Team chemistry and shaping the incoming freshmen for collegiate play is the major focus of the New Mexico women’s basketball team this offseason.
Head coach Yvonne Sanchez has added five new faces to a roster containing just three seniors. In order to get her young unit ready, Sanchez and the Lobos will be boarding an international flight to Italy to play four exhibition games in anticipation for the 2014-2015 season.
“That’s why you do foreign tours,” Sanchez said. “You do them when you have probably about four or more new kids coming in.”
Incoming guards Cherise Beynon, Jayda Bovero, Laneah Bryan, and Kenya Pye will all have an opportunity for some major playing time this year, according to Sanchez.
“These freshmen are probably going to play this year,” Sanchez said. “There is no doubt in my mind that they are capable and I planned on them for playing this year.”
UNM’s leading scorer last season, Antiesha Brown, said that the main focus is getting the new recruits caught up to speed with everyone else who has had time to bond.
“What we are looking to do is get these freshmen acclimated to playing college basketball, getting them acclimated to the team,” she said. “We have a good team this year that can win a lot of games. I think that getting this experience is extremely important.
Junior forward Khadijah Shumpert said meshing together as a team is not something that happens quickly. Therefore, it is advantageous for the group to get the growing process started early.
“There is a huge difference in practicing against each other as opposed to playing with each other against a team,” Shumpert said.
By being able to start early, Brown and Shumpert said that the team will be able to avoid some of the growing pains that come with the territory of a new season.
“In the past, we get that first chance in November. Now, we have that first chance in August giving us that jumpstart early,” Brown said. “I am expecting us to go down there, build a ton of team chemistry and really just see what’s out there.”
Sanchez said the European style of play is going to be a good learning experience for the group to learn. Sanchez emphasized the pace of the game in Europe, stating that the rules are closely correlated to the professional style of play.
“You’ve got to get it down, make two are three good passes and get a shot off,” Sanchez said. “From what I’ve been hearing, people want to start aligning with the international rules… it’s more conducive to the professional style of play.”
Sanchez said that she is excited about her team’s opportunity to gain new experiences and play bond while playing international basketball. However a major concern for Sanchez is the possibility of overplaying and exhausting players when getting an early start.
“There is a fine line about burnout and when they came back, but that’s why we took June off,” Sanchez said. “I think it is a huge advantage… the freshmen coming in and the veterans coming back, they are really responding well to each other.”
Liam Cary-Eaves is a sports writer for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Liam_CE.