Dani Turner sat behind the coaches in the bench area last weekend, dressed in warmups, her right foot in a walking boot.
Natalie Bartle was suited up, sitting with teammates, but unable to play because of an elbow injury.
Both of Colorado Mesa’s point guards, 30.5 points of the Mavericks’ offensive output (72.8 on average), on the injured list.
Anticipating one or both players, who were injured against Black Hills State the week before, might miss the weekend, Taylor Wagner had to find someone to run the show.
Enter freshman Sophie Hadad, a 5-foot-11 guard whose minutes have fluctuated this season, and who has never played point guard, not even in high school. Both Turner and Bartle were game-time decisions, but Hadad was prepared.
“We were missing two key offensive players and that played a little bit of a role into our weekend and our preparation,” CMU coach Taylor Wagner said of last weekend’s loss at Metro State, a team the Mavericks beat by 34 points on opening weekend. “But you know, Sophie stepped up big for us, trying to learn a hundred plays in two days and I thought she did a tremendous job kind of running our offense and getting into our stuff.”
It’s not that Hadad doesn’t know the playbook, it’s that she knows it from the wing position. The assignments and actions of each play are vastly different for each position on the floor, and the point guard is tasked with knowing all of the options so she can trigger the play.
Wagner said after Saturday night’s game that at the wing, “the play is either run for you, or you get out of the way.” As the point, if the play isn’t designed for you, you have to know every option, set up the right teammate or get the offense reorganized if the play breaks down.
“It was kind of surprising like how different (it is) because we go through the plays and I go through them at a guard spot, but at the point guard position, just knowing the different timing and the passing and getting the ball down the court,” Hadad said. “Yeah, it’s definitely different.”
When Hadad did go to the bench — which wasn’t much, averaging 29 minutes a game last weekend — Kylyn Rigsby took over at the point for the first time since she was in high school.
“I’ve never really played point before, so just talking to Dani and Natalie, they gave me a lot of pointers on what to do,” Hadad said. “Last week Dani helped me a lot and ran through the plays with me, so that was really helpful. She would give me pointers, like you have to cut here, just making sure I was sharp on them.”
Hadad, who averages about 13 minutes a game, is scoring 3.4 points a game as she adapts to college basketball. She put up a career-high 11 points in the loss to Metro State and six in the win over Colorado Christian, but more importantly, committed only three turnovers the entire weekend, all against the Cougars.
The Mavs (8-2, 8-2 RMAC) hope to have both point guards back this weekend when they return home to play Colorado Mines (7-2, 6-2) on Friday and Regis (2-4, 2-3) on Saturday.
CMU is trailing Western Colorado in the RMAC standings and Friday will reach the requisite number of games needed, 11, to qualify for the conference tournament. Five teams must reach 50% of the original schedule to declare a conference champion, and to date, only CMU and Colorado Christian have played every game as scheduled on the women’s side. The field for the RMAC tournament, because of expected discrepancies in number of games played, will be determined by the Division II RPI system.
To that end, Wagner said the Mavericks need to return to the business of winning.
“I’m glad they bounced back (after their two losses) but we always talk about we don’t have to lose to know what our weaknesses are,” he said. “We want to continue to do well and improve every week. We have to accept when we lose, so we’ve continually got to have that ‘get better every single day’ mindset and know we can’t get complacent.”