After two hard weeks of practice, Gophers women’s basketball coach Lindsay Whalen gave her team some time off over the weekend. It was time to heal up some aches and pains.
And, frankly, it was the last time anyone associated with the team will have time off until the season ends. Which, as Whalen said, will be a long time. “Hopefully late March or April,’’ she said Tuesday afternoon.
Much of the practice this week is geared towards the weekend. The team will be a part of the Maroon and Gold showcase on campus this Saturday. The Gophers will have an extended scrimmage against their practice team at Williams Arena.
It will be the first time for fans to see the mark Whalen and her staff are making on the team. Fans will see how the rotations are working themselves out, how the transition to a more tenacious person-to-person defense is going.
It’s part of a big day that involves several Gophers teams on campus.
“We’ll do some autographs afterwards,’’ Whalen said. “It should be a good event. We get to do a trial run on some things we want to do this season. We’ll be preparing for Saturday all week.’’
Here are some other items from Whalen’s weekly media briefing:
-- Whalen sounds enthusiastic about the potential of a backcourt featuring Kenisha Bell and Jasmine Brunson. Neither are very big – Bell is 5-9, Brunson 5-8 – but both are very quick and both are good with the ball in her hands. They are important in Whalen’s plans for a team that, admittedly, should again be heavily backcourt-based.
“One of their biggest strengths is their quickness,’’ Whalen said. “And their tenacity, both defensively on the ball and in passing lanes and with their ability to create on offense. It will be interesting to see, once we start to play against other teams, how much they’re able to dictate on both sides of the ball.’’
-- Brunson is one of a handful of players whose contribution and playing time should soar this season. Brunson started just one game last year as a sophomore and averaged just 2.9 points and 10.8 minutes per game. Whalen said Brunson has worked hard on her mid-range shot, something that needs to improve. But she and Bell’s quickness should be able to stress defenses and open things up for their teammates.
-- Destiny Pitts, last year’s Big Ten freshman of the year, will also see her repertoire grow, according to Whalen. A strong spot-up shooter last year when she hit 37.3 percent of her three-pointers and averaged 13.3 points per game, this year she is being asked to improve her ball-handling so she can take advantage of defenders closing out on her. “Being able to create off the dribble will be really important for her,’’ Whalen said.
-- Also look for more from junior forward Taiye Bello and senior center Annalese Lamke. Bello is an athletic big who will be key to the team’s rebounding and interior defense. Lamke is in great shape and should see a quantum leap in playing time.