UB Women’s basketball rides close-knit family atmosphere to second straight MAC title
“Win the day.”
That is the motto UB women’s basketball coach Felisha Legette-Jack preaches to her players. Jack coaches with an intensity that can bring out the best and worst in her players but her players must come together as a unit to “win the day,” whether it be in practice or a game.
For Jack, every game is an ensemble affair. She uses more players in her rotation than most teams and everyone must play their part. She demands chemistry from her players and hopes to build a family atmosphere. This year, Buffalo hopes to ride its depth and chemistry to a second consecutive Mid-American Conference Championship.
“That's who we are, it is all in the same breath,” Jack said. “I don’t want to see just one person or two people making an impact, I want to go 14 deep. I think everybody brings something to the game… that is why they are all ‘valued’ and I never put one above the other.”
Jack relies heavily on her bench. In her pressure-filled, attack defense, she requires fresh legs and high effort from everyone. She says basketball is a microcosm of life and she brings her players together and makes them a more cohesive unit by working with her players on and off the floor.
“Coach Jack has done a terrific job of bettering me as a person first, then as a player,” said senior point guard JoAnna Smith. “Things I have learned on being a better person, taking pride in my academics for one.”
Smith was the Bulls’ top scorer last season and plays a leadership role. She recalls many times the team has gotten together on and off the court to eat or watch other games. They have a closeness that Smith attributes to their trust on the court.
“We are a very family based team, all 13 of my teammates are like sisters,” Smith said. “They are like my family away from my family. I think our players have all come together as a family.”
In practice, the Bulls are always running team drills. Never is there a player alone or a duo practicing. Jack has all the Bulls almost always together.
Even with the season just starting, she sees each player in a clear role. The starters are no exception and they each have a clear responsibility that Jack expects.
“You got a general in Stephanie [Reid], great shooter in Jo, beast on the block with Cassie [Oursler], you know Katherine [Ups] is going to be amazing because she will shoot the ball defend the ball and dive after it,” Jack said. “And Brittany [Morrison] is going to be monster strong on the boards.”
Value is something Jack feels the MAC is robbed of. She sees many excellent programs within the conference that pose a threat to the Bulls, yet receive little recognition.
“I think we don’t get enough respect throughout the nation. I think Toledo does a great job, Central Michigan is unbelievable… There is no real Notre Dame's, Dukes, or names in this conference. It is just any given day, any team can get beat,” Jack said.
MAC teams do not bother Jack at the moment, as she is focused on one game at a time. That means she’s making sure the team reaches its goals defensively and offensively.
Coach Jack likes the Bulls to run a high-scoring offense through an all-out scheme. Other times, she will look for offensive rebounds by playing a 3-2 scheme. A variety of schemes is something Jack stressed in her coaching. Offense isn’t a number one priority for Jack; she needs her team to play with a togetherness and passion on defense.
“Offense always can fail you, what can sustain you is defense,” Jack said. “I am really confident we can play defense for 40 minutes all season long.”
As the season progresses, the Bulls will look to grow into the team Jack sees them becoming. And to Jack, that is one cohesive unit where everybody has a part to play. If one person fails to do so, the whole tower will come crashing down.
Thomas Zafonte is a sports staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com