By GREG GIAUQUE
When the BYU women’s basketball team talks returning players, they go above and beyond the call of duty. BYU boasts more than a handful of regular returners but also enlists transfer players and those coming off the injured list.
Second-year head coach Trent Shippen lost four seniors and two key scorers from last year, but hopes to fill those holes with a different brand of experience.
“Last year was a transition year. We had to do some adjusting to Division I ball. We were very inconsistent,” Shippen said. “If we can play consistent, and if we can get people to play together, some great things are in store.”
Two factors for BYU’s success are transfer hoopsters Lindsay Van Komen and Alisha Griffeth. Both practiced with the team, but saw no game time last season due to NCAA rules that require transferring players to sit out a year. Shippen hopes this year they will be able to contribute like Cougar veterans.
Van Komen is in her first and last year as a player for the Cougars, but brings her dedication and experience with her. Van Komen transferred from Lewis and Clark College after first playing at the College of Eastern Utah. She practiced with the team last year, driving from Price, Carbon, to be a part of the program. She said the sacrifice was worth the wait.
“I love BYU. I grew up loving BYU,” Van Komen said. “Everything fell into place. I’m here at my favorite university. It’s a fairy tail; a dream come true.”
Van Komen’s dedication is well respected. Her teammates voted her co-captain and she said she hopes to use her strengths to represent the team well.
“I’m a strong rebounder and my defense is my best skill, … but I just want to give it everything. Captain doesn’t make you any different,” Van Komen said.
Alisha Griffeth has two years of eligibility at BYU after transferring from Morehead State College. She lead her team in 3-point percentage, and at 6 feet tall, could contribute both inside and outside at BYU.
Ranae Hansen and Megan Jensen, coming off the injured list, also figure into the picture. Both endured knee surgery and an offseason of rehabilitation to make it back in time for the 1998-99 season. Hansen tore an ACL in last year’s Midnight Madness and Jensen had surgery on both knees.
Hansen, a junior, returns having led the Cougars in scoring during the 1996-97 season with 12.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. She started 28 of 29 games and had a career high 26 against Utah. The fact that she lead the team in assists for 12 of those games is indicative of the team player she is.
“(My role is) just going out there, being a leader on the floor and having a positive attitude. If the offense isn’t working, (I’ll be) playing tough defense and just being an overall player,” Hansen said.
Hansen said the knee is ready to go.
“It feels 100 percent back to normal. The hardest part was getting back into rehab, and now being able to pull up and being able to trust it again,” Hansen said.
Jensen, a sophomore, played in all 29 games as a freshman averaging 5.9 ppg and shooting 36 percent from behind the arc. She came out of high school touted as the Salt Lake Tribune’s 5A MVP.
BYU also has a few players with game experience from last year’s team that placed 3rd at the WAC Tournament in Las Vegas. Senior co-captain Amanda Covington saw significant minutes all year as a junior. She also said if the talent and chemistry come together, great things can happen this year.
“Chemistry isn’t forced, but you can’t get it working halfway,” Covington said. “We have all the talent in the world, but it comes down to chemistry and keeping priorities.”
Covington also said intensity and confidence are going to be key factors .
“(I have to) be ready to play every day … and have a good attitude,” Covington said. “There should be (some) pressure, but not so much that we lose the fun. Last year we just didn’t have that burning desire. It came down to confidence.”
All in all, Shippen has a lot of talent to sift through. He said the squad’s experience is a little different this year because of the transfers and injuries, but he expects good things.
“We’ve got some great athletes,” Shippen said. “We’re kind of young at the guards but we have some experience. It’s a deceiving kind of youth.”
The Cougars will continue informal practices for the next week before the official talent testing begins Oct. 16 at Midnight Madness.