Women's basketball looks for young players to fill big voids
November 14, 2008
Dave Beyer, Sports Information Director
After a tremendous run the past four seasons, Benedictine women’s basketball must now find out what life is like without two-time All-American Tamika Curtis. While losing the player who paced the team in numerous statistical categories – including scoring (19.4 p.p.g.), rebounds (11.3 r.p.g.), blocks (60), field goal percentage (59.1) and steals (36) – isn’t difficult enough, head coach Paul Nelson also has several other voids to fill as well.
“I don’t think you ever look to ‘replace’ a player like Curtis,” said Nelson. “I think you adjust your team’s style to the type of players you have and go from there.
“For four years, we were able to pound the ball inside to Tamika. Now, we will probably have to have a more diverse offensive attack and everyone will have to step up to make sure we still play the smothering defense we like.”
The Eagles also lost starting backcourt players Tiffany Hardy and Megan Walczak to graduation, along with reserve guard Angela Vitto. Walczak and Hardy were, respectively, the team’s top two players for assists.
The good news for the Eagles is that senior guard Laketa Simpson – who joined the team as a junior transfer mid-season last year – will be in the fold from the outset. Simpson averaged 10.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game over 18 contests after the winter break.
“Having Laketa at practice from the beginning is a huge advantage,” reflected Nelson. “She added a lot to the team when she came aboard, but there was still that adjustment period that had to take place. We were a different team once we all learned to play as a unit.
“Laketa is a very exciting player to watch and has the ability to just shoot the lights out of the gym and dominate a game. The key for her will be to channel her efforts into a leadership role and make players around her better, too. I liken it very much to what Kobe Bryant did with the L.A. Lakers last season.
“Everyone knows she is an offensive weapon. The key will be can her talents be used to elevate and create opportunities for other players.”
Senior guard Blair Erickson, who started all 26 games last season, also returns. Erickson averaged 4.3 points and 2.2 boards per game and was among the team’s leaders in assists.
“Blair is another player who, while her numbers may not always show it, plays a very important role on this team,” said Nelson. “As a fourth-year player, I need her to be that ‘conduit’ between the team and the coaches. She leads by example and effort. Blair is an unselfish player whose only goal is the team’s success.”
Joining Erickson in a return to the backcourt is sophomore Lidia Arias and junior Karissa Povlsen, both of whom appeared in 22 games off Nelson’s bench.
Up front, sophomore Jenn Bren, who was Curtis’ understudy last season, will now get the opportunity to show her wares. Also returning is junior forward Monika Krozel. Krozel started all 26 contests last season and averaged 8.2 points and 6.9 boards per game, while also blocking 18 shots. Krozel shot 42.2 percent from the field.
Nelson also knows that he’ll need help from his newcomers.
“We have a lot of work to do with such a young team and it can’t fall on one or two people. We need solid contributions up and down the roster if we are to have a successful 2008-09 season.”
Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, email@example.com or visit ben.edu.