team brings high expectations into the 2007-08 season that are buoyed by a recent string of success that is unmatched in the program's history.
Since Head Coach Jeff Mittie arrived in Fort Worth in 1999, the Lady Frogs have transformed into one of the nation's most consistent winners highlighted by a streak of seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. While TCU totaled only one winning season in 17 years prior to Mittie's arrival, the squad has since posted a 173-83 record and ranks tied for 26th among all Division I programs in wins over the past seven years.
Expectations once again this season abound and point toward the postseason and a Mountain West Conference title run. Mittie's team returns eight letterwinners and three starters from last year's 21-11 team that tied for second in the league standings, including Co-MWC Player of the Year Adrianne Ross, who won the conference scoring title a year ago.
"Going into my ninth season here, I feel every team we put on the floor should be a team that contends for championships and NCAA Tournament berths," Mittie said. "That's our job as a staff, and that's my job as the head coach--to put us in that position every single year."
Mittie believes the experience of this year's team lends itself to continuing TCU's run of consistent success.
"This is a veteran team," Mittie said. "There will be some players who will be asked to elevate their games, and hopefully every player will be able to do that. This is a group that knows what is expected of them and has won a lot of basketball games at TCU."
Success does not come without challenge, though, and the Frogs face their fair share of concerns entering 2007-08. Chief among the challenges will be the need to replace two valuable leaders lost from last year's squad in former Frogs Ashley Davis and Hanna Biernacka.
Davis proved to be TCU's most dangerous outside weapon over the last few seasons and finished her career second in program history with 232 3-pointers. Biernacka made a splash in her only season in a Lady Frog uniform by averaging 12.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game from her forward position.
"When you lose a shooter like Ashley Davis, that is always a concern, and Hanna was like the glue that held our team together in tough times," Mittie said. "This team needs to be stronger mentally with the loss of both of those players, and we need to find someone to step forward as a leader on a day-to-day basis."
On the Wing
Ross made the jump from good player to star a year ago by honing her all-around skills. Not only did she win the MWC scoring title, but she also led the league and ranked 10th nationally with 2.9 steals per game. Additionally, she raised her shooting percentage to over .400 for the first time in her career and proved to be the Lady Frogs' go-to player in crunch time.
Ross will be counted on not only to provide scoring and defense, but also to fill the leadership role vacated by Ross and Biernacka. Her experience certainly fits the bill, as her 100 career games and 76 starts lead all Frogs currently on the roster.
"There are a lot of great players in this league, and Adrianne being named the Player of the Year last season says a lot about her ability," Mittie said. "She comes out and works hard for us. I also think she has become more accountable on and off the floor."
Senior Lorie Butler-Rayford, a former honorable-mention All-MWC selection, served as the squad's top rebounder a year ago with her 7.1 board per game average while pitching in 7.0 points per game from her forward position. A productive off-season has helped the Inglewood, Calif., native add an improved jump shot to her repertoire that should allow TCU the flexibility to move her between guard and forward during her final campaign.
"Lorie had a very good off-season, Mittie said. "We are going to face her up more this season. Her shot may be the most improved on the team."
Nunn was named TCU Freshman of the Year last season after serving as one of the squad's top options off the bench. She led all Lady Frog reserves with a 5.4 scoring average and shot .477 from the field. While Nunn was out of action for nearly four months during the off-season, the 5-9 Arlington product should be healthy and ready for 2006-07.
In addition to her offensive ability, Nunn also possesses outstanding defensive skills, enough so to make Mittie believe she can be one of the team's true stoppers this season.
"I hope that Danielle can develop that defensive mentality to defend the other team's best player," Mittie said. "She had that role a year ago, but she was impatient and would foul too much. I think the experience she gained from playing as a freshman will help her this season."
The 5-6 Moore should see a significant increase in playing time over her freshman campaign and will be one of several options looked at to help make up for the outside game vacated by the graduation of Davis.
"When Shayla gets her feet set and her shoulders squared, she is our best long-range shooter," Mittie said. "There are minutes to be had on our team for that type of player."
At the Point
"Both Moneka and Helen are going to lead and direct this team on the floor," Mittie said. "Each understands both the system and our program's expectations."
The two players possess distinctly different styles that provide Mittie with a multitude of lineup options, as Roden at times will slide over to shooting guard to accommodate both players hitting the floor at the same time.
"They are a great two-headed point guard," Mittie said. "Mo is as quick as any player in the league, and Helen is steady. Her turnover-assist ratio last season was outstanding. They are a nice change of pace for each other."
Versatility is the key word at point guard, and freshman Helena Sverrisdottir will add even more options to TCU's lineup. Sverrisdottir, a 6-2 product of Iceland, can play any position on the floor, but the plan is to utilize her mostly at the point.
"Helena is a player with a lot of international experience," Mittie said. "She is a good all-around player who can shoot from outside and played point guard for the Iceland national team. We hope to utilize her ball-handling skills this season."
In the Post
Lohse has been an emotional leader for TCU in the past, and she will be counted on to continue in that role. Last season her .507 shooting percentage led all Lady Frogs with at least 75 attempts from the field.
"Jenna plays with great energy and gets the most out of her physical skills," Mittie said. "I do want to see Jenna improve her back-to-the-basket game, and I think she's been working the right way to correct it."
One of the keys to TCU's success will be the production it receives from junior Michaela Younger. Younger, who ranks as the tallest player of the team at 6-3, made 12 starts last season at center.
"I think Michaela really has improved," Mittie said. "This is a player who we saw glimpses of production from last year, and we hope that's on a more consistent basis this year."