Just because the only battles in the NBA we will hear about for the foreseeable future will take place in meeting rooms doesn’t mean that basketball will be absent from the fall schedule. The regular season for Salt Lake Community College women’s basketball begins Friday, November 4th as the Lady Bruins take part in a tournament on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City. Head coach Betsy Specketer is entering her 16th year as head coach at SLCC. She led the 2009 team to a record of 25-5 and the 2010 squad to a remarkable 24-6 record.
Saturday, November 5 will see SLCC match up against Central Arizona, a perennial powerhouse that will open the season ranked fifth in the country.
“It’ll be a good test for us,” Specketer said. “I’m excited about it.”
One of the first items of business for Specketer this season will be to adjust to life after Haley Holmstead, one of the greatest players to ever play at SLCC. Last year Holmstead was the team’s go-to player when it came to scoring and leadership. She averaged 24 points per game while directing the offense in such a way that teammates could rely on her when the game was on the line. This year, as the team has a relatively new roster, minus Holmstead, the scoring responsibilities will be harder to establish.
“I think it’s really hard to replace a player like Haley,” Specketer said. “I don’t think anybody’s going match her in terms of scoring production.”
Although the team is without the consistent scoring ability seen from Holmstead, the roster is packed with talent in many different areas. Of the 14 players on the roster, four of them are returning sophomores. Katie Walker and Nicole Newbold are the team captains.
“The sophomores are great leaders [to this team],” Specketer said. “They’ve been a great example on the floor.”
As a coach, Specketer certainly expects a variety of contribution from her players, not just in the area of scoring the basketball.
“We’re a lot more balanced [this year],” she commented. “We’re gonna be a little more athletic than what people have seen in the past. We’re able to get out and run a little bit more, we’re a little quicker, we’re a little faster in transition.”
In previous years, it was noted that Specketer’s teams executed the half-court offense well, using the clock effectively to get good shots. Because of the team’s balance in athletic capability this season, Specketer plans to see variety in her team’s style of play.
“I think we’ll get to the rim a little bit more,” she said. “We’ll score in transition more. It’ll be a different look.”
Having been a coach for so long, Specketer realizes the truthfulness of the old adage that defense wins championships and she’s excited to see how her team plays on that side of the floor.
“They (this year’s group) show a lot more commitment on the defensive end,” Specketer said. “Defense is going to be a huge factor, as well as rebounding.”
A primary responsibility as a head coach is to make sure that the team continues to get better, develop and improve in all areas. With so many years under her belt, Specketer realizes that this is her biggest responsibility.
“We need to make sure that this team reaches its potential,” Specketer said.
It is because of this that she wants their commitment to the team.
“I want them to dedicate [themselves] to getting better. I think they’re mature enough to understand that,” she said.
Although there is much work to be done, Specketer is aware of the talent her team has and is confident in their plans to continue a winning tradition. The ultimate goal for the team is to get to the national tournament and win it.
“As a whole, this program is used to winning,” Specketer said. “I don’t think that’s gonna change. We expect to win.”
Despite the loss of depth from last year, overall, Specketer has confidence in this year’s new-look team.
“I think the chemistry’s really good,” she said. “We’re off to a good start.”
This year, the women’s basketball team will play 28 games throughout the regular season, while the regional tournament is the first weekend in March. To SLCC’s advantage, they will host this tournament. In order for SLCC to go to nationals, they have to win in the region tournament. The team is definitely looking forward to this opportunity.
Last year, the men’s basketball team at SLCC finished with a 25-8 record under the leadership of former head coach, the legendary Norm Parrish. With Parrish having left for the University of Utah, Todd Phillips will be taking over the head spot in an interim role. An assistant under Parrish for three seasons, the 2011-2012 campaign will be his fourth overall at SLCC.
“We [ran] the same system and same mentality of what we need our guys to do,” he said of what his team’s style will be in comparison to Parrish’s. “I learned a lot from him and we won a lot of games.”
A year ago, the Bruins made it to the region championship game only to lose to the eventual national champion College of Southern Idaho. SLCC opens the season ranked 17th in the country. Bruin Arena will host the conference tournament in March.
Jayson Cheesman, Jordan Bernardo and Marquis Horne are the team’s returning sophomores and each has something to give in terms of their knowledge of the game.
“All three of our returners should help us a lot this year,” Phillips said. “Those guys have experience and know what our league’s like and the competition level. They know what it takes to win.”
Although this is his first tenure as head coach, Phillips certainly has standards set and goals in mind for his team.
“I expect a lot from them,” Phillips said. “I expect them to work hard every day, to get better, to play as a team.”
“You gotta pay the price,” Phillips explained about the importance of each game being a team effort. “I expect our team to do the things that are necessary to give them a chance.”