The defending WAC champions aim to show they are for real.
2007-08 Boise State Preview . . .
Coach Presnell enters his third year at Boise State where he has led a major renovation of the program. He took over a team in the spring of 2005 that had not experienced a winning season in the previous seven years. In his first two seasons the team has not had a losing record as Presnell and his staff turned them into champions winning the 2007 Western Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles, culminating with the school’s second ever bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Even after last year’s success, there were some within the league that questioned the Broncos’ success and whether they can maintain it over time. In 2007-08 the Broncos’ aim is to prove the nay sayers wrong and show that Boise State’s women’s basketball team is for real and will contend for another title.
However, Boise State will have several challenges awaiting them as they enter their seventh season in the WAC. First they will have to replace three key contributors from last season. Gone are Michelle Hessing, a four-year starter at center, Jackie Thompson, two-year starter at power forward, and Nadia Begay, one of the most prolific three-point shooters in program history.
The Broncos will need to overcome the questions that the loss of Hessing and Thompson present down low. Who will fill the dominant presence that the two had in the paint for Boise State. In addition, Begay will be a big loss from outside. If that was not enough, Boise State will have a big bulls-eye painted on their jerseys this year as the defending WAC champions and the conference’s coaches’ preseason favorites to repeat.
Leading the way this season is the core of last year’s championship squad including seven letterwinners, three starters, and a fourth who started in 13 games. Among the returners are three of the top five scorers and rebounders from a squad that set school single season records for points with 2,275 and rebounds with 1,330. Boise State’s numbers were also bolstered during the off season with the addition of eight new players. Unfortunately, three will need to redshirt do to injuries or NCAA transfer rules.
Offensively in 2007-08, Boise State returns 66 percent of the points scored from last year’s top WAC scoring offense. They also return 67.9 percent of the assists.
The Broncos have been one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league since joining the WAC in 2001. This season should be no different as they return a large portion, 60 percent, of the three-pointers made last year. Boise State led the conference in total three-point field goals made with 168 and ranked second in average per game at 5.1 during 2006-07. They ranked first during league games for three-point percentage hitting 32.7 percent.
In 2007-08 Boise State returns 72.5 percent of their rebounds. Last year on the boards Boise State set a school record for the second consecutive year with 1,330. They ranked fourth in rebound average at 40.3 boards per game and second in offensive rebounds with a 15.3 per game average.
On the other side of the court Boise State is coming off one of their best defensive efforts in recent history. Not only did the Broncos have the top scoring offense they countered with the best scoring defense in the WAC holding teams to 61 points a game.
In league games they ranked first in three-point defense, holding opponents to 25.2 percent. In addition on defense, Boise State returns 59.8 percent of their blocked shots and 75.9 percent of their steals.
Personnel wise, the Broncos have solid talent and experience back from last season. The group of veterans include two seniors in Jackie Lee at small forward and Amanda Stewart at center. They are joined by four juniors which include the WAC’s 2007 Preseason Player of the Year in Jessica Thompson, who also earned first team honors. Tasha Harris was named to the Preseason All-WAC second team, while Jenna Galassi and Rebecca Kepilino round out an extremely strong junior class. Thompson and Harris are guards while Galassi and Kepilino are primarily forwards, but can play a variety of positions. The lone underclassman back from last year is sophomore Ja’Lara Walker at center.
Joining the Broncos on the court this season are two 2007 junior college honorable mention All-American guards Jamia Malone and Brittany Moore. Three freshmen forwards will also see time on the hardwood this year in Melissa Rima, Sierra Moeller, and Ainsleigh Sanders. Rima and Moeller will be available immediately while Sanders eligibility is reviewed by the NCAA, a decision on this year should be known by late November.
The other newcomers will sit out the 2007-08 campaign for various reasons. Freshman Stacie Gross from Caldwell, Idaho will redshirt as she recovers from an injury experienced during her senior year of high school. Sophomore posts Marisa Stotler from Washington State and Janie Bos from Portland State will sit out because of NCAA transfer rules.
Overall the Broncos should have a solid group on the court this year as they defend their titles. They definitely have set a good foundation for the next couple of seasons with the talented youth and transfers that arrived on campus this fall.
A Position-By-Position Look At The 2007-08 Broncos...
Looking At The Guards
Point Guards . . .
At the point position junior Tasha Harris and transfer Jamia Malone will see most of the minutes out top.
Tasha Harris returned to the lineup last season following a redshirt season and helped lead the Broncos to the WAC title in 2007. The 2007 WAC Preseason Second Team honoree has started every game she has played in to date (62). During that time span she has averaged 11 points points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. Harris has a decent outside shot hitting 64 of 195 attempts from beyond the arc for a 32.8 percent average. The junior is a smart player who is a threat on the dribble-drive or from outside. Her experience and ball handling skills will be looked to for floor leadership
Jamia Malone brings a lot of talent, speed, and the ability to score to Boise State. The JUCO transfer scored 999 points in her two seasons at Tyler Community College in Texas where she was a two-time all-conference and all-region player. Malone adds sound depth at the point position where she will be a scoring threat whether driving to the hoop or pulling up for the jump shot. Look to see her on the court often and battling Harris for starting time this year.
Shooting Guard . . .
Jessica Thompson is the WAC Preseason Player of the Year and was first team All-WAC last winter. She has led Boise State in scoring the last two years and is a true scoring threat from anywhere on the floor. The junior has scored 779 points in two seasons for a 13.2 points per game average to go with 3.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 2.3 steals. She is the early favorite to start at shooting guard.
Brittany Moore transferred from the College of Southern Idaho where she was a two-time all-region honoree and junior college honorable mention All-American last season as a two-guard. She led her region in three-point shooting throughout her career at CSI. Moore was recruited because she is a legit threat from long range and should fill the gap left by Begay’s loss. Look for Moore, who scored 711 points at CSI, to push Thompson daily for game time and possibly a starting role.
The Guards in General . . .
The guards will by the strength of this team initially until to post settle into their roles. This foursome could be the best group in the WAC this season as all four are legitimate scoring threats and have solid ball handling skills. All four have recorded 685 points or more in their first two seasons of collegiate ball. Much like last year, health will be the key for Boise State’s success this season with only four true guards on the roster. If they can stay fit and healthy, this group could prove to be a intimidating challenge for opponents this season as the Broncos defend their conference title.
A Look At The Forwards
Small Forwards . . .
Boise State has three athletes that will be the primary players at the three-position or small forward, senior Jackie Lee, junior Jenna Galassi, and freshman Sierra Moeller.
Jackie Lee is the most experienced at the position where she started 63 of her 89 games played. Lee is a quick, versatile, and agile athlete that is equally happy to drive to the hoop or pull up for a three-pointer. She has scored 710 points and pulled down 430 rebounds in her career. Forecast for Lee in 2007-08: she is the front runner to start at small forward again this year.
Jenna Galassi is a junior out of Yorba Linda, Calif. She earned 13 starts between the power forward and two guard last season but is a more natural small forward. To date she has recorded 274 points and 161 rebounds in primarily a back role. She is a solid ball handler with good passing skills that can either drive the key or dish the ball. Forecast for Galassi in 2007-08, she will see plenty of playing time and will challenge for the starting role at small forward.
Sierra Moeller is a freshman from Pierre, South Dakota where she was an all-state honoree as a senior. She averaged 12 points and five rebounds in her final prep season. She is a solid rebounder and has good touch on her shots. Forecast for Moeller in 2007-08: she will come in off the bench in a supporting role primarily at small forward as she adjusts to the collegiate game.
Freshman Stacie Gross would fall under this category as a small forward but will redshirt the 2007-08 season.
Power Forwards . . .
Rebecca Kepilino is perhaps the most versatile player on the roster having played every position in her first two seasons. This year the junior from Costa Mesa, Calif. will play primarily at the power forward where she is the favorite to start. Kepilino is another player that can drive to the basket or pull up for a mid-range shot. Kepilino has scored 439 points to go with 359 rebounds in two seasons. She led the team on the boards as a sophomore with a 6.1 per game average last year.
Besides Kepilino, there are four others that are listed as power forwards. However, Marisa Stotler and Janie Boss will both redshirt this season, leaving two freshmen to compete for time at power forward.
Initially, Melissa Rima will be the primarily competitor for playing time at power forward. The Fairbanks, Alaska native is talented enough to push Kepilino for playing time and possibly some starts. She was a four-time all-state honoree in high school and averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds in her final prep season. Look for Rima to come off the bench as a power forward while she adapts to the college game.
The second Bronco who could challenge for playing time at power forward is freshman Ainsleigh Sanders. The Australian will not play until January at the earliest as she waits to hear from the NCAA about her eligibility. The Bronco coaching staff is hoping that the strong and talented post player will be allowed to play once conference season begins. She has the presence and size that could replace the dominant presence that Jackie Thompson presented at post for Boise State the last two seasons. Sanders would be a viable alternative at center as well if needed.
The Forwards in General . . .
Boise State has a solid group of forwards who possess the athletic ability to get up and down the floor in the Broncos’ up tempo offense. The core of this group is relatively new but there are returners providing leadership as this groups settles in to their roles. Initially, the power forwards will be a question mark until they get some playing experience
A Look At The Centers
Centers . . .
The Broncos return two veterans at the center position in senior Amanda Stewart and sophomore Ja’Lara Walker. The duo will be challenged to fill the void left by Michelle Hessing’s graduation.
Amanda Stewart is an experienced post who has seen solid minutes. She has played a reserve role the first three years but is the favorite to start for the 2007-08 season. Stewart who has been a decent defender will need to look more for her shot as the starter. She has averaged 2.3 points and 2.4 rebounds in her career. Forecast for Stewart in 2007-08: the senior from Marsing, Idaho will replace Hessing as the starting center but could be pushed by Walker for that role.
The second center on the roster is Ja’Lara Walker. The 6-4 sophomore from Merced, Calif. played sparingly early last year as she recovered from an injury. Walker’s time did increase as the season progressed giving her solid experience to build on. She has a strong build and is extremely athletic for her size. If healthy, she will be a force to reckon with in the WAC. Forecast for Walker in 2007-08: she will initially see time in a reserve role as she regains her strength and fitness, but should see quality minutes.
The Centers In General . . .
The biggest question entering this season is at the center position. The duo has great potential but will take some time to become a viable threat in the league. There is solid experience, good size and athleticism across the board. Both have the potential to make an impact this season.
One Final Thought On The Broncos . . .
The Broncos have the talent to challenge for the league title once again. They return three starters and four key reserves from last year’s WAC championship squad. Add to the returning core of veterans, two talented JC guards and three quality freshmen and the Broncos should be a force again in 2007-08.