Women hoopsters looking hopeful

Potential.

No word might better describe the 2002-2003 University of Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball team.

“It’s too early to tell how good we can be but we definitely have good potential,” head coach Brandi Dunigan said. “We’ve got good talent. It’s going to depend on how well they mold together as a unit.”

Last year, with a roster depleted by defections and injuries, the Seawolves struggled to a 5-22 record. With only nine players on the roster, Dunigan or an assistant sometimes had to practice with the team so they could scrimmage.

“We’re going to be a lot better,” Dunigan said. “Having enough players to practice makes life a lot easier.”

Following last year’s disheartening campaign, Dunigan and her staff recruited hard and have brought in seven new players to complement the six returnees. With only one senior, experience would normally be an issue, but the majority of the recruits come from the junior college ranks.

“With junior college players you get immediate experience,” Dunigan said. “They have all come from solid programs, so there is a winning attitude.”

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Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the Seawolves:

 

GUARDS

At point guard, Dunigan has the advantage of three players competing for minutes.

Sophomore Jessica Reilly started 23 games last year and gained valuable on-court experience. Reilly, voted a captain, is a persistent defender who possesses quickness and good ball-handling. The former walk-on from Kenai is defensive minded but has not neglected the offensive end of the floor.

“Jessi’s strength is her defensive quickness,” Dunigan said. “But she has also worked hard on her shot.”

Transfer Nicky Bean, while a newcomer, will be the teams’ lone senior. Bean, a Colony grad, returns to Alaska after stops at schools in Iowa and Alabama. The coaching staff hopes the diminutive Bean will provide a spark offensively for the Seawolves.

“Nicky is a good passer, has great vision and can also shoot the ball,” Dunigan said.

Junior Sarah Larrabee is back on the court after two seasons battling knee injuries. The Dimond alum, like Reilly, was voted a team captain and brings a well-rounded game to the point position.

“Sarah is a mix of Jessi and Nicky,” Dunigan said. “She shoots well, understands the game and has good hands defensively.”

Junior Tanya Nizich returns at the shooting guard position after averaging 9.3 points last year. The Juneau native is the Seawolves’ top perimeter threat but Dunigan expects even more from the 5-foot-8-inch guard.

“Tanya was one of our better scorers last year and I look for her to continue it this year,” Dunigan said. “She is our top three-point threat but she has also improved her passing. If you’ve got a player that is a threat to shoot or pass it makes everyone stronger.”

Kamie Jo Massey, a junior transfer, arrives in Anchorage with high expectations after averaging 12.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.2 steals for Snow (Utah) Junior College. The 5-foot-9-inch Massey may have UAA fans doing a double take when she takes the court. Massey is the younger sister of former Seawolf star Tiffany Massey.

“Kamie Jo is an instinctive player, especially defensively and rebounding,” Dunigan said.

Walk-on Sara Brooks provides depth in the backcourt. The freshman from Homer was discovered playing intramurals last year.

 

FORWARDS

Sophomore Jen Stoddard, the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder, was a bright spot for the coaching staff last season. The 5-foot-11-inch small forward played out of position at times but still managed to average 10 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest as a rookie.

“Jen has a natural knack for the game,” Dunigan said.

Amber Nasby, a sophomore forward, will look to improve on her averages of 3.9 points and 3.4 boards a game. The long-armed 5-foot-11-inch wing will be an asset defensively while also being a threat to put the ball on the floor on the offensive end.

Freshman Kelsey Larsen arrives with less fanfare than the junior college transfers but has the coaching staff excited. The 6-footer from Washington will push for playing time on the wing.

Sophomore Lindsay Behrends will again do the dirty work for UAA. The 6 foot power forward led the Seawolves in blocked shots a year ago, while grabbing 3.2 rebounds a game.

Junior transfer Mindy Mendenhall will give the Seawolves an added depth in the interior. Mendenhall averaged 10 points and five rebounds while playing with Massey last year at Snow.

“Mindy is physically strong and aggressive,” Dunigan said. “When she’s on the court, she’s all business.”

 

CENTERS

Patrolling the middle for UAA will be a pair of 6-foot-2-inch transfers from the Midwest in Sarah Kemper and Mary Aschoff.

Kemper comes to UAA after two all-conference seasons at North Dakota State College of Science. Meanwhile, Aschoff averaged eight points and four boards on a 25-6 Northeast Nebraska Community College squad.

“They’re both 6-2 but they play different styles,” Dunigan said. “Kemper is really physical, likes playing with her back to the basket and has a nice scoring ability.”

“Mary is comfortable inside but might be more comfortable at the high post,” she added. “She has long strides, which makes her mobile for a player her size.”