New Mesa women’s coach working hard to improve team
Roger Walters has been on the job a little more than two weeks.
The new Mesa State College women’s basketball coach has been scrambling since Day 1.
Walters took over a program that had its worst season in 28 years, finishing 6-21 under former coach Timi Brown, who resigned during her fifth season.
There are several things Walters needs to do to get the program back to competing for RMAC titles and NCAA Division II tournament berths.
His top priority, though, is emphasizing success in the classroom, realizing that must be achieved before the Mavs can win games.
He met with the team last week to discuss his expectations and how to meet them.
None of the returning players made the RMAC All-Academic team last season and many of the players are struggling with classes. Walters said he’s worried about some of the players’ eligibility status for next season, and quickly instituted team study sessions.
“It’s important to study together, play together and root for the other programs together,” he said. “We’re going to go out and support the baseball and softball teams.”
Walters, who passed the NCAA recruiting test soon after he was hired, had some recruits in for campus visits last week.
He’s hoping to lure successful student-athletes.
“Any time you talk to a kid with a 3.5 GPA or better and a great ACT score with great character, they are so much more appealing,” Walters said.
He was able to attend the Colorado High School All-State Games last month to watch players in person.
“There are some good kids still left out there,” Walters said. “There are good kids already signed, too. I made contact with some to come visit.”
The biggest need is post players.
“We’re small right now,” he said. “We need to find help in the post. We need at least two or three post players right away.
“It’s hard to find girls with size and can play (at the Division II level).”
The Mavericks had only two post players last year, including senior Stephanie Delgado.
She led the team in scoring, rebounding and shooting percentage.
Walters will have several returning guards, but that doesn’t mean he’ll pass on recruiting a perimeter player he believes can make a difference in turning the program around.
“You can’t pass up a good kid because of their position,” Walters said. “If we run by someone that can play, we’ll try to recruit her.”
Walters is hoping to sign at least five players who can play immediately next year, but with the season over, many high school seniors have already made their college choices.
The spring signing period is April 15 to May 20.
None of the current players have told Walters they plan to leave, but he said there could be a couple of players who don’t return next year.
“I’ve visited with the team about my philosophy and how we want to play,” Walters said.
“I’ve met with them individually and they are a nice group of kids. I’m looking forward to working with them.”
In terms of assessing their basketball skills, Walters said it was unfair to do that because of different coaching philosophies.
“It’s hard for me to judge,” he said. “They’ve been in a different system. I’m sure they will react different in a different system.”
Walters wants to install an up-tempo system, which Brown used, but a different variation.
“I absorbed my philosophy from different programs,” he said. “I like to play a style the way
I hated to be guarded, and that was someone in your face, playing aggressive D.
“The offense will be up-tempo. We’ll push the ball up the floor every chance we get. If it’s not there, we’ll work for a great shot. That style appealed to me as a player and I think it does with the players today.”
Walters had lunch with a potential assistant coach last week as well. He plans to meet with more candidates in the next two months, but won’t be able to hire one until summer because the candidates are currently under contracts elsewhere, he said.
Next season’s nonconference schedule isn’t complete, but he said Mesa State Athletic Director Butch Miller is working on that.
Walters’ priority is getting the current players eligible and recruiting his first class of Mavs.
“The great thing about the other coaches here are, they are helping me with anything they can,” he said. “Jim (Heaps) and Andy (Shantz) have been great.”