No longer the new kids on the block, Boise State looks to challenge the WAC’s Elite in 2006-07.
Coach Presnell enters his second year at Boise State where he has been working hard to get his Broncos primed for a move up the WAC ladder in 2006-07. Boise State made an immediate improvement under the new coach’s leadership in his first season in 2005-06 going 15-15 overall, 6-10 in league action to place sixth, and advanced to the conference tournament’s semifinals. It was the first non-losing season for the Broncos in six seasons and the highest conference finish since the program joined the league for the 2001-02 campaign.
Boise State returns every impact player from last year’s squad including four starters, nine letterwinners, and a redshirt sophomore. Among the returners are the top five scorers and rebounders from a squad that scored the most points in eight years with 1,984 points for a 66.1 points per game average. In addition, the Broncos set a school record for team rebounds in a season with 1,252.
Offensively, Boise State’s 66.1 points per game was the fourth ranked scoring offense in the WAC last year. They ranked first in three-point field goal percentage hitting 33.8 percent of their chances from outside. The team was also third in rebounding offense recording 41.7 boards per game, they had placed dead last in rebounding each of the previous four years in the conference. Looking towards the future and the 2006-07 season, the Broncos return 90.5 percent of their points, 86.7 percent of the rebounds, 83.7 percent of the assists, and their entire scoring punch from outside the three-point arc. Boise State has led the league in three-point percentage in three of their first five seasons of membership including the last two years.
Defense was another area that the Broncos made major improvements in during 2005-06 compared to previous seasons. They were ranked tied for third in the WAC for scoring defense allowing 62.1 points per game, they had been in the lower half of the league their first four years in the conference. Boise State was also second for field goal percentage defense holding opponents to 37.3 percent shooting from the floor and tied for second in the league for rebounding defense giving up 38.3 boards per contest.
Leading the Broncos this year will be seniors Michelle Hessing, Nadia Begay, and Jackie Thompson. The trio started a combined 64 games last year for coach Presnell. Hessing and Jackie Thompson are two of the four full-time starters back along with junior Jackie Lee and sophomore Jessica Thompson, a 2006 WAC all-freshmen team honoree.
Individually on offense Boise State’s Jess Thompson, Begay, and Lee were part of history last year becoming the first trio in program history to average over 12 points per game. In addition to all three being ranked in the top 15 in the WAC for scoring, Begay became the third straight Bronco to lead the league in three-point field goal percentage hitting 39.8 percent and ranked 26th nationally for three-pointers made at 2.6 per game. Defensively, Hessing recorded 35 blocks as a junior to rank sixth in the WAC, as well as, sixth best all-time in program history.
In addition to the starters and Begay, three reserves and one redshirt sophomore return from last year. Junior Amanda Stewart, as well as, sophomores Rebecca Kepilino and Jenna Galassi all saw significant playing time in 2005-06 as reserves and should push for more time this season. Tasha Harris redshirted last year after starting at the point her freshman year in 2004-05 when she led the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game resulting in her being named to the 2005 WAC all-freshmen team. Add to the returning core of veterans, three talented freshmen in Bridgette Reyes, Ja'Lara Walker, and Kristen Zimel, and the Broncos have positioned themselves to make a run at the WAC’s upper echelon this season.
Next a Position-by-Position Preview of the 2006-07 Broncos...
Looking At THE GUARDS
Point Guards . . .
At the point position redshirt sophomore Tasha Harris and freshman Bridgette Reyes will see most of the minutes with senior Nadia Begay being the primary back-up for the duo.
Tasha Harris sat last season out do to injury. However, the Longmont, Colorado native started at the point as a freshman in 2004-05 when she recorded a team high 11.6 points per game, was second in rebounding and assists at 4.1 and 1.9 respectively, and was named to the WAC’s all-freshman team for her solid performance at the position. Harris is a smart player who has great ball handling and passing skills, in addition to being a solid shooter from any where on the floor. Forecast for Harris in 2006-07, she will be the favorite to start at point when the season begins.
Bridgette Reyes is a true freshman who was a three-year starter at the point for Woodbridge High School in Irvine, California. As a senior, she averaged 17.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 2.8 steals per game. She ranked 28th in the state and led her league in assists. She was a two-time Sea View Conference MVP and four-time all-league honoree. As a college freshman, Reyes has solid ball handling skills and good floor vision to run the Boise State offense, however, it will take time for her to adjust to the pace of NCAA DI college basketball. Forecast for Reyes in 2006-07, she will back-up Harris and Begay at the top this season as the three share responsibilities at the point.
Combo Guard . . .
Nadia Begay, a senior out of Kirtland, New Mexico, is Boise State’s combination guard and will play at both the point and shooting guard positions this year. She averaged 26.9 minutes per game last year playing primarily at the point in a reserve role. She is a natural scorer from the outside hitting 34.5 percent of her three-point shots in her career. Begay is coming off a season where she led the WAC in three-point percentage at 39.1 percent and ranked 26th nationally in three-pointers made per game at 2.6. The senior ranked second on the team and 11th in the WAC for scoring at 12.3 points per game, in addition, to averaging 2.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Forecast for Begay in 2006-07, the senior will battle Jessica Thompson for starts as the shooting-guard this year, as well as, back-up Harris at the point during games.
Shooting Guard . . .
Jessica Thompson is a true scoring threat from anywhere on the floor whether driving to the hoop or pulling up for a three-pointer. The sophomore from Temecula, California started at the point-guard position last season out of necessity, this year she will see time primarily as the two-guard. As a freshman last season, Thompson led the team and was ranked tied for ninth in the WAC for scoring at 12.7 points per game. She also averaged 4.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, a team high 2.3 steals, and 28.6 minutes per game to earn WAC all-freshman team honors last spring. Forecast for Thompson in 2006-07, the sophomore will compete head-to-head with Begay in an extremely tight competition to start at the shooting-guard this year.
The Guards in General . . .
The guards could be called the "new look Broncos" this year as the two positions will have a completely different appearance this season. Boise State returns only two players who competed primarily as guards last season in senior Nadia Begay and sophomore Jessica Thompson. They both are shooting guards who were forced to play more at the point last season due to injuries and lack of depth. This year they will move back to the two-guard with the return of Tasha Harris and the arrival of freshman Bridgette Reyes. All four guards are solid and capable of starting for the Broncos. Health will be the key for Boise State’s success this season with only four true guards on the roster. If the guards can stay fit and healthy, the foursome could prove to be one of the most talented groups of guards at Boise State in quite sometime.
A Look At The Forwards
Small Forwards . . .
Boise State has three athletes that will be the primary players at the three-position for the Broncos in junior Jackie Lee and sophomore Jenna Galassi, sophomore Rebecca Kepilino will see time on the wing as well.
Jackie Lee is the most experienced at the position where she started every game (30) last season. Lee is a quick, versatile, and agile athlete that is equally happy to drive to the hoop or pull up for a three-pointer. Last year, she averaged 12.2 points per game to rank 13th in the WAC, a team high 6.4 rebounds (10th in WAC), a Bronco best 2.8 assists, 1.5 three-pointers per game (5th in WAC). Forecast for Lee in 2006-07, she is the front runner to start at small forward this year.
Jenna Galassi is a sophomore out of Yorba Linda, California. As a freshman she played in all 30 games for the Broncos at the small forward and two guard positions. This season Galassi will see time primarily as a forward. Last year, she averaged 4.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 16.4 minutes per game. She is a solid ball handler with good passing skills that can either drive the key or dish the ball. Forecast for Galassi in 2006-07, she will see plenty of playing time primarily as a reserve small forward.
Combo Forward . . .
Rebecca Kepilino is perhaps the most versatile player on the roster with the ability to play every position. The sophomore from Costa Mesa, California will play most at the two forward positions. However, she is a capable ball handler and could fill in at the point from time-to-time. Kepilino is another player that can drive to the basket or pull up for a mid-range shot. As a freshman in 2005-06 she averaged 6.3 points, a team second best 5.3 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in 22.3 minutes per game. Forecast for Kepilino in 2006-07, the sophomore will see a lot of time on the hardwood at several positions and will push for a starting role at power forward.
Power Forwards . . .
Besides Kepilino, there are two others that will battle for time at power forward as well.
Senior Jackie Thompson started at the position in 26-of-30 games last season. She is a strong and aggressive player that is a good rebounder with the ability to touched the rim. If she had a weakness as a junior it was scoring. As a senior, she will need to pick-up her scoring ability and become a threat that defenses cannot afford to ignore. Last year Jackie averaged 2.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in 16.1 minutes per game. Forecast for Thompson in 2006-07, she will be in the thick of the battle to start at power forward, regardless expect to see a lot of this athletic senior on the hardwood.
The second Bronco that could challenge for playing time at power forward is freshman Kristen Zimel. The Oregon City, Oregon native has been recovering from an injury suffered last Spring. If healthy, she will be an impact player for Boise State. Zimel was a four-year starter at forward for one of the top high school programs in the country where she was a two-time all-state and three-time all-conference honoree. As a senior she averaged 14.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 1.9 blocks per game. Forecast for Zimel in 2006-07, she will see quality minutes at power forward if healthy, mostly likely in a reserve role.
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 returns from last year with all four returners seeing quality minutes in 2005-06. All five forwards are talented and capable of starting if they stay healthy.
A Look At The Centers
Centers . . .
The Broncos return two veterans at the center position in senior Michelle Hessing and junior Amanda Stewart. They are joined by Ja'Lara Walker a 6-4 true freshman.
Michelle Hessing has been a two-year starter at center for Boise State. She is a solid experienced post player that has an excellent shooting touch. As a junior she picked up her defensive skills recording 35 blocks and 157 rebounds. Hessing averaged 8.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in 25.7 minutes per game last year. Forecast for Hessing in 2006-07, Hessing will start at center for a third year in a row.
Amanda Stewart is an experienced post who has seen solid minutes. She has played a reserve role the first two years but has shown improvement over the summer which could lead to more time on the court this season. Stewart averaged 1.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in 8.8 minutes per game as a sophomore last season. Forecast for Stewart in 2006-07, the junior from Marsing, Idaho will have a hard time replacing Hessing at center but should see more time this year.
The third center on the roster is Ja'Lara Walker who could end up being one of the best centers ever in program history when she’s finished at Boise State. However, the 6-4 freshman from Merced, California is still recovering from an injury that caused her to miss her senior season of high school. Prior to her injury she averaged 17.6 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 4.6 blocks per game as a junior. Walker has been cleared to play this season and will be on the hardwood for the Broncos. She has a solid build and is extremely athletic for her size. Once healthy she will be a force to reckon with in the WAC. Forecast for Walker in 2006-07, she will initially see limited time as she regains her strength and fitness, but will play quality minutes in a back-up role as the season progresses.
The Centers In General . . .
The trio of centers has great potential this year. There is solid experience in Hessing and Stewart, and good size and athleticism across the board. All three have the potential to light up opponents if given the chance. Last season there was not a lot of scoring from this position, but in 2006-07 that could be the biggest change on the court for Boise State.
One Final Thought On The Broncos . . .
The Broncos potential for success this season is exceptional. They return four starters and four reserves from last year’s squad. Add to the returning core of veterans, one redshirt sophomore and three talented freshmen and the Broncos have positioned themselves to make a run at the WAC’s upper echelon this season.