Aug. 16, 2017
RUSTON ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢'Â¬" Although she didn't, Louisiana Tech second year head coach Brooke Stoehr might have thought about implementing a policy requiring name tags during her team's summer workouts.
With half of her 14-member roster comprised of newcomers, plenty of fresh faces graced the Thomas Assembly Center floor and weight room during the second session of summer school. Twelve of the 14 Lady Techsters were enrolled in summer school, including first year Techsters Macaela Crone, Amber Dixon, MaKayla Johnson, Taylor Stahly and Zhanae Whitney.
The opportunity to have the vast majority of the team on campus for the past six weeks is invaluable to the development of both returners and newcomers.
"I have been pleased with the level of commitment the team has shown in terms of getting better each day from a strength and conditioning standpoint as well as on the court," said Stoehr. "Obviously, it is August and we're a few months away from competition, but I have seen some progress in our ability to compete with each other and within themselves individually. I think the group has taken a big step forward from a competitive standpoint and being consistent with that effort."
Crone and Johnson are both incoming freshmen while Dixon, Stahly and Whitney came to Ruston via the junior college route. Freshman Raizel Guinto and junior college transfer Maria Delgado were the only two players not in school for the summer. Guinto graduated from Sisler High School in Winnipeg in late June, barely missing the NCAA clearinghouse cutoff to get into summer school. Delgado spent the summer finishing classes at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
Stoehr said the five newcomers that were in Ruston were able to utilize the time to get acclimated to their new home and the Lady Techster culture.
"It gives them a chance to get used to the routine of going to class and preparing academically at the college level," said Stoehr. "They learn how to compete and work at this level consistently and figure out where everything is and how to do simple tasks before the fall quarter starts and everything gets turned up a notch. I have been pleased with their transition and how they've competed during the summer. It has been exciting to see them here and watch them grow in the last month. I am excited about what they have added to the program."
Tech was the surprise of Conference USA last season, finishing 4th in the 14-team league after being tabbed 12th in the preseason coaches' poll. The Lady Techsters won 18 games, including seven straight league games down the stretch, and earned their first postseason appearance since 2011. Tech fell in overtime to SMU in the first round of the WNIT.
Year No. 2 of the Stoehr era in Ruston is in full gear. After spending most of last summer developing relationships and establishing her system and philosophy, Stoehr has been able to lean on her seven returners this summer to provide leadership on and off the floor.
Alexus Malone, Kierra Anthony, Reauna Cleaver, Daria McCutcheon, Kierra Lang, Anna McLeod and Nikki McDonald all have one year under their belt in Stoehr's system, and that experience has allowed them to handle the summer workouts better than last year.
"The returners have a sense of confidence after having been through the first year with our staff," said Stoehr. "There is a greater understanding on their part of what our daily expectations are on and off the court. Understanding those expectations and the level of commitment we ask for has allowed them to compete better and more consistently. I have been excited with the group's desire to get better and compete daily.
"The group, as a whole, is stronger and more physically fit and that has been evident in how they're competing in conditioning and also through the way they are moving on the court. I think they have benefitted greatly from having an extended time in the weight room with Coach Blake (Talos) and have shown good progress in that area that will benefit us as we get into February and March."
Stoehr also said that the summer is a great time for players to emerge as leaders based on how hard and consistent they are in individual workouts, something that she has seen from some of her players during the past weeks.
"We are limited with the amount of time we can spend with them on the court during the summer and there have been several of them putting in extra work and setting an example for others to follow," said Stoehr. "We believe those leaders show themselves by showing up each day and pushing to make themselves and others better. We have had several players show this, and it has been fun to see develop. The summer is also a great time to build team chemistry and develop those relationships that are so vital to our team's success."