They arrive at the Walter Pyramid around 6:30am – groggy, but ready to go within fifteen minutes. And I mean go.
For the following hour or so, head women’s basketball coach Mary Hegarty runs the hell out of her 2008-09 team as they prepare for the season in November with morning conditioning. Some handle it better than others, but I’ll save the player assessments for when they begin to use basketballs in their workouts. The thing you really need to know is that this team is far from satisfied with last years season – rightfully so after winning nine games – and is determined not to repeat the fate.
Wednsday night, in a community Q&A session with fans at Joe Jost’s, Hegarty told the crowd that the top thing to associate this year’s team with is “change.” In attitude. In playing style. In personnel.
New assistant coaches were brought in after the departure of Jason Flowers to UC Riverside, and some players have shuffled as well. “Some removed themselves from the team, and I removed some of them myself,” Hegarty said.
We’ll begin to see in a few weeks what this team will actually look like, but on this drowsy morning it looked like it was missing its star. Senior guard Karina Figueora prowled the sidelines, stretching and doing body work rather than running thanks to the latest in a series of chronic foot problems. Her latest surgery in May left her with a pin in her ankle, and Hegarty says she’s taking it day by day. It would be in everyone’s best interests to get Fig back on the court, but Hegarty estimates that she played the last two seasons at 60-70% – no way for a star to spend her senior year. It’ll take some work, but no one hates being away from the action more than #20.
You’ll also notice a little extra size on this year’s squad – something that has been sorely lacking from Long Beach State women’s basketball since the conference title run of 2006. An older, faster, larger team is preparing in the Pyramid. Get ready, Big West.