Women’s basketball team’s success will ride on Legette-Jack
Published: Sunday, November 3, 2013
Updated: Sunday, November 3, 2013 16:11
Women’s basketball head coach Felisha Legette-Jack grabbed the microphone and spoke about the “transformation” of UB basketball after she was introduced at the Bulls’ preseason pep rally last week. And she was 100 percent correct. Neither the men’s nor women’s program is where it was 12 months ago.
They are far better (we think).
The women’s squad lost its season-opening exhibition by 10 points last year. This season, the Bulls won by 44 points. All signs point toward success, but much of this will be dictated by Legette-Jack.
A .500 Mid-American Conference record last season was cause for celebration. The same finish won’t result in similar jubilation in 2013-14. The Bulls should be among the best in the league all season and in the running for a MAC Championship in March.
Buffalo opened 1-9 last year. Its lone win was by two points and the first six losses were by double digits. It wasn’t shocking – with a young squad and a new coach still learning her players – but 1-9 is almost as bad as it gets.
The Bulls recovered, however, and finished the season four points away from a MAC Tournament semifinals appearance.
This year’s team has the talent at all ages and positions. It has upperclassmen, with seniors Margeaux Gupilan and Cherridy Thornton, and juniors Kristen Sharkey, Sloane Walton and Christa Baccas.
Sophomores Mackenzie Loesing and Rachael Gregory are arguably the two best players on the team and freshman forward Alexus Malone has impressed Legette-Jack enough to earn a start in the team’s two exhibitions.
Legette-Jack has told me this team can go “14 deep” and every player can contribute on the floor. In theory, this sounds great, but it could also lead to problems.
As head coach, it is her responsibility to make sure the right players are in at the right moments. At the same time, every player on the team must accept her role.
With that said, it’s often easier to have 7-8 players who separate themselves from the team, making managing the rotation a simpler task. Right now, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Loesing was a preseason All-MAC selection and should be a 30-minute-a-night player. The questions lie among the rest of the team.
If a shooter has an off night, does Legette-Jack keep her in the game, or sit her because she believes the next girl off the bench can do better? Then, how does that player react to the benching? How does a particular lineup gain chemistry?
The Bulls will start the season without Gregory, who is recovering from an ACL injury. When she returns, it will be interesting to see how Legette-Jack uses her. Last season, Gregory proved she has a ton of talent and plays with an incredible motor, but if the team’s winning, there’s always the possibility of this change disturbing some ‘mojo.’
Legette-Jack looks at herself as a mother to her players. She often has them over to her home and they watch movies, read books or discuss personal problems. If anyone can handle balancing the egos of the players, I believe it is Legette-Jack. But we won’t know for sure until that moment comes.
And it will come.
The Bulls are predicted to come in third place in the MAC East, as voted by the league. A third-place finish is strong, but the team’s hopes are higher.
Buffalo had its share of troubles last season, but the Bulls weren’t competing for a championship. They were always building toward something bigger.
Well, that something-bigger day is here. By no means is this Buffalo’s last opportunity to compete for a championship, but it is its first chance in a very long time.
Some teams and coaches love the new pressure. Others fade. How will this team handle the expectations?
It all stems from Legette-Jack. She is the most important part. She shows her team Remember the Titans before every season. She loves the messages in there for her team.
The movie is about a team coming together as one, not just the players, but the coaches, as well. Coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) and coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) do a tremendous job of helping the players come together.
The Titans transformed into champions. This Bulls team has the potential to do the same, but just like in the film, it will start with the coaching.