There wasn’t a whole lot to learn from the on-court action at Friday’s Hilltopper Hysteria event.
Western Kentucky’s basketball programs limited their practice to 10-minute scrimmages with a running clock, meaning spectators got just a glimpse of what the future holds.
The WKU women’s hoops program is moving forward with seven freshmen, which made for a new-look group of Lady Toppers on Friday night.
“It gets us in the gym and allows them to play up and down the court in front of fans, and that’s always very exciting,” coach Mary Taylor Cowles said. “It’s just heading into that time of year.”
The White team won the scrimmage 11-3, led by freshman guard Ileana Johnson’s six points on two 3-pointers.
“It being my first time, I was really nervous,” Johnson said. “It’s a good atmosphere to be in, so it was fun.”
Johnson and Cowles were hesitant to put too much stock in any results from the short scrimmage, but Cowles said she wasn’t surprised to see one of the newcomers making plays.
“I don’t know where that idea that freshmen don’t get a lot of playing time ever came from,” Cowles said. “To be honest, as a player, assistant, head coach – the five best players need to be on the floor when it comes time to compete and win. That’s what’s really going on in our practices right now. It’s about competition.
“What (Johnson) did tonight doesn’t surprise me at all because they’ve been competing every day. It’s been exciting, and I think we’ll see a lot of people step up for us this year.”
The Lady Toppers started practice Oct. 3. Women’s basketball programs are allowed to begin practicing 40 days before their season opener, which for WKU comes Nov. 12 against Towson.
“So far, so good,” Johnson said. “It’s been a lot of learning, but the seniors and sophomores have been a lot of help with teaching us the system.”
Having so many freshmen means the WKU coaching staff has had to be patient and teach the little things, Cowles said, even down to fundamental terminology.
But that refocus on the basics has brought a good vibe back to the program, senior center Jasmine Johnson said.
The Lady Toppers finished 15-17 last season, but did make a run through the Sun Belt Conference Tournament until falling in the championship game.
“Coach wants us to have fun playing the game,” Jasmine Johnson said. “Last year, we didn’t really have that much fun playing. But this year we have a great group of girls. We have great chemistry, and it’s a lot of fun playing with them.”