Borton promises faster, deeper U women's team

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 12, 2012 - 11:07 PM

The longtime coach says the Gophers will have a new look, but their centerpiece -- standout guard Rachel Banham -- remains the same.

hide

Minnesota head coach Pam Borton.

Photo: Michael Conroy, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Coach Pam Borton said the Gophers' women's basketball team will look completely different this season, with one important exception. Point guard Rachel Banham will remain the axis around which everyone else revolves, after being named the Big Ten freshman of the year.

Borton said Friday that the Gophers will be faster, tougher, deeper and more versatile than the team that went 19-17 last season. The return of forward Kayla Hirt from a knee injury -- and some confident freshmen who are ready to play immediately -- will give Banham a stronger supporting cast than she had during a sensational rookie season. Nor is Banham standing still; she said she is eager to improve upon last year, when she led the Gophers with 16.1 points per game and was their most reliable performer.

The Gophers opened practice Oct. 1. They begin play with exhibition games against Concordia (St. Paul) on Oct. 31 and Minnesota State Mankato on Nov. 4, followed by the season opener Nov. 10 against Washington State.

"I feel like we're already better than last year in a lot of ways,'' Borton said. "We have more speed and more ballhandlers on the floor. We'll be a better defensive team. We're more athletic. We have a lot of players who can play different positions. I'm very excited about this team.''

Borton expects those ballhandlers to take some of the workload off Banham, enabling her to shift occasionally from point guard to shooting guard. She said freshman Shayne Mullaney of Eden Prairie can play the point, and freshman guard Mikayla Bailey of Maple Grove is capable of starting.

Banham said she got stronger last summer after scoring 580 points in her first season, the third-most of any freshman in the nation. She is excited at the prospect of playing on the wing, where she sometimes played during her high school career at Lakeville North. With 420 points this season, Banham could join Lindsay Whalen and Laura Coenen as the only Gophers to reach the 1,000-point mark in their first two seasons.

Despite her achievements, Banham ticked off a long list of improvements she hopes to make this season. "I want to be one of the best shooters in the Big Ten,'' said Banham, who will be co-captain with Micaella Riche. "I want to have the most rebounds, and a lot of steals and be a good defender. I know I'm listing everything you do in basketball, but that's honestly what I want to work on and get better at.''

Hirt missed all of her freshman season after tearing a knee ligament last October. Borton said she is practicing at full speed and will be expected to be a prolific scorer. Hirt is among a deeper group of post players, including Riche -- who improved substantially last season -- and senior Katie Loberg, who led the Gophers with 5.7 rebounds per game and was their third-leading scorer (9.1 ppg).

Borton said she could not comment on the status of Amanda Zahui B., a 6-5 center from Sweden who was signed by the Gophers in May. The Gophers announced in August that Zahui B. was not certified by the NCAA eligibility center. Borton said she could not address Zahui B.'s status because she is still recruiting her.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Baltimore 12:05 PM
Detroit
NY Yankees 12:05 PM
Philadelphia
Northeastern 12:05 PM
Boston
Miami-Fla 12:05 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 12:07 PM
Toronto
San Francisco 2:05 PM
Oakland
Cleveland 2:05 PM
Cincinnati
Boston College 3:05 PM
Boston
Arizona State 4:10 PM
Arizona
Boston 6:00 PM
Cleveland
LA Lakers 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Sacramento 6:00 PM
New York
Houston 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Utah 7:00 PM
Memphis
Washington 7:00 PM
Chicago
Milwaukee 8:00 PM
Denver
Nashville 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Calgary 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Washington 6:00 PM
Columbus
Buffalo 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Toronto 6:30 PM
Florida
Ottawa 7:00 PM
Minnesota
NY Islanders 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Arizona
Los Angeles 8:30 PM
Edmonton
San Jose 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Ole Miss 6:00 PM
Alabama
Eastern Mich 6:00 PM
Ball State
Kent State 6:00 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Georgetown 6:00 PM
Butler
Toledo 6:00 PM
Central Mich
Rhode Island 6:00 PM
Dayton
Youngstown St 6:00 PM
Detroit
North Carolina 6:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Loyola-Maryland 6:00 PM
Holy Cross
Iowa 6:00 PM
Indiana
Akron 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Army 6:00 PM
Navy
Maryland 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Kennesaw St 6:00 PM
USC Upstate
Jacksonville 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Stetson 6:30 PM
North Florida
Wright State 7:00 PM
Ill-Chicago
Western Mich 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Nebraska Omaha 7:00 PM
North Dakota
Houston Baptist 7:00 PM
Abilene Christian
NC State 8:00 PM
Clemson
Texas A&M 8:00 PM
Florida
Kentucky 8:00 PM
Georgia
West Virginia 8:00 PM
Kansas
Auburn 8:00 PM
Missouri
Michigan 8:00 PM
Northwestern
Villanova 8:15 PM
Creighton
Longwood 11:00 AM
Gardner-Webb
Charleston Southern 1:00 PM
Presbyterian
Coastal Carolina 5:00 PM
UNC-Asheville
NJIT 6:00 PM
UMass Lowell
West Virginia 7:00 PM
Kansas State
TCU 7:00 PM
Texas
Fresno State 8:00 PM
Air Force
San Jose St 8:00 PM
Boise State
Nevada 8:00 PM
Colorado State
UNLV 8:00 PM
San Diego State
Wyoming 8:00 PM
Utah State
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is the best center on a Twin Cities sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close