UCC women’s basketball team to rely on size, freshmen
WINCHESTER — You do the math.
The 2016-17 Umpqua Community College women’s basketball team has nine freshmen and two sophomores on its roster.
The first-year players — two of them redshirted last year — are going to have to step up for the Riverhawks this season as they shoot for another berth in the Northwest Athletic Conference tournament.
“With Syd (Clark) hurt we’ll have to rely more on the freshmen than we have in past years,” said Dave Stricklin, in his 22nd season as head coach of Umpqua. “John Wooden (the late UCLA men’s basketball coach) once said he’d much rather have talent than experience. I think that’s the case with us. We have nine freshmen, but it’s a pretty good group.
“What they lack in experience they more than make up for it in skill. It’s a lot easier to get players additional experience than it is to get additional talent. We just have to get them enough experience, and eventually I think they’re going to be pretty good.”
The Riverhawks lost four sophomores off a 25-8 team who signed with four-year colleges. Sawyer Kluge, Anna Mumm, Maddy Pape and Jasmyne Davis combined for 57 points a game last season. Kluge, a guard, was selected to the WBCA Junior/Community College Coaches All-America Team.
Clark, a 5-foot-6 guard from Las Vegas, is the top returning scorer after averaging 11.3 points a game last year. She also averaged 3.3 assists and 2.8 rebounds, shooting 50 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range.
But she’s out for a while with a fractured tibia, leaving Tasia Bilbrew as the only healthy sophomore. Bilbrew, a 5-8 guard out of St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, averaged 8.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
“My expectation is always to win,” Bilbrew said. “This year we’re a lot bigger, a lot longer and a lot stronger. I expect us get a lot of defensive steals and rebounds and get the ball up the floor, and we should be great in the key.
“(The freshmen) have been pretty good so far. They’re adapting, so we’ll get there.”
Two key posts for UCC will be Dajaney Powell, a 6-3 redshirt freshmen from Oakland, California, and Jordan Stotler, a 6-4 freshman from Camas Valley who was a two-time first-team all-conference selection for Roseburg. They’ll give the Riverhawks a Twin Towers presence in the paint.
Powell, who missed last year with a torn ACL, had 31 points in a scrimmage against the George Fox University junior varsity last Saturday.
“Daisy has a chance to be real good,” Stricklin said. “She’s still getting in shape, but is strong and athletic. With her size and strength she’s going to be tough to guard one-on-one. I think she’s going to surprise some people.”
Stotler was a shot blocker and primarily an inside player in high school, but Stricklin says she has the ability to shoot from the outside as well.
“I think local basketball fans will enjoy watching Jordan play,” the coach said. “She’s worked extremely hard ... we’re in the gym five mornings a week before school, and she’s improved leaps and bounds. She’s a defensive force, but has increased her shooting range. We have high expectations for her — Jordan has a chance to be one of the best who’s ever played here.”
Stotler, who scored 34 points in Saturday’s scrimmage, is looking forward to the season.
“The potential of this team ... we can be really, really good,” she said. “We’ve gotten a lot better. We struggle with not having a point guard right now, but we’re going to get better every day and kick a--.”
Other freshmen expected to contribute are 6-1 Lily Eckert, 5-9 Adrionna Taylor, 5-8 Jacque Luaders, 6-0 Bria Thames, 5-9 Alyssa Grenfell, 5-8 Ashley Backen and 6-0 Margaret Anderson.
Backen, from Roseburg, redshirted last season after sustaining a torn ACL. Anderson is currently sidelined with a stress fracture.
Stricklin says the Riverhawks want to rebound and push the ball up the floor as usual, but may slow the game down in certain situations.
“I think our shooters are good enough where you have to get out and guard them,” he said. “The trend right now is for some teams to take 50 percent of their shots from the 3-point line, but that’s not going to be us. I’m hoping we shoot a pretty good percentage, but our strength is our size.
“We’re going to try to jam the ball inside. Because of that, I don’t know how we’re going to play this year. We don’t want to get caught in transition ... we don’t want to turn it into a three-on-three fullcourt with our bigs stuck in the middle.”
The Riverhawks open their season Friday night against Pierce at the Clackamas Thanksgiving Invitational in Oregon City. The tournament runs through Sunday.
UCC begins Southern Region play on Jan. 4, hosting Southwestern Oregon of Coos Bay. Lane of Eugene is the defending South and NWAC champion.
“The top teams in the region last year were all sophomore-heavy, so everybody’s in the exact same spot,” Stricklin said. “Everybody’s going to be young, so it becomes very unpredictable.”
Bilbrew is one player who’s still stinging from last year’s NWAC tournament. The Riverhawks went in with championship aspirations, but dropped two straight games.
“It’s a lot of motivation for me because I came here last year wanting to win a ring,” Bilbrew said. “Obviously we didn’t, so I came back. That’s our goal, to win a ring.”