BOISE, Idaho-The temperature output on the Broadway Avenue reader board flashes numbers reserved for the summer, but inside Taco Bell Arena it feels like the dead of winter. Really it's the second week of October, however, odd weather patterns and a NCAA rule modification mean the Boise State women's basketball team is ahead of the times.
The Broncos are nearly two weeks ahead of where they were at this time last season, and they will be fresher heading into the season. The days of cramming in official practices starting 30 days before the first competition are now a thing of the past.
"It's a new rule that we are starting 40 days before our first game and we have to take the extra 10 days off," explained Bronco Head Coach Gordy Presnell. "It's really the same amount of practice time, just more mandatory days off. Hopefully it will help prevent injuries, fatigue and overuse."
While Boise State is taking advantage of the opportunity to start earlier and incorporate more days off, not everybody is sold on the benefits.
"Some schools aren't doing it," Presnell said. "It's your choice. A lot of teams are starting Friday night (Oct. 15) and taking off one day a week. Since the rule was changed, we decided to give it a shot and see how we feel. It sure makes it not as condensed. It gives the kids more time off, and more learning time."
Any extra time could be crucial for a team with seven players on its roster who have never played for the Blue and Orange. Presnell and his staff are excited to be able to introduce the playbook to a young Bronco squad 10 days earlier than in seasons' past.
"We will have two freshmen point guards," Presnell pointed out. "So hopefully the extra days will give them a little bit more time to grasp the system, understand what we are trying to accomplish and how we do things."
The new faces that will be handling the ball are Diana Lee and Cinnamon Lister. Fellow freshmen Janelle Kearney and Carly Perkins will be counted on to add depth in the paint, while three transfers look to make their mark on a program in transition.
Kati Isham comes in as an established player from the junior college ranks. Isham played the past two seasons at Walla Walla Community College where she led the NWAACC in scoring as a sophomore and was named MVP of the conference tournament.
Nicole Brady and Mandy Munns are returning squad members. Brady, an honorable mention All-America selection while at Salt Lake Community College, redshirted last season and will benefit from having an extra year of learning the Boise State system under her belt. Munns joined the Broncos in December from Utah.
The new Broncos will team with seven returners to try and replace more than half of the scoring from 2010, including the Nos. 2 and 3 all-time leading scorers at Boise State (Tasha Harris and Jessica Van Hoogen).
Janie Bos returns as the leading rebounder from a year ago, and is the leading returning scorer for the Broncos. Fellow senior Melissa Rima led Boise State from behind the arc in 2010, shooting 38.5 percent.
"I'm excited to see how we do," Presnell said. "It's a whole new team. We'd had the same nucleus of kids here for some time and they're not here anymore, so now we're just starting over. I think we have some potential. I think we have decent size. Our posts are skilled. I feel good about our ability to shoot the ball."
The new student-athletes are not the only additions to the women's basketball roster. Anthony Turner joins the staff as a defensive specialist.
"I'm excited about our staff," Presnell said. "We have it divided up, Calamity McEntire handles the guards, Heather Sower handles the posts, and Anthony Turner is our defensive coach. We are trying to put a little more emphasis on defense this year and try to do a better job in that area."The Broncos will put it all together on the court starting with an exhibition game Sunday, Nov. 7, against St. Martins at Bronco Gym. The first regular-season game will be Friday, Nov.12, when Boise State hosts Portland at Taco Bell Arena.