Here’s the theory…
They can go big.
They can go small.
They can shoot from the parking lot.
They might even be able to bang the boards.
If a month of practice is any indication, third-year head coach Jen Gross believes her UC Davis women are poised to play some seriously improved basketball this season.
And with just 11 players on the roster, these Aggies might take an Us-Against-The-World attitude that could translate into a run at the Big West Conference crown.
Gross took a break from her whirlwind schedule to chat about her team, which features only one senior, but feels veteran-laden to Gross.
“It’s amazing what a difference a year’s maturity can make,” the former Aggie court standout explains. “As a coaching staff, we couldn’t be more excited about this team.
“We’re going to have some fun with our lineups and give people fits by mixing things up.”
Using last year’s 12-18 mark (7-11 in league) as a barometer, most soirees will leave from a UCD aircraft carrier named Sydnee Fipps.
The 5-foot-10 junior from Yosemite High School (Maricopa) averaged 17.1 ppg in 2012-13, pulled down five boards a night and, for her efforts, earned an All-Big West first-team selection.
“It amazes me how, year after year, she continues to improve,” Gross says. “She’s got a tremendous work ethic. Sydnee’s helped develop the culture of our program, where we’re talking about what it’s going to take outside of the practice routine.
“And she’s always been able to step up her game and carry a load for us. She’s tough. She can get you inside. She can get you outside. She’s putting in a lot of time and energy to being a great defender.”
BWC coaches probably have been hard at work, drawing up battle plans to sink the Good Ship Fipps. If that’s the case, Aggie Nation will be happy to know that Admiral Gross commands a fleet this fall.
Coach thinks these Aggies score and defend from a lot of different directions.
Let’s take a look at her roster and why she feels that way:
Heidi Johnson (F, 6-2, junior) — At Buchanan High in Clovis, Johnson was a go-to post player. But Gross saw something: “This year we’re turning her into a perimeter player. She’s got a beautiful 3-point shot.”
Gross calls her one of the team’s “best energy players” (who) will give the Aggies more size outside the paint.
Brianne Yasukochi (G, 5-5, freshman) — “She knows about winning,” says the coach, pointing to Yasukochi’s state title while at La Jolla Country Day.
The sister of UCD basketball operations director Britinee Yasukochi, Brianne is another energy source.
“What she lacks in size, she makes up for in spirit,” Gross explains.
Idit Oryon (F, 6-0, senior) — Aggie elder stateswoman Oryon has Gross’ admiration.
“I’m really proud of how far she’s come,” the coach says. “She’s going to be a leader on this team. As our only senior, the stakes are very high for her. She really looks comfortable out there. One of the best, if not our best, athletes.”
Gross says Jerusalem native Oryon is a “fun passer … capable of making that really spectacular pass that gets the crowd going.”
Lauren Beyer (F, 6-1, freshman) — Beyer’s season was nine minutes old in 2011 when, battling inside, she collapsed on the court with a serious knee injury against San Jose State. She also broke her ankle on the play.
Well, she’s baaaaccck!
“Talk about perseverance. To be out two years and constantly do your rehab and whatever it took to get back on the floor …,” Gross says, shaking her head in amazement. “She’s healthy, getting her timing back. I think she’ll give us some depth at the post spot.”
Beyer is from Elk Grove and played for Bradshaw Christian.
Celia Marfone (F, 6-0, sophomore) — “I don’t want to say she’s a surprise. I knew what she’s capable of. But she’s been so consistent, extremely positive for us this year,” says Gross of the Laguna Hills High product. “She scores around the basket and is a tremendous rebounder, something I think fans will be excited about. She could be a big factor this year.”
Taylor McGuire (G, 5-11, freshman) — The coach thinks the left-handed McGuire, a Buena High (Ventura) grad, is a “nice athlete who can get to the rim or pull up inside the key.”
“She’s got really good control. She’s learning every day, but is a very talented young player who is going to do some nice things for our program,” Gross says.
Molly Greubel (G, 5-9, sophomore) — She’s the floor leader now.
Despite starting but one game last year, the former Foothill High (Santa Ana) standout put up emerging numbers: 6.3 ppg, two boards a night and 47 assists. She averaged 21 minutes a game.
“Her leap from freshman to sophomore seems more like freshman to senior,” explains Greubel’s coach. “She has a lot of maturity. You can tell her one thing and you don’t need to tell her again. She makes (coaches’) jobs easy.”
Breanna Salvatore (F, 5-9, junior) — “When I think of Breanna, I think of relentless energy,” Gross told The Enterprise. “At 5-9, she’s probably our best offensive rebounder. She has great timing and nothing holds her back.
“Her voice is constant in practice. She is always bringing energy, challenging teammates.”
Salvatore’s 2012-13 was cut short after six games by a knee injury.
Kelsey Harris (G, 5-10, junior) — This Iowa State transfer was originally recruited by UCD. She’s a deadly 3-point shooter who Gross calls a “tireless worker who wants to be the whole package.”
Harris attended Brea Olinda High.
Alyson Doherty (F, 6-3, sophomore) — She’s looking like a dominant post for the Aggies.
Doherty is quick and runs the floor well, adding a dimension to what is expected to be a terrific UCD transition game.
So, a lot of the speculation can be laid to rest when the Aggies play an exhibition game with Humboldt State (Nov. 1) at The Pavilion.
Then, Southern California kicks off the regular season Nov. 8 also at home.
Two of the nation’s top two basketball schools — Stanford (Nov. 17) and defending national champion Connecticut (Dec. 5) — loom as road games.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected]