Suzanne Fox is entering her 13th season as the women’s basketball coach at Texas State, and she has never rolled out a team quite like this.
The Bobcats will work with ten returners, including a preseason All-Southland Conference selection. They also have 12 players with a year or less of Division I experience.
“We’re coming into the season with a team that has to grow up extremely fast,” Fox said. ” … Despite our inexperience, though, I think this team will have quality depth. We’re a team full of youngsters, but if we can grow throughout the year and take each week, each game, as a learning experience, we have a chance to be right there in the end.”
The leadership role will fall to senior veterans Victoria Davis and Aimee Hilburn. The pair, plus returning senior guard Tamarra Evans-Sluga, is all that remains of the 2008 Bobcats team that reached 20-plus wins for the first time in school history. That team earned a bid to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament and won the school’s first-ever postseason game as a Division I institution.
Davis averaged 9.3 points and 4.5 rebounds last season, while Hilburn wrapped up the season averaging 8.0 points and 5.8 boards. But the Bobcats fell last year to 12-16 overall and 6-10 in the Southland Conference, missing the league tournament for the first time since 1990.
Davis was named to the conference preseason first team. Last year, Davis started all but one game, averaging 29.9 minutes. She reached her career scoring high with 26 points against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Feb. 11, making 12 of 17 shots.
“Each year, Victoria has gotten better on the court,” Fox said. “She took over point guard duties her sophomore year and has developed into a true quarterback for the team. This year, her role will expand on the floor as a playmaker and off the floor as a leader.”
Fox said Hilburn figures to become a more valuable player based on experience, leadership and her way of improving every season.
“Whether it’s passing, shooting or defending, she’s been through the battles and seen it all at this point,” Fox said of Hilburn. “Now, it is time for her to take the new challenge, and that is being one of the main leaders on our team.”
Evans-Sluga redshirted last season with a knee injury. She averaged 5.4 points per game in 2008. Another returner, Megan Homan, is a 6-foot-2 senior who blocked 16 shots last year.
Junior Chika Ofoegbu, a steadfast sixth-man last season, averaged 4.0 points and 3.1 rebounds and returns for Texas State’s post game.
“As in the past, she has such great ability in rebounding the ball in traffic, and has now expanded her game to include mid-range opportunities,” Fox said.
Five other players return with experience from last year’s team. Sophomore Lacey Klause put in time in the post, while junior Mallory Williams and sophomores Bryonna Dawson, Verinus Kalu and Kelsey Krupa add depth to the backcourt.
Along with the returning talent, the Bobcats have brought seven newcomers to the team. Junior transfer Anna Brzozowski spent two seasons at Northern Oklahoma College-Enid, helping the Jets to a 27-4 record last year. Freshmen Stephanie Douthit, Alexa Hugee and Ashley Shoemaker join Brzozowski at forward.
Coming from Houston are freshmen guards in Diamond Ford and Dawn Kiel. Both averaged double-digit scoring numbers as high school seniors. Another freshman guard is Samantha Hanie.
“I really believe our biggest strengths this year are both the character of our kids and the chemistry that they have seemed to develop thus far,” Fox said. “They have shown a good work ethic and such a genuine eagerness to do things the right way — the Texas State way.”\
The Bobcats will open their season Friday (5:30 p.m.) against Texas College at Strahan Coliseum.