Fresh start: Walters has Mavs focusing on present
A new floor, new-look practice uniforms, a new coach, new terminology, a new outlook and a new attitude.
The Mesa State College women’s basketball team is trying to put the past in its place and focus on rebuilding the program.
“As hard as it is to do that, that’s something we have to do, just get rid of it,” junior forward Courtney McCaig said about forgetting last season’s 6-21 record and the turmoil of their coach’s resignation midway through the season
“This is a new year. New everything. I know I want to finish my last two years as strong as I can and erase the past.”
Roger Walters has brought his quiet intensity to Brownson Arena, holding the players accountable for everything from their grades to how they practice and play.
He’s encouraged the players to focus on the present, not the past, and start over in 30-second increments.
“Our goals are pretty simple, giving our best effort every 30 seconds on the offensive floor, followed by our best effort defensively for 30 seconds,” Walters said. “If you do that consistently throughout the game, the other stuff takes care of itself.”
The players have bought into what he wants to do, which was the first hurdle.
“Coach Walters did an amazing job with that, coming in and saying, ‘I know last year was rough and you guys have been through a lot. It’s a new year, keep your head up,’ ‘’ McCaig said. “It gave us a lot of (insight) that this is going to be a good year.”
McCaig, a 5-foot-11 junior who will start in the post, has taken the “new” one step further, dropping her old No. 44 jersey in favor of No. 32, which was her number in high school.
“Coach says every day that posts need to do their work early,” she said. “Stopping them as they come down the lane, getting in front of them before the ball is swung. It’s all about getting to the spot before your opponent does, being faster and smarter than the bigger girls.”
Mesa State opens the season this weekend in Monmouth, Ore., playing Northwest Nazarene and Western Oregon.
The Mavericks have bought into Walters’ philosophy of making every possession count, and he’ll put the ball in 5-7 junior Katie Cupp’s hands.
Cupp, a Grand Junction High School graduate, transferred from Oklahoma Baptist University.
Heather Haberkost, a 5-9 senior, is slated to start at shooting guard, but an old Achilles’ injury flared up last weekend and she’s day-to-day. Jennifer Landers, a 5-8 sophomore, will start at the other wing, with Meagan Selvidge, a 5-10 sophomore, at small forward and McCaig inside.
Jocelyn Zarling (5-5 junior) backs up Cupp at point guard, with Hannah Breidel (5-8 junior) and Alaina Brennan (5-6 sophomore) coming off the bench at the wings. Jenn Kimbrow (6-0 junior) backs up the post players, along with Brennan, who despite not being the ideal size for a post, was quick to agree to mix it up inside.
The Mavs are picked to finish sixth in the seven-team RMAC West Division, but Walters isn’t concerned about that.
“As long as you give your best effort, that’s all we ask,” he said. “They’re really easy to cheer for. It’s a fun group to watch and cheer for because you see how hard they work. We want something good to happen for this group because they deserve them.
“It’s a nice mix of kids and they all have good hearts and they care about each other. They respect the game and they want to do well. They want to succeed. You can see it in the way they play.”