Gophers women’s basketball coach Lindsay Whalen is trying to find unique ways to keep her team engaged and together during the coronavirus pandemic.
It isn’t easy.
Her main tools: Her phone and her computer.
Early on, when on-site classes at the U had been canceled and there was no access to the team’s on-campus facility, Whalen spent her time just checking in with her players during a lot of one-on-one conversations.
Now she’s looking to do more. Finals are winding down at the U, which was a stretch of two weeks when Whalen didn’t have contact with her players. There was a week for studying, then a week for tests. Whalen will wait until next week to re-establish regular communication.
Then she plans to have, on Zoom, an official good-bye to the seniors who are graduating. After that she plans on having the team read a book – likely a title dealing with leadership or team-building – which then will be discussed.
Whalen has also reached out to friends in the coaching community for suggestions.
“We might do playbook reviews, play-call reviews, work on terminology,’’ Whalen said. “We just want to keep them sharp.’’
Here are some questions you asked for this week’s mailbag:
Q. I know the team will be deeper in the upcoming season. But can it compete to be an upper-tier Big Ten team and make the NCAA playoffs?
A. It can. In my opinion, here’s what has to happen:
*Defense. The Gophers showed last year they can score. And there is a lot of scoring coming back in Gadiva Hubbard, Jasmine Powell and Sara Scalia.
But the defense has to improve. The Gophers need to finish in the top half of the Big Ten in points allowed, defensive field goal percentage and, especially, in defensive rebounding.
Defense in the post has to improve as well, something that could happen with the improvement of Klarke Sconiers and the addition of graduate transfer Laura Bagwell-Katalinich and junior college transfer Daja Woodard.
*Powell and Scalia have to take the next step. The Gophers will be looking for Sconiers to take a big step from her freshman season.
*Kadi Sissoko needs to be the player the Gophers expect her to be. Sissoko sat out last season after transferring. The Gophers staff is very high on Sissoko, who will add size and length to the Gophers starting lineup.
Q. Are there any updates on the Gophers chances of getting more local players for their 2021 recruiting class?
A. As the reader noted, the Gophers have gotten verbal commitments from Maggie Czinano (Watertown-Mayer) and Katie Borowiz (Roseau).
I believe the Gophers would like a four-person 2021 recruiting class. As it now appears Nebraska transfer Kayla Mershon may need to sit out a season, she would, in essence, become a third member of that 2021 class. That would leave one spot for the class at this point.
The Gophers are recruiting a number of players, including in-state post player Sophie Hart from Farmington.