For Lobo women’s basketball head coach Mike Bradbury, this year’s team has the talent level to compete with the best of the best in the Mountain West.
Notable returnee and current senior Cherise Beynon led the Lobos in scoring last season at 15.8 points per game and was, in most eyes, the face of the team. Spot-up shooters like Alex Lapeyrolerie, who shot 30.2 percent from beyond the arc last season, will also be back.
But what has Bradbury — who is now in his second year heading New Mexico — excited is some of the new talent he’s acquired, most notably his freshmen acquisitions.
One of these freshmen is 5-foot-7 guard N’Dea Flye, who Bradbury praised.
“N’Dea Flye looks great,” he said. “She’s talented, she’s skilled, she’s athletic.”
However, Bradbury did have one thing that he said she does need to work on — and that’s her conditioning, so she can play longer.
During Wednesday’s press conference, he also said he thinks as many as two newcomers can be on the starting five opening night.
But the Lobos haven’t improved with the presence of new faces alone. The second year head coach also expects big things from Jaisa Nunn, who is rehabbing a torn ACL she suffered last season and is only one of two Lobo post players this season.
And though the 6-foot-3 Nunn out of Kirkland, Washington is still not fully cleared by doctors to play, Bradbury did say she participated in her first full practice on Tuesday — a sign that bigger things are to come her way, at least according to Bradbury, who lamented that sentiment, saying, “She’s gonna be a major part of what we’re doing.”
Even with the new faces and the smaller run-and-gun team Bradbury plans to fully see out this season, he doesn’t expect there will be major changes when it comes to who handles the ball most.
“(The ball) is gonna be in her hands a lot,” he said of Beynon to a group of reporters on Wednesday.
But that doesn’t mean with all the new talent he’s acquired this season, he plans on playing an exact offensive template as his first season, where his two post players, Richelle van der Keijl and Kianna Keller, looked like skyscrapers to most other Mountain West teams. Both players finished their careers with the Lobos last season.
Bradbury has new ideas, especially when it comes to Beynon. In some cases, he can even see her playing the 4, where he says Beynon can cause serious mismatches when facing someone bigger, taller and, in most cases, slower.
But, as for now, that’s just pre-season talk. The real test comes when playing live, in-game action. And for Bradbury, that can’t come any sooner.
Bradbury also understands that, on paper, there are other teams out in the conference that have depth and returning starters on their rosters, theoretically putting his team — which features five freshmen, four seniors, four juniors and a sophomore — lower on the Mountain West totem pole.
“If you just look at it on paper, Wyoming’s got them all back, Boise’s got them all back, Colorado State has won it three of four years in a row, UNLV is always the most talented team,” he said. “On paper we should be picked ninth, tenth or eleventh.
“I think we would be better than that,” Bradbury later added. “I do think we’re talented enough to play a lot of people.”
Matthew Narvaiz is a senior sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers baseball and men’s and women’s basketball but also contributes content for football. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @matt_narvaiz.