HOUGHTON - After taking some time to reflect on the 19-9 2013-14 season, Michigan Tech women's basketball coach Kim Cameron sat down with The Daily Mining Gazette to talk about the program's late season struggles and what lies ahead for the Huskies in part two of a two-part self-evaluation of the Huskies' recently concluded campaign.
Q: Jillian Ritchie was essentially in a season-long shooting slump, hitting just 33.6 percent of shots overall and 30.6 percent from three. She shot 46 percent from three-point range last year. It got to the point where you removed her from the starting lineup for the final six games. What happened?
Cameron: We came into the year, and though we knew we were very talented, we knew we were going to be lacking leadership. And Jillian wanted to take on that role, because she had such a strong last 10 games as a sophomore. She really came on then and helped win us some games.?So there was a lot of attention put on her, a lot of pressure. She was voted first-team all-conference preseason. I don't know what actually happen, but you tend to speculate whether it was too much pressure. She was also overcoming a (knee) injury at the beginning of the year, and that mentally can be very straining as you want so hard to be doing everything the right way.
We have a ton of theories and a ton of thoughts. We have addressed all of them. I think she is really looking forward to her senior year. The shooting percentage, obviously it was bad, and she knows it, but I think she will be propelled into next year. She is still a tough player for us.
Q: Did you move her out of the starting lineup to try and take away some of that pressure?
Cameron: At that point we were desperate for baskets, and Paige (Albi) was a good option for us.
Q: Freshmen guards Morgan Anderson and Kelli Guy really saw their playing time yo-yo quite a bit this year. Some games it was two minutes and others they got 20. What do they have to do to earn a consistent place in the rotation?
Cameron: There was inconsistency on both ends. They are two very different players obviously.
Kelli is a shooter. She just shoots the lights out, coming off screens, catch and shoot, whatever. Kelli just needs to work on repetition things, and she will put herself in a really good position to play.
Where Morgan is a little craftier, she plays with less inhibition. She can create more things for people, and there were certain games she was successful in that running off ball-screens. She is not as structured, and in some cases that was helpful, sometimes it was not. This summer we want her working on a little more skill stuff. We need her to make an open three. And she has good moves, but she only has the ones she is comfortable with. She needs to be comfortable with her left-hand, just become a little more dynamic.
They were always ready every time they came in, whether that was every game or not.
Q: Is there any regret to not redshirting Brenna Heise? She played in just 12 games her freshman year, playing just 4.8 minutes in those games.
Cameron: Not yet. The way our season went, the inconsistency all the way around, I think she had to be ready to play at any time. And I think the minutes she got were valuable, the positions she was put in were valuable.
If you don't know who is going to do what (on the roster), it is tough to make those decisions. Now maybe by her senior year we will be begging for one more year, but there isn't any regret right now.
Q: Can Emily Harrison be a 20-25 minute per game player? With Kylie (Moxley) injured, Harrison started eight of the final 10 games but only played 20 minutes or more twice in that stretch.
Cameron: Yes. Absolutely. No doubt in my mind. If you had asked me at the beginning of this year, I would have thought that is where she would be at. I think that the switch is going to flip. She is very, very good in the preseason and the postseason. So only time will tell how she plays her senior year. But that being said, she really wants to win, and wants to play. She knows how much her team needs her. Sometimes when your back is against the wall that is when you are at your best. Rooming with Paige Albi, she really saw how a senior acts at practice day in and day out.
Q: The team went 7-7 away from Houghton this year. Is there anything you saw that made the road such a tough place?
Cameron: No. I don't think so. I think that was just apart of our struggles over the last 11 games. I don't think the road affects us the way it affects other teams. I think we are really good mentally at handling stuff like that. The bottom line is we just didn't put the ball in the basket, I don't think it mattered where we were.
Q: We've talked about how this team has a lot of young talent coming back, but is that really true for most of the GLIAC North? If you look at Northern Michigan and Wayne State's rosters, they are returning most of their minutes as well, with first-teamers like Alyssa Colla and Shareta Brown coming back.
Cameron: You know what, for as much as I keep saying we have this many points from sophomores, everyone else can say pretty much the same thing. It is not getting any easier. If you went through all the games in the North against the North, it was darn close to .500 record. And everybody is young! Look at who Wayne State has coming back, Northern has almost everybody. It is going to be a battle from the beginning. Summer is going to make a huge defense.
Q: Did the team maintain the defensive presence this year that Tech teams are known for?
Cameron: There was times we did and times where we just lost our mind. Comparing this season and last season, our defense gave up seven more points per game this year (in conference play) than last year. Which is hard for me to stomach. That being said, I think we had a couple really bad games. If you eliminate those - giving up 90 to Wayne State - and take away from fluky ones, that number looks a bit better.
Overall, I do think we did a good job with attitude. Everyone focused on defense and that bodes well.
Q: Some of the increase in points per game certainly comes from pace of play. You guys averaged about three more possessions per game this year (71.5) than last year (68.7). Is that faster than you want to play?
Cameron: I remember looking at box scores and we are losing taking 70 shots. And I was disappointed that we shot that much, we don't need to shoot that much. That means we are not working the ball well enough on offense. We are addressing that.