Coach Jose Fernandez will have an important new addition on the USF women’s basketball bench this season – but she won’t be wearing a uniform.
Jen Schneider, hired in April as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, brings an aura of toughness and an attitude of confidence to a program which has struggled in the past few years.
“I enjoy the passion with Jose that we have for coaching,” Schneider said. “We share the same fire.”
Last year the Bulls suffered through a disappointing 4-24 season in which USF won only one Conference USA game and finished with the worst overall mark in school history. But with the addition of Schneider – who left Stetson after helping the Hatters to a school-record 22 wins last season as an assistant coach – and an incoming recruiting class rated in the top 25 nationally, the Bulls have good reason to be optimistic heading into the season.
“We’re selling the future of our program, the education, and of course, the location,” Schneider said. “We are willing to pay the price, whatever the price is.”
Schneider’s most important role on the team will come in the area of recruiting. Fernandez said Schneider’s connections throughout the basketball community were a main factor in his decision to hire her as an assistant.
“That’s why I wanted her here, with us, because of her hard work ethic,” he said. “And not only local Florida ties, but national ties as well.”
These ties stem from Schneider’s coaching and playing background, which started in Michigan in 1992 and continued in Florida. Schneider played point guard in high school and for Northwood University in Michigan before graduating with a business degree and a 3.5 grade point average in 1992.
But Schneider knew that basketball, not business, was where her heart was. Schneider packed up her car, and, with a couple of friends, took off for Florida.
“(Florida was) where I always wanted to be,” Schneider said.After coaching high school basketball for five years in Naples, Schneider accepted an offer from Stetson as an assistant coach.
Schneider was on the road recruiting when she first met Fernandez, who was an assistant at Barry University in Miami at the time.
And when Fernandez started looking over the applicants for the job of assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, he said Schneider was definitely the one he wanted.
“With her high school ties in the state of Florida and her hard work ethic I had her on the top of the list,” Fernandez said.
And so far, Schneider has backed up Fernandez’s praise by helping deliver the school its best recruiting class. Schneider was instrumental in helping the Bulls land Jameelah Trimble, a 6-foot-5 honorable mention prep All-American from American Senior High in Hialeah, who transfers from Florida in the fall.
Trimble joins five incoming freshmen from out of the state who signed in November: Alana Tanksley, Shaunte Carter and Tristen Webb from Georgia, Allison AuBuchon from Minnesota and Jen Kline from Nevada. Schneider said she and Fernandez are willing to take whatever steps necesssary to turn the program around.
“Whether we have to go up the road to Gainesville to talk to a possible transfer or fly up to Minnesota, we are going to do what we have to do to make this a successful program,” Schneider said.
With last season’s struggles behind them and fresh faces on the bench, Schneider said the Bulls’ goal this season is to eclipse the school record of 15 wins, set during the 1976-77 season.
Schneider also said she hopes the return of Midnight Madness, a preseason pep rally in October for the basketball program that signifies the start of practice, will drum up interest.
“It is going to be exciting for everyone in the community,” she said. “We hope it brings support.”