Salt Lake Community College’s Women’s Basketball team recently completed its 2013-14 roster, and 18-year head coach Betsy Specketer is determined to return the Bruins to days of prominence in the Scenic West Athletic Conference (SWAC).
“We’ve got to turn this around. We have to get back to having 23, 24 or 25 win seasons and being at the top of the conference,” said Specketer. “We strive to be the hunted, and we want that target on the back, so-to-speak—we enjoy that level of pressure and expectation.”
The Bruins finished 2012-13 with an overall mark of 19-11 and entered the Region 18 Tournament as the No. 3 seed with a 9-6 record in SWAC play. SLCC fell to tournament host North Idaho College (NIC) 57-33 in the second round of Region 18 competition to end the year.
Despite a rough ending to last season, Specketer has reason to be optimistic about the year ahead as the Bruins return nine sophomores with a year of experience upon which to build.
“In their second year, players tend to be a little more confident with the basketball and are more aware,” said Specketer. “Regardless of what we’re going to be good at, we’ll be more mature which will help us finish games. We were in so many close games last year and probably lost more than we should have.”
The team should see some healthy competition for starting spots and minutes on the floor at guard this season. Returning point-guards Mercedes Riggs and Summer Yack each made strong showings last year as freshmen, and the Bruins retain the solid outside-scoring ability of shooting-guard Natalie Parsons.
Guard Miranda Averett was a pleasant surprise for the Bruins last season and impressed the SLCC coaching staff with her aggressiveness, solid defense and ability to score the basketball.
The Bruins also return talent at the forward position, with sophomores Bella Swan, Britney Johnson and Ateh Ade shoring things up in the front court.
Talented as they may be, Specketer expects the sophomores to be pushed by a strong recruiting class of incoming freshmen. The SLCC coaching staff went straight to work in the off-season and made several notable acquisitions.
SLCC signed a trio of First Team All-State players, adding Hillcrest High School stand-out guard Whitney Nemelka, Sky View High School forward Tara Goldman and American Fork High School guard/forward Cassidy Fraughton.
Sweden native Raushan Gultekin joins the Bruins at the point-guard position and the addition of BYU-Hawaii transfer Natalie Lainhart will add depth to the team at forward. Fremont High School standout Tanesha Daniels will spend time at both forward and center this season as a rebounding and defensive presence in the painted area.
“As talented as freshmen are coming in, it’s still a big transition from the high school game to college,” said Specketer. “There’s a learning curve, and I’m thankful that we’ve got great sophomores to help teach and lead them—to have good leadership to bring our freshmen along the right way makes things a lot easier.”
The incoming freshmen aren’t the only new faces for Bruin Women’s Basketball, as Specketer has a pair of new assistant coaches on the staff. Former All-Region 18 player and University of Alaska-Anchorage Assistant Coach Elisha Harris joins the staff alongside former Bruin stand-out Marcy Grayer for the coming year.
“Elisha’s energy and enthusiasm were the first things I noticed. She just jumped right in with both feet,” said Specketer. “I’ve known Elisha for a long time. I watched her play in high school at West Jordan and coached against her when she played at USU-Eastern. She is going to help our players through her own experiences, and I really like that about having her on the staff.”
Grayer played guard for the Bruins in 2008-09 and 2009-10 and finished her collegiate eligibility at Dixie State University. Specketer feels that Grayer will be a key asset to the program because she knows what it’s like to play at the junior college level and in the SWAC.
Fellow assistant coach Shordy Mulford, also a former Bruin player, returns for her fourth year on the SLCC coaching staff and frequently laces up the gym shoes to join the team on the floor at practice.
“Those three—Marcy, Elisha and Shordy, will be just what we need. I’m really excited about our staff,” said Specketer. “They’re all positive and full of energy and are a joy to be around.”
Though the Bruins have a lot of talent and some promising new members on the coaching staff, there are still some uncertainties regarding the squad for the season ahead.
“I don’t really know what the DNA of this team will be quite yet. I do know that, just by virtue of having so many sophomores, we will be better at decision-making, whether that’s in pushing tempo or using 30 seconds on the shot-clock,” said Specketer. “It’s too early to tell whether or not we have great chemistry, but I feel that there should be. The getting-along part is already fixed. Now it’s about winning games.”
Specketer and the Bruins will once again have their work cut out for them. The SWAC is one of the premier conferences in all of junior college basketball ,and SLCC will need to get through powerhouses like the College of Southern Idaho (CSI), NIC and Snow College and will play each of those schools twice on the road this season.
“I would probably consider CSI as the favorite to win the league because they have so many great returning players,” said Specketer. “They won the Region 18 Championship last season, and they did it with a bunch of freshmen that they have coming back.”
Specketer and the Bruins will begin their own quest for a Region 18 Championship on Oct. 18 as the team hosts the annual SLCC Jamboree at Bruin Arena. A full schedule and more on SLCC Women’s Basketball is available at slccbruins.com.