Lady Aztecs looking to defend their crown

by Ethan Bailey

The San Diego State women’s basketball team will look to continue defending as Mountain West Conference champions this season. How the team will accomplish this, however, is a whole other conversation.

San Diego native and first-year head coach Stacie Terry is fired up for the opportunity to coach the Aztecs this season.

[quote]”I’m excited to be back home,” Terry said in an interview with the Mountain West Network. “I take great pride in the letters that are worn on our chests. SDSU is my dream job.”[/quote]

Terry brings coaching experience from University of California, Los Angeles and Louisiana State University, and will look to compete for a conference title despite losing high-caliber players such as Courtney Clements and Chelsea Hopkins, who now play in the WNBA.

With the season nearly upon us, it’s tip-off time for what to expect from this year’s team.

Youth

The Aztecs seem to have been blessed with the gift of fresh feet going into the 2013 season. Three freshman are set to be in the starting lineup come Nov. 10, when the team takes on Sacramento State on the road for its first game of the season.

Guard Ariell Bostick is 5-feet 4-inches and speedy, giving the Aztecs the ability to pass inside and score points quickly. Chloe Johnson, a 5-feet 7-inch guard, also gives the Aztecs dynamic ability under the rim.

Johnson was a 2012 Naismith Coach of the Year honoree and part of the St. Mary’s High School team that won three straight Arizona Division I championships. Last but not least is freshman Alyssa Lawrence, a 6-foot 1-inch forward who will give the team a presence in the paint and the top of the key.

The early success of these physically talented freshmen relies on how quickly Terry can begin developing them and how quickly they learn her schemes.

[quote]”They have to grow up really fast,” Terry said. “But I think they’re capable of doing that.”[/quote]

Defending the Crown

For the Aztecs to repeat as MW champions, they’ll need to find ways to make up for the departed Clements and Hopkins. Clements led the team in average points per game in the 2012-13 season with 17, and Hopkins was the team leader in rebounds with 9.1 per game.

The three aforementioned freshmen will be a large part of the formula, but replacing those kind of offensive statistics will take a team effort. Junior forward Erimma Amarikwa will look to revert back to her freshman ways, when she participated in all 32 games for SDSU and scored on more than 45 percent of shots from the field.

Amarikwa also shot at approximately 69 percent from the free-throw line. She has averaged nine points and six rebounds per game this preseason.

[quote]”She’s so gifted offensively and finds a way to get it done,” Terry said. “She is our most experienced player.”[/quote]

Amarikwa’s leadership and offensive ability will be critical during the season for a team with a roster as young and inexperienced as SDSU’s.

Senior center Cierra Warren also brings leadership and experience to the Aztecs. The Louisville transfer has garnered the attention and praises of Terry, who expects Warren to play a significant role on both offense and defense.

Warren spent a year playing for the North Carolina Tar Heels before transferring to Louisville and then again to SDSU. The Aztecs hope the third time’s the charm for the highly-talented Warren.

Expectations

It’s certainly not impossible to think the Aztec women’s basketball team can contend for another MWC title and beyond, even though the team has a new coaching staff and lacks the star power of recent years’ teams.

The program has had success the past few years, and there’s no doubt it believes in Terry’s ability to get the best out of her team this season. However, fans should be cautiously optimistic, especially at the beginning of the season.

This is a squad that will absolutely have to win by committee, and for that to happen the team will need time to gel. Amarikwa and Warren may very well shoulder much of the burden early on until the younger players find rhythm and comfort in their new home.

If the Aztecs drop a couple of early games, don’t panic—the team should be able to make a late-season run at the conference title after the players gain rapport with each other.

 

Prediction for the season:

20-8 (15-3 MWC) 1st place in the conference

 

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