Mountain West Era Begins: Season Preview
A New Chapter Starts
The 2011-12 season marks the opening of a new chapter for Boise State who has moved into the Mountain West ending a 10 year affiliation with the Western Athletic Conference. The Broncos are now in a league with seven unfamiliar faces as they join the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado State University, San Diego State University, TCU, University of New Mexico, University of Wyoming and UNLV as members of the MW. The change will pose a new challenge for Boise State as the league adds more height and physicalness top to bottom than the Broncos have faced previously.
They will have something to prove to their new rivals as Boise State was picked eighth in the Mountain West preseason poll. Fortunately, the Broncos have alot of experience on their roster as they prepare to face their newest challenge heading into a new league with unfamiliar teams and arenas.
What's Back for 2011-12
Boise State will open the new campaign with seven returning letterwinners including four starters from last year's 12-19 squad. Among those back are three of the top-four scorers, including the top-two, from a year ago that accounted for 47 percent of the team's offensive output.
While the coaches lost four players from the 2010-11 roster, the bulk of the Broncos' impact players return including three redshirts. In all, eight of the returning players for the Broncos have started at least once during their careers, including Julia Marshall who redshirted in 2010-11.
Who's Back in the Post
Lauren Lenhardt was second on the team in scoring and rebounding last year at 12.2 points and 5.7 boards per game as a sophomore. She ranked fourth in the WAC for free throw percentage at 83.7 (82-98), seventh in rebounding and 13th in scoring. The 6-2 junior forward/center started 27 of 29 games last season and is expected to start again this year at either of the two post positions.
Joining Lenhardt in the post will be junior Kinzi Poteet who has played in 62 games during her career and had six starts as a sophomore. The 6-0 forward is one of the most athletic players on the team averaging 3.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 16 minutes per game as a sophomore. The coaches used her more as a role player the first two seasons, but will look to her to step up her production and become an impact this season as one of two post players returning to the squad.
The pair will be joined by redshirt-junior Mandy Munns a transfer from the University of Utah who sat out last season due to NCAA rules. The 6-2 center could start next to Lenhardt as the Broncos look to go big in the post. Munns, who played in 33 games for the Utes, has a solid build and does not shy away from contact.
Who's Back on the Wing
The Broncos return Heather Pilcher who started at the position 22 times in 2010-11 averaging 4.7 points and 3.2 rebounds with a team-high 41 steals. The athletic senior has played in 93 contests with 37 starts throughout the first three years. Pilcher is the only senior to play all four years for Boise State and is a combination wing/two-guard. She will need to play a major role this season if the Broncos are to be successful.
Redshirt senior Nicole Brady is a 6-0 combination wing/power forward who played in all 31 games with one start during her first campaign as a Bronco last year averaging 4.9 points and 2.1 rebounds as a junior. Due to lack of numbers in the post, Brady will see quality time at forward this season as well as at the wing.
The third Bronco that will figure into the wing position is redshirt sophomore Julia Marshall. The native of Wichita, Kan., was a starter last year until suffering a season ending injury early into the campaign. Marshall has started 24 of 39 games played and is one of the better 3-point shooters for Boise State hitting .324 percent of her shots from beyond the arc. The 5-9 guard/wing has averaged 6.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game in her career will also see time at the two-guard position.
Who's Back in the Front Court
Boise State returns the most depth and experience at the guard positions from last year's team with both starters back, as well as a key reserve. All three were first year players for the Broncos which led to some inconsistency in 2010-11 as they settled into their roles.
Leading the group is shooting-guard Kati Isham, a senior from Howe, Idaho, who was the only Bronco to start all 31 games last season during the junior college transfer's first campaign with Boise State. As a junior, the 5-8 guard led the team in scoring at 12.7 points per game which ranked 10th in the WAC for scoring. She also led the team from beyond the arc hitting 70-of-189 attempts or 37 percent from downtown to rank fourth in the conference and 73rd nationally in 3-point percentage. The staff will be looking to Isham to provide the on floor leadership this season.
For the first time in five years the Broncos were extremely young at the point guard position in 2010-11 with two true freshmen to lead the team's offensive attack. Diana Lee started 28 of 31 games at the point for Boise State averaging 6.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 24.5 minutes per game. As a freshman, she did a solid job handling the ball ranking fourth in the WAC for assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.45 and eighth in assists. The sophomore from North Vancouver, British Columbia, spent the summer garnering quality experience with the Canadian National U19 team that went 8-1 at the World Championship in Chile. With one year under her belt and this summer's international experience, the coaches are looking for Lee to take another step forward in leading the team from the point.
Challenging Lee for the starter role at point guard will be classmate Cinnamon Lister who spent the summer in Boise training with her teammates. Last year the Corona, Calif., native played in 30 games with one start averaging 3.4 points, 1.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 17.1 minutes per game. Lister possesses good speed and ball handling skills with a decent shot which allows her to play at both guard positions.
Coach Presnell and his staff added a talented freshmen class of four for the 2011-12 campaign. The group will improve the depth and athleticism of this year's squad.
Keiahnna Engel comes to Boise from Anchorage, Alaska, where she was a two-time state player of the year at Dimond High School. The athletic 5-8 freshman guard is expected to play primarily in a reserve role at the wing but could play point if needed. Engel averaged 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists her last two years of high school ball.
Riley Holsinger is from Spokane, Wash., where she was all-state as a senior and a two-time all-conference honoree averaging 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists during her junior and senior prep campaigns. The 5-9 guard will slide into the rotation at wing this season.
Amber Vandiver is a 6-2 freshman post out of Boise's Capital High School where she earned all-state and all-conference honors as a senior. She averaged 12 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 2.4 blocks as a senior. Vandiver is projected to play in a reserve role but will see quality minutes as a freshman. Vandiver has a big upside in potential coming from an athletic family where her father Shaun played in the NBA and is currently a collegiate head coach at Emporia State, while her older sister was a four-year letterwinner for the University of Wyoming.
The fourth member of the recruiting class is Lexie Der out of Burnaby, British Columbia. Der will sit out the season while recovering from an injury suffered last winter in high school. Her absence could be felt this year as she was expected to battle for the starters role at the wing position before her injury. She is another talented Canadian who has figured into national team selection over the last three years.
New Locker Room Facility
Boise State opened a brand new state of the art locker room facility for both basketball teams this fall which features locker rooms, meeting room with theatre style seating, lounge with large screen flat-panel television and pool table, kitchen and study room with wireless internet. Players have 24 hour access to the facility which along with the arena is among the best collegiate basketball complexes in the west.
What Else is New
In addition to four new players there is a new face among the coaching staff as well. Ben Finkbeiner joined the staff this summer bringing five years of coaching experience at various collegiate levels ranging from NCAA division I to junior college. He will focus on recruiting and on floor coaching.
The Broncos on Television
The change in conference means an increase in visibility for the program as the Mountain West has its own television network, the Mountain West Sports Network (The Mtn.). In addition, the league has arrangements with CBS Sports and Versus. This season for the first time the Broncos will be featured on five nationally televised games all on The Mtn. They include the home contests against Syracuse (Nov. 29), Colorado State (Jan. 17) and Air Force (Feb. 11), as well as road games at Colorado State (Feb. 14) and at TCU (Feb. 18).
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