HOUGHTON - After taking some time to reflect on the 21-win 2012-13 season, Michigan Tech women's basketball coach Kim Cameron sat down with The Daily Mining Gazette to talk about the program's most recent accomplishments and what lies ahead for the Huskies.
Q: Now that you have had a few weeks to gain some space, what stands out to you about this season?
Cameron: I think that the way we finished this season, with some of the things we had gone through, was a real significant testament to every player, especially emphasizing our seniors (Sam Hoyt and Emma Veach). They got us to the end of the year and then there were different people who really stepped up each game at the end of the season. ... once the regional rankings came out, there was a stretch of five games, starting with the Saginaw Valley game, that were must-win for us. We knew that one game could have put us one way or another in the rankings, and so we treated them all as must-wins. And the girls really took to that fact and played like it. They really put their foot down and went after it.
Q: How happy are you that the Ashland seniors are finally gone? Two years in a row that team ended your season on the way to the National Championship game with five losses total over the last two seasons.
Cameron: They were so good. It was tough. After we played them up here (losing 76-66) and were going through kind of a rough patch, we were within two and three points at halftime in the next two games. But those are games where you just can't make any mistakes. I really believed that we only needed one time to beat somebody - look at the Louisville and Baylor game on the Division I women's side - and I feel like we had that game in us, but unfortunately it wasn't to be.
Q: How do you fill the Sam Hoyt void for next season? 16.6 points per game along with four assists per contest is a large hole.
Cameron: We are not going to try and replace her. Everyone else is going to have to take a lot of pride and step up and people are excited for that challenge. But there are not very many Sam Hoyts; they don't come around very often. And that is OK. She was standout, and I think everybody else has to step up their game that much more in order to equally fill the void.
Q: Along with the points, assists, steals, etc... how do you handle replacing the leadership of Hoyt and Veach, the only two seniors and the team's best ball-handlers? Who do you envision stepping into that role?
Cameron: That is left to the summer. Those two took care of everything for us, and when you look at it, it made our lives so much easier. It will be an interesting year.
I think there are a couple of people who want to take on that leadership challenge and have started to take on that challenge already. But it is a full-time commitment, it is a sacrifice, a lifestyle. It is a choice. You have to do the right thing all the time. It is not just saying 'I'm going to be a leader,' it is how you live.
Q: I notice you didn't provide any names in that answer - do you not want to put that pressure on any one player right now?
Cameron: No, I just really don't know. You think you might have someone in mind, but I'm letting it play itself out right now.
Q: Between Sarah Stream and then Sam Hoyt, has this program really been blessed with point guards recently?
Cameron: We have been lucky to have really, really good leaders. Even when I was here (playing), Elizabeth Pietila always led by example - tough, strong, smart - and when we run pickup she still runs the floor like she owns it. Hopefully in the recruiting process we have found someone with that ability to continue that. We have been very lucky.
Q: We will talk about this more once signing day (April 17) comes around, but you have a couple of freshman point guards coming in with Kelli Guy (Kalkaska) and Morgan Anderson (De Pere, Wis.), correct?
Cameron: We have two who are hopefully ready. There will definitely be an opportunity for them to play.
Q: Michelle Gaedke is the only true point guard on the roster right now and she missed the end of the season with a serious knee injury. How does she figure into the point guard plans?
Cameron: There is still an opportunity for Michelle Gaedke to recover (from a knee injury), but she will miss some time with practice and things like that. She will be in rehab for a while. But she wanted that responsibility, so I think she will fight hard to get back as quickly as she can because she has worked hard for that job.
Q: Does Perttu count as the emergency-point guard then in case the freshmen don't pick it up as quickly as you hoped?
Cameron: Kenzie is a very strong ball-handler, she can play in a pinch. If we had to put her in that position she will be OK. And she knows that is a possibility, so she is working on that as much as she can right now to get herself ready over the summer in case she needs to play there.
Q: Does the youth of the team make you nervous for next year? You have three sophomores with Danielle Blake, Mackenzie Perttu and Kylie Moxley projecting as starters, juniors in Jillian Ritchie and Emily Harrison and then possibly relying on a true freshman point guard.
Cameron: I understand the question, but I don't want to say nervous, I want to say excited. Their excitement gets me excited. It is going to be a challenge to figure out how we want to run the team and how we want to make everybody as effective as they can be. But we are very talented. Everybody is excited for an opportunity to be better and I think this provides a lot of opportunities.
That being said, you still need somebody to hit your game-winner for you - you have to have that. We don't right now, but hopefully by next November we will.