I got back a little while ago from the WKU women’s basketball team’s first media availability of the season, which was also my first Lady Toppers assignment for the BGDN.
I got to get reacquainted with coach Mary Taylor Cowles, who I really haven’t seen since I covered the Lady Tops as a junior at WKU for the College Heights Herald.
An interesting note – Micheal Compton, former Lady Tops beat writer and now preps head honcho/pro sports guru, had been with Cowles for her entire tenture as WKU’s coach.
But just as times are a’changin’ at the Daily News, times are changing with the Lady Toppers.
The program has seven new freshmen and two new assistant coaches this season, and the Lady Toppers ran their first official practice of the year from 7-10 p.m. Monday night.
NCAA rules now allow women’s basketball teams to start practice 40 days before their regular season opener, as long as they take 10 days off in that span.
Cowles also said the team had been meeting for the NCAA-mandated two hours a week from Sept. 15 until Monday.
Much of the talk Tuesday centered around the large freshmen class, as well as the leadership of the team’s five seniors.
Here are a few of Cowles’ quotes on that:
“What I’ve liked early on … is that our seniors are doing a lot of the teaching and a lot of the instructing and talking,” Cowles said before Tuesday’s practice. “When you see your seniors take over like that and take ownership of what we need to get done, I think it shows for a very promising year.”
“Every year we talk about leadership, and I don’t know if we talk enough about it, to be honest,” she said. “I really think it’s the critical part in the success of a team. I know the really great teams that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of have had great leadership on the floor.
“I like the balance of it – old versus young, experienced versus inexperienced. But again, I think it goes back to the quality of our senior leadership. I think that really sets the tone for the basketball team.”
“What’s been so awesome about this team is how positive the atmosphere has been,” Cowles said. “Are there things we’ve got to get in and done and taught? Sure, there’s a huge list. But right now, the focus is on teaching the way we do things and why we do them that way, and then simply having patience as a staff with these young ladies.”
We also had the chance to speak with senior forward LaTeira Owens, as well as freshman forward Chastity Gooch, a former Franklin-Simpson product. Here’s what they had to say:
Owens, on how the seniors have tried to welcome the freshmen
“We do stuff together and try to do some stuff outside of basketball. We go places like movies or the mall. It’s mainly just meshing.”
Owens, on how the freshmen responded to their first practice
“I think they responded well. They competed well and hustled hard. They’re learning some stuff still, but I think they did really well.”
Gooch, on how things have gone so far
“It went really good. I felt like everybody did well and was competing. Like Coach said last night, she doesn’t know who’s going to start, so everybody’s competing for a spot.”
“We’re leaning on each other, but they’re doing a good job as leaders, stepping up and telling us what to do. As freshmen, we’re talking and communicating as well and depending on each other too.”
Now, as Cowles pointed out, don’t forget about the Lady Toppers’ middle child of sorts – the sophomore class. With so many freshmen and seniors, Cowles said it’s important for the three sophomores – Chaney Means, Mimi Hill and Ellen Sholtes – to adapt to all of the changes and keep improving.
WKU has no juniors on roster.
Fans will get their first chance to see the Lady Toppers in action at Hilltopper Hysteria on Oct. 14.
WKU hosts Kentucky Wesleyan for an exhibition game on Nov. 6, then opens its regular season at home against Towson on Nov. 12.