With less than two weeks of practice under its belt, the MSU women’s basketball team still has a lot of work to do before the start of the 2008-09 season.
Problems with consistency, offensive and defensive flow and turnovers have MSU head coach Suzy Merchant worried about the state of her team. But at the same time, the second-year coach said she isn’t overly-concerned.
“I think it’s jut a matter of time,” Merchant said of the Spartans cleaning up their play. “You don’t want to be playing your best basketball in October — you want to be playing it in March — so it’ll be a work in progress.”
Although the Spartans have struggled in some areas, one thing Merchant can’t fault her team for is its effort and competitiveness. At last week’s media day, Merchant said her team’s practices this season have already been more competitive and aggressive than they were last year.
That intensity-boost isn’t lost on the players, and junior guard Mandy Piechowski said the Spartans realized early in the summer that they need to bring a hard-working attitude to practice every day.
“Practices have been great because we go 5-on-5 against each other and you never know who’s going to win and that’s how it was at open gym all summer,” Piechowski said. “You thought you stacked a team and then you look (and think) ‘Oh, we’re just as good.’ You put the five starters from last year (together) and the other five people are just as good, so I think that can be a good thing for our team.”
As a sophomore last season, Piechowski played in 32 of MSU’s 37 games, shooting 26 percent from beyond the arc. She also started 16 games, mainly in the spot of then-junior guard Mya Johnson, who sat out much of the early season while rehabbing an ACL injury.
With Johnson back and fully healthy this season, as well as the emergence of sophomore guard Brittney Thomas, Piechowski finds herself as one of the first guards off the bench.
Although she will probably start less games this season, the junior said she’s not losing focus and is concentrating on becoming a knock-down shooter.
“I want to be that release for our post players,” Piechowski said. “When they get double-teamed down there, I’m going to hit that shot and the next time they’re not going to be double-teamed. I really think I can be that shooter out there and that leader on the floor for us.”
Ready or not …
At the mention of the exhibition season, which starts at 7 p.m. on Nov. 6 against Saginaw Valley State, Merchant took a deep sigh and lightly laughed that it was “scary” to think the season is just around the corner.
Although the Spartans have struggled during practice with mental mistakes, Merchant said she doesn’t really know how her team will respond until they face different competition.
“Until you go against someone outside of the (male practice players) — who know everything you’re doing and their athleticism — (you don’t know how good you are),” Merchant said. “It’ll be interesting for me to see what kind of pace we can play at and what kind of consistency we can have in not turning the ball over.”