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Originally published October 12, 2009 at 2:33 PM | Page modified October 13, 2009 at 12:05 PM

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Washington women's basketball team hopes to change its thinking

Coach Tia Jackson has players hit the books before the court, trying to improve on last season.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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This season started with a book instead of a basketball.

Returning from one of the worst finishes in Washington women's basketball history, coach Tia Jackson turned professor. She told her players to read "Believe to Achieve" by Howard "H" White and relay their thoughts.

White's book is a quick-read collection of anecdotes to help change a person's ideas about what's possible. That's a necessity for the Huskies, who won a program-low three games in the Pac-10, finishing 8-22 overall. Mixed in the unwanted record-setting season was a 12-game losing streak and losses by 77 points to Stanford and 58 points to eventual NCAA champion Connecticut.

Jackson, entering her third season as Huskies coach, already had been put on notice by athletic director Scott Woodward. Speaking at a September event in Bremerton, Woodward told the audience and reporters that advancing to the postseason was a minimum expectation for his coaches.

When practice begins Saturday, Jackson hopes to see a team that has learned from last season.

"It needs to be put in its right place," Jackson said of the 2008-09 campaign. "We're not going to ever forget. This team is going to learn from the hits that we took. That's why it's important their mental strength is in as good of shape as their physical shape."

Senior guard Sara Mosiman breezed through the book and said she found many passages to help her outlook for this season. She said she's excited to meet White, whom Jackson plans to have drop by practice sometime during the preseason.

"I thought H White was the man," Mosiman said. "I liked the part about habits — when you practice bad habits all the time, you're not getting a lot out of it."

Junior guard Sarah Morton worked with senior guard Sami Whitcomb to organize open-gym sessions with alumni and male practice players during the summer. With a majority of the players from the Seattle area, turnout was high.

But what helped the team probably more than workouts and building strength was getting healthy. Last year, the training room had a revolving door for injuries.

Sophomores Mackenzie Argens and Liz Lay are back from knee injuries. Senior guard Christina Rozier is healthy after minor offseason knee surgery. Morton and Kristi Kingma have recovered from nagging ankle problems.

Blended into the bunch are the return of sophomore forward Charmaine Barlow, who missed part of last season because of academic problems, and the arrival of junior center Regina Rogers, a transfer from UCLA who redshirted last season.

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"This is the first time since I've been here under Coach J where everyone is healthy and we have a core group that's upperclassmen," Whitcomb said of the roster that features 12 returnees, including Rogers. "With returning so many people, we feel like our chemistry should be great. You'll see improvement across the board in all the players because everyone is still working hard on conditioning."

The Huskies will remain a defense-oriented, fast-paced team. It's a style that should be more recognizable because the core players already know the system. Yet whether it makes a difference in a competitive conference is unknown.

"Their swagger is a little different," Jackson said of her squad. "They all, meaning the majority, worked on their game and have shown a commitment to this program. That's probably the most impressive thing about this team."

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com

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