Media day for the MSU women’s basketball team showed the Spartans are welcoming not just new players and uniforms, but a new type of game play in the 2010 season.
After graduating their 2009 senior class, which included honorable mention All-American Allyssa DeHaan, the Spartans want to shift from playing with power to playing with speed.
“Allyssa will never be able to be replaced, what she’s brought to this program has been phenomenal,” senior forward Kalisha Keane said. “We don’t look for anyone to come and replace her.
“Our style of play is going to change a little bit to be more up tempo, that’s what we’ve mostly been working on.”
MSU head coach Suzy Merchant said it starts with how the guards play and if they can create opportunities for themselves.
“Plays don’t score, players do,” Merchant said. “And these kids gotta be able to create shots on their own at times, and that’s one of the skill sets we’ve been working on, especially from the guard position.”
Merchant looks to honorable mention All-Big Ten senior guard Brittney Thomas, who averaged 3.2 assists per game in 2009 and is 12th all-time at MSU in career assists.
Thomas said she has spent the offseason working on transitioning from a distributor to a scoring threat.
“I’ve been preparing myself this summer in open, pick-up basketball and just focusing more on me because I do need to be able to score,” Thomas said.
The Spartans have three returning starters — Keane, Thomas and redshirt junior forward Lykendra Johnson. The nine returning players accounted for about 68 percent of the team’s minutes and 60 percent of its scoring in 2009.
“The depth piece (is) going to allow us to have some confidence on the floor early,” Merchant said. “Last year, we went nine deep and it would be nice to dive into your bench and play that deep again. I think the difference where we don’t have depth is that post, 4-5 position.”
Although depth at power forward and center might be a question, Merchant and the Spartans have added some talented freshmen.
The freshmen start with center and 2010 Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year Madison Williams, who measures 6 feet 7 inches and also played in the 2010 McDonald’s All-American Game.
“They’re going to play, there’s no question,” Merchant said. “Two of those kids are playing (in the front court) and that’s where we graduated three of our four players. I expect them to get some strong experience early. Madison Williams, defensively and rebounding-wise, will be an impact player that way.”
2010 Michigan’s Miss Basketball guard Klarissa Bell, runner-up guard Annalise Pickrel and guard Bryonna Davis also look to add to the Spartans’ deep bench this season.
Returning to the team after suffering a season-ending knee injury just two games into the 2009 season, redshirt sophomore forward Courtney Schiffauer has fought her way back onto the court.
Schiffauer said she slowly is recovering and can’t wait until the season starts Nov. 4.
“Im feeling good,” she said. “I’m trying to get back and transition into playing again. We started practice two weeks ago so that was new, I hadn’t practiced for a year. Slowly but surely I’ll get back into it and be 100 percent.”
The Boardman, Ohio, native has big expectations for the underrated 2010 Spartans.
“I think we’re going to be great,” Schiffauer said. “I’m excited, practice is going great, there’s a lot of good things you see at practice.
“I think the Final Four is where we’re going to be.”