Archive for Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Washington to count on eight rookies

October 9, 2002


Who ARE these women?

Eight new faces  six of them freshmen  dot the Kansas University women's preseason basketball roster.

"We're young  we're very young," KU coach Marian Washington said during Tuesday's preseason media session. "I don't think anyone in the (Big 12) conference is as young as we are."

On paper, Washington could start all five returnees during her 30th season as the Jayhawks' head coach, but that's unlikely. In other words, program sales should be up during the 2002-2003 season, or at least until the fans recognize all the new players.

One freshman almost certain to start is Erica Hallman, a 5-foot-8 point guard from Covington, Ky., who was named Miss Kentucky Basketball last March.

"I do expect a lot from Erica Hallman," Washington said. "She's a point guard who understands the game. She's a heads-up young lady. She's our future."

So, too, are some of the other true freshmen, like:

l Nichelle Roberts, a first-team all-stater from Houston, who averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds a game for her state finalist Westfield High team. "She can run the floor like a gazelle," Washington said.

l Crystal Kemp, a 6-2 forward-center who averaged 21.7 points and 11.4 rebounds for Topeka High as a senior.

l Sereeta Jones, a 6-foot forward from Vista, Calif., who enrolled for the spring semester last season. "On our team, as far as toughness, she's probably at the top of the list," Washington said.

And there are others who are, as they say, too numerous to mention  perhaps why Washington didn't single out any of them, preferring to evaluate them in practice before making any judgments.

"I'm very excited about getting on the floor with them," Washington said. "All reports have indicated I'll be very pleased."

Last year's senior-laden team, lacking scoring punch and athleticism, stumbled to an 0-16 record in the Big 12, failing to win a single game in 2002. The 5-25 season was by far Washington's worst on Mount Oread.

"I certainly learned a lot," Washington said. "I feel like I was in the fiery furnace and the good Lord got me through it."

Of the five returnees from that treadmilling team, sophomore Blair Waltz looms as the most likely to log court time this season. Waltz proved to be a solid stand-still outside shooter despite playing much of the year with a stress fracture in her right foot.

"Blair has to stay healthy," Washington said. "Right now she's looking very good."


 Tamara Ransburg, a 6-4 forward from Virginia Beach, Va., who was regarded as one of Washington's top recruits, is not on the roster. According to KU officials, Ransburg has delayed her enrollment to improve her academic standing. She is expected to enroll for the spring semester.

 Sharonne Spencer, who averaged 3.5 points and 3.7 rebounds as a freshman last season, has been forced to retire from competitive basketball because, Washington said, the 6-2 forward has suffered numerous concussions.

 Stacey Becker, a transfer from Wichita State, will become eligible when the first semester ends. The 5-9 Becker earned multiple all-state honors while at McPherson High. "She's a great shooter," Washington said.

 Washington has no seniors and only two juniors  forward Keila Beachem and guard Leila Mengüc  on her 13-player roster.

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