One year removed from a season filled with challenges the 2009-10 Boise State women’s basketball team enters the new season with a mix of emotions ranging from cautious optimism to one of quietly confident about its potential. The Broncos welcome back seven players who have competed in the blue and orange, five from last season when they struggled through a host of injuries to eight players including the loss of four starters. However, through all the challenges they faced on a weekly basis the team battled hard and found themselves still in contention for the conference title with two weeks remaining. In the end, the Broncos finished the year with their third-consecutive winning season and a core group that gained quality collegiate playing experience.
Among the five returners is one player who started more than 11 games in Janie Bos. The 6-2 junior forward was one-of-two players to start in all 31 games last season. She is joined by four other veterans from the 2008-09 campaign, two of which started at least seven games. Junior Melissa Rima started at small forward in the final 10 games last year and had a total of 11 starts overall in the 28 games played. Meanwhile, sophomore Heather Pilcher played in all 31 games with seven starts at the shooting guard position. The fourth veteran is senior Rebecca Kepilino who returned last year from a season ending injury the previous season to play in 22 contests at forward. The final player back is sophomore Stacie Gross who played limited minutes in a reserve forward role.
Adding to this year’s optimism is the return of two redshirt-seniors in Tasha Harris and Jessica (Thompson) Van Hoogen. Both are All-WAC honorees and have been voted Western Athletic Conference Preseason Players of the Year during their careers. After missing the 2008-09 campaign with injuries they are now healthy and ready to show why they have been considered one of the best back-court tandems in the conference, if not in the west.
Joining the seven experienced players on this year’s roster are six newcomers, one junior college transfer and five true freshmen. The transfer is Nicole Brady a 6-0 forward who earned honorable mention All-American honors at Salt Lake Community College as a sophomore last year. She is joined by freshmen Lauren Lenhardt a 6-2 forward (Eagle, Idaho), Julia Marshall a 5-9 guard (Wichita, Kan.), Taylor McGilbra a 5-9 guard (Houston, Texas), Kinzi Poteet a 6-2 forward (Grandview, Wash.), and Stephanie Storms a 5-5 guard (Alpharetta, Ga.). The talented class of newcomers will need to make an immediate contribution if the team is to be successful this year.
When the Broncos open play on Nov. 13 against Western Oregon University the team will rely heavily on the backcourt where they are the most experienced. The combination of three solid veterans returning and the arrival of three gifted freshmen make the guard positions deep in talent and athleticism. For a program that plays primarily a three guard offense this group will see plenty of game action and will be a major factor in the team’s success.
The relative unknown this year is going to be in the two post positions where the team has the least experience returning. However, the cupboard is not bare with the return of Bos, Kepilino, Gross and Rima who have decent collegiate experience. Unfortunately, none of the four are true centers with Gross and Rima being more small forwards than power posts.
That is where the newcomers come in to play, they bolster Boise State’s depth while giving the two positions more athleticism overall. Brady was solid at forward in junior college, while Lenhardt and Poteet where standouts at their respective high schools. All three have solid builds, talent and are not afraid of contact. The key for Boise State in the 2009-10 campaign will be how soon the seven can mold into a solid cohesive group to become a consistent scoring threat down low to alleviate some of the pressure from the guards in scoring points.
Since coach Presnell arrived at Boise State for the 2005-06 campaign four years ago he has turned the Broncos around. They have gone from traditional underdogs to perennial winners and challengers for the Western Athletic Conference crown. The ultimate key to success for this group in 2009-10 will be how soon the new and the old can mold into one united, active force. They have a good leadership core in the three seniors who are proven winners and a strong supporting cast of talented athletes. After stubbing their toes and overcoming adversity in 2008-09, this year’s Broncos are primed and ready to set the track straight in 2009-10 as they challenge for their third WAC title in four years.
Following Are Position Previews.....
The Post Positions...
Entering the new campaign the biggest questions have to deal with the relative unknown in what to expect from the post positions this year. The Broncos return the least overall experience at the power forward and center positions in an offense that plays primarily a three guard and two forward alignment. The post players who are back from last year are senior Rebecca Kepilino and junior Janie Bos. As a duo they combined for 53 game appearances and 31 starts, all the starts were by Bos. Of the two veterans back neither really fits the build of a true center and are more traditional power forwards. Joining Kepilino and Bos in the post are three talented newcomers in juco transfer Nicole Brady, and true freshmen Lauren Lenhardt and Kinzi Poteet.
Janie Bos is the favorite to start at the traditional center position this year. This is a role she is familiar with after moving from the starting power forward to the center last year where she played the majority of the season. As a sophomore, Bos averaged 6.9 points, a team-high 6.8 rebounds, and 1.1 assists on the year, in conference she bumped her numbers up to 8.4 points, a team-high 7.1 boards and 1.3 assists per game. The Ontario, Calif., native finished the year ranked fourth in the WAC for rebounding for all games and was third in league contests.
The most experienced player in the post for the Broncos is senior Rebecca Kepilino who has battled through injuries the last three seasons. The Costa Mesa, Calif., native was the favorite to start at forward the last two years but missed the 2007-08 campaign to recover from an injury. That same injury also forced her into a reserve role as a junior last season. However, Kepilino has played in 90 career games for the Broncos with 14 starts, averaging 5.7 points and 5.0 rebounds during her career. The senior is a solid, versatile athlete who has literally played every position on the floor at some point during her tenure. Now that Kepilino is healthy expect to see her figure into the battle for the starting role at power forward this season, as well as see time at the center and wing positions.
Junior college transfer Nicole Brady will figure into the mix a lot during her debut season for Boise State. The honorable mention NJCAA All-American in 2009 will more than likely battle Kepilino for the starting power forward role. She is an athletic and skill player who is comfortable pulling up for the jumper or driving to the basket. As a sophomore at Salt Lake Community College last year she scored 457 points and grabbed 239 rebounds to average 14.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Though she will play more of a power forward role this year expect to also see her at the center position as well.
Idaho native Lauren Lenhardt comes to Boise State after a standout senior year at Eagle High School in the Boise metro area last season. The Idaho All-State honoree will see most of her time her freshman year at the center position with additional stints at the power forward slot. The 6-2 post averaged 17.6 points, 10 rebounds, 4.6 blocks, and three assists in her final prep campaign in 2008-09.
Kinzi Poteet is the final post player on the Bronco roster. The 6-2 freshman is a tremendous athlete who was a three-sport standout at Grandview High School in central Washington, earning all-state honors in volleyball and basketball. She will more than likely split time between the center and power forward positions this year for the Broncos. The gifted post player set a school record for career points at GHS with 1,207 during her prep career while averaging 16.9 points and eight rebounds per game as a senior.
The Wing Position...
The wing position for Boise State is a critical aspect of the Broncos’ up tempo offense. It is a cross between the more traditional role of a small forward and that of a third guard. Filling this position will be primarily veteran players with junior Melissa Rima and sophomore Stacie Gross slotted as the favorites to fill this role in the starting lineup. However, several other players will also see time here as they split this role with their primary positions as well.
Melissa Rima is the preseason favorite at the wing after starting the final 10 games of 2008-09 in this role. The Fairbanks, Alaska, native has come along nicely for the Broncos and has developed into a solid player over the last two seasons for Boise State. The 6-2 small forward averaged 4.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game as a sophomore. She has a nice mid-range jumper and is a threat from the wing or inside. Rima will also see time at the power forward position in 2009-10.
Stacie Gross is a reshirt-sophomore from Caldwell, Idaho. Last season as a freshman she played a reserve forward/wing role. As a sophomore expect to see her time and role pickup as she has shown steady improvement during the offseason.
Other Broncos expected to see time in this role are all six guards, especially senior Jessica Van Hoogen. Kepilino and Brady will also move from their power forward roles into the wing at times.
The Guard Positions...
In the early portion of the season the two guard positions are expected to be the strength of this team. This area returns the most overall experience to the roster with two-redshirt seniors and one sophomore. Back for the Broncos are seniors Tasha Harris and Jessica (Thompson) Van Hoogen who both redshirted last year do to injuries. As juniors in 2007-08 they were the top guard tandem in the WAC and quite possibly on the west coast.
Joining the senior duo is talented sophomore Heather Pilcher, who is the only guard back who played the entire season in 2008-09. Between the trio they have a combined 219 games played and 187 starts. They will be joined by three athletic true freshmen in Julia Marshall, Taylor McGilbra and Stephanie Storms.
Tasha Harris has started every game (97) that she has ever played for Boise State at the point guard position, a role she is expected to fill again in 2009-10. The sixth-year senior played in the first three games of last year averaging 22 points a game before suffering a season-ending injury one minute into the second half of the third contest. The NCAA granted Harris a medical-hardship in May of 2009 clearing the way for her to return for her senior year. The Longmont, Colo., native’s honors are numerous and include 2008 All-WAC first team honors and 2008 WAC Preseason Player of the Year recognition. She has also recorded 1,267 career points to rank sixth on the all-time Boise State scoring list. Harris has averaged 13.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.5 steals in 28.3 minutes per game during her career.
Freshman Taylor McGilbra is slated to share time with Harris at the point guard position this year. The 5-9 Houston, Texas, native started for one of the top high school programs in the nation (Bellaire HS) averaging 15.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 8.7 assists and 3.9 steals per game as a senior last year. McGilbra possesses a combination of speed and skill that should propel her into an impact role this season as she splits time between the two guard positions.
Jessica Van Hoogen is a fifth-year senior that will most likely start at the two-guard position this winter. Like Harris, Van Hoogen’s honors are numerous and include being named All-WAC twice and the 2007 WAC Preseason Player of the Year. She redshirted last year while recovering from offseason surgery. The Temecula, Calif., native has played in 91 games during her career which includes 83 starts. In three seasons Van Hoogen has averaged 13.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.4 steals in 27.8 minutes per game. She is seventh all-time on the Bronco scoring charts with 1,209 career points. When not playing at the two-guard look to see her frequently at the wing position.
Heather Pilcher is one of two returners who played in every game last year, earning seven starts. She will see quality minutes at the two-guard this year, as well as, time at the point and wing positions. The athletic sophomore scored 280 points in 2008-09 while averaging 9.0 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Julia Marshall a true freshman from Wichita, Kan., was a two-time all-state first team honoree during her prep career. In addition to holding the school career points record with 1,330, she averaged 17.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 5.0 assists as a senior. Marshall is another talented freshman for the Broncos that should play a vital role on the floor splitting time between the two guard positions and the wing.
The final Bronco on the roster is Stephanie Storms from Alpharetta, Ga. The true freshman was a highly decorated player for South Forsyth High School where she was a two-time all-region and three-time all-county honoree. Storms ranks third in career points at SFHS with 1,052 and set the school single-season free throw percentage record as a junior hitting 84 percent from the line. As a senior she averaged 13 points, four rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 steals. Like the other two freshmen guards Storms should see quality minutes for the Broncos this year splitting time at both guard positions.
Last Thoughts on the Season...
Once again Boise State should figure into the Western Athletic Conference race. The Broncos are approaching the season with cautious optimism and confidence that they have the potential to be very good. The key to their success will be how fast they can build team unity and chemistry as the season progresses. It will take time for the new and the old to learn how to play together. Fortunately, Boise State has a solid, experienced core group in which to lean on as the team finds its way. At season’s end look for the Broncos to be one of the teams at the top of the conference standings.