UW women set to return with a loaded roster next year
The Husky squad will feature the program's first two McDonald's All-Americans next year in Katie Collier and Kelsey Plum.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Often Washington's women's basketball season felt like a preview.
After losses, youth was an accepted excuse. The future was visible in all the players in dress clothes on the bench. Wins were frequent surprises given constant obstacles like injuries.
"We exceeded a lot of people's expectations and accomplished quite a bit more than most people thought we would," said UW coach Kevin McGuff after Sunday's 85-78 loss to Pacific in the Women's National Invitation Tournament second round.
The Huskies finished the season 21-12 for the program's first back-to-back 20-win seasons since coach Chris Gobrecht achieved the feat during the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons. UW also received its first votes in national polls since being ranked in 2003.
And Washington's 11 wins in Pac-12 play were the most since the 2006-07 season. The Huskies were pegged to finish eighth in the coaches' preseason poll but were fifth. They lost in the quarterfinals to Colorado in the Pac-12 tournament.
"That's a real testament to our players and their competitive character," said McGuff, who in his second season played with a rotation as small as seven players. He relied heavily on six players throughout the season.
"But we didn't play well at the end of the year," he continued. "The past month, we haven't been as sharp and that certainly has been evident in the wins and losses ... Next year, finishing off the year will be a big theme."
There's that nod to next year, again.
Washington loses only two seniors in guard Kristi Kingma and forward Jeneva Anderson. Kingma was the dominant floor leader, keeping a rotation that featured just two upperclassmen calm in tight-game situations and aggressive no matter the deficit. Anderson was the off-court "Mom" who kept the vibe lively.
Sophomore point guard Jazmine Davis will replace Kingma as an on-court leader. And from a talent perspective, UW appears headed for a major upgrade.
Next year's roster will feature the program's first McDonald's All-Americans in freshman post player Katie Collier and incoming freshman guard Kelsey Plum. Collier missed this season with a knee injury. They'll be joined by highly rated forward Chantel Osahor and guard Brianna Ruiz, part of what is arguably Washington's most talented recruiting class in school history.
The additions will help shift current players to their natural positions. Forward Aminah Williams should move out of the paint to the wing, and Talia Walton is expected to shift over from center to power forward. Davis and Mercedes Wetmore could share minutes with added backcourt depth.
"I definitely like being physical, getting the rebounds and helping the team on second-chance opportunities," said Williams. "But I like playing the wing; I'm a wing player."
Due to an NCAA rule change for women's basketball, McGuff said he'll be able to work with the team for two hours a week for eight weeks in the summer. But Collier isn't expected to participate in full-contact drills until fall.
"We'll have more size and strength around the basket, so we'll start to look a little bit more like a complete team," McGuff said. "But we still have a lot of areas we have to grow and I think we're going to have the personnel and opportunity to do that."
As for Kingma and Anderson, the former will undergo surgery on her left knee and is exploring a career in sports broadcasting. Anderson is planning to get married in August and take a break before possibly enrolling in law school.
"I'm so proud of what we've accomplished this year and what they're going to build upon in the future," Kingma said. "And I'll be back. I'll be everyone's cheerleader."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.