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MSU returns loaded after Sweet 16 run

Depth, experience, Thomas' health could fuel Spartans in Big Ten

October 12, 2009

The MSU women’s basketball team held its annual Media Day on Monday at Breslin Center, as head coach Suzy Merchant and MSU players spoke with the media regarding the upcoming season. A Final Four berth is the goal for the Spartans, who return all but one player from last year’s team that went 22-11 and ended their season in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

Brittney Thomas can’t help but get excited when thinking about how dangerous the point guard position will be for the MSU women’s basketball team this season.

Between herself and freshman guard Jasmine Thomas (no relation), the junior guard is confident the duo’s athleticism will be a huge part of MSU’s success.

“We had meetings with our coach last week and we were talking about this and I just got so excited,” Brittney Thomas said. “(Jasmine’s) lightning fast, she’s in great condition, she can run up and down the floor and if we’re on the floor at the same time or whatnot, with the guards that we have, we’re going to be able to be a much quicker team.”

Although she missed last season’s Sweet 16 — absent from the last 10 games after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament in February — Brittney Thomas said she expects to be 100 percent by the Spartans’ first game.

As a freshman, she started all 37 games at point guard and averaged more than 35 minutes per game. Last season, she was averaging 32.5 minutes a pergame. If all goes according to plan, those heavy minutes won’t continue this season.

“I don’t expect to play 36 minutes — that’s crazy with the talent that we have and roles that we have coming in,” Brittney Thomas said. “But the less minutes I have, that means the more efficient I can be on both ends of the floor.”

Jasmine Thomas, a 5-foot-7 freshman point guard from Flint Hamady High School, was ranked the No. 6 player in Michigan by the Detroit Free Press. Her ability to play right away is a reason Brittney Thomas can expect to see a drop in her minutes.

“I don’t come in hoping not to get any (playing time), but of course (MSU head coach Suzy Merchant) knows what she wants to do with the team,” Jasmine Thomas said. “I would love the opportunity and I think I’m capable of stepping up.”

Keane back to post

As a freshman, current junior forward Kalisha Keane averaged 12.4 points and 5.9 rebounds a game playing in the post. Last season, she moved to the backcourt to make space for other players. Although she had more assists, Keane’s scoring dropped nearly five points a game, and Merchant and her staff decided to move Keane back in the paint this season.

“(Post) was kind of a more natural position,” Keane said. “Coach kind of talked to me about moving me back there just to get into a rhythm and help our team in a better, more consistent way.”

Injury report

After missing all of 2007-08 with a torn ACL, senior forward Aisha Jefferson underwent postseason surgery and Merchant said coaches will limit her reps in practice.

Sophomore forward Taja Wilson, who missed last season with a torn ACL, is recovering from August surgery on a herniated disk in her back, but is working back into game shape.

Senior center Allyssa DeHaan recently underwent shockwave therapy to treat plantar fasciitis in both feet and said, “It’s getting better right now.”

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