Women’s Forwards and Centers: Depth in middle sustained by new recruits, veterans

The post positions for the 2007-08 women’s basketball team are loaded with experience heading into this season, the head coach said.Head coach Jeff Mittie said veterans and freshmen will help at both positions.

Mittie said he has found a group of four players – senior Jenna Lohse, juniors Micaela Younger and Lauren Roberts and freshman Micah Garoutte to play center. Garoutte and Roberts are new additions to the squad for this season’s campaign.

He said senior Lorie Butler-Rayford will likely anchor the forward position, but Garoutte and freshman Helena Sverrisdottir will play the position as well. Sverrisdottir averaged 19.3 points, 11 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game with the Iceland women’s national team last season.

Mittie said the team is still working to find the right place for everyone.

“I think right now, we’re at a spot where we’re trying to find where our depth fits in,” Mittie said. “We’ve got a good core group, and I feel like we’re going to get along with that.”

Stronger games from returning players will add even more depth, Mittie said.

“We’ve got a lot of returning players that have improved their games,” he said. “Now, whether we’re better remains to be seen. Hanna Biernacka and Ashley Davis had very good senior years, so this group has a lot to live up to.”

Younger said her body is her biggest asset at center as it enables her to handle players of all sizes.

“I’m faster than the bigger players and stronger than the smaller players,” Younger said.

Butler-Rayford said her versatility will aid the team offensively. She said versatility is a trademark for this year’s roster.

Butler-Rayford led the team with 7.1 rebounds per game last season.

Moving from high school to college basketball has not been easy for Garoutte, Mittie said, but she will be a solid contributor.

“Right now, she’s got a lot of information going through her head,” Mittie said. “I think she’s picked up things well, but there’s a big learning curve for a freshman.”

Lohse said it’s important for the seniors to act as leaders with freshmen coming in at forward and center.

“With me and Lorie (Butler-Rayford) being seniors at the same post position, we have to be role models for every younger player,” Lohse said. “We have to come in with a positive attitude even if we’re having a bad day.”

The new Horned Frog centers are anxious to get out on the court, Younger said. Younger ranked second on the team with 15 blocks last season.

“They really want to get out there and play,” Younger said. “We’re really trying to get to a point where they can get in the game and help us out.”

Another new addition to the team is Roberts, who sat out last season after transferring from Northwestern. Mittie said he wants the centers to shoot better free throws. Roberts, an 84.6-percent foul shooter with the Wildcats, will help with this, he said.

“Lauren is an excellent free-throw shooter,” Mittie said. “She’s got good touch from around that elbow and free throw line.”

Roberts needs to improve her physical presence on the court, Mittie said, but that can be difficult after a season layoff.

“Having the year off, that’s a big change, because you’ve got to get back into the day-to-day contact that you see in college basketball,” Mittie said. “Going up against Younger, Jenna and Micah, those are physical players. I think she’s improved, but it’s an area she’s got to continue to get better in.