A ‘Premier’ start for exhibition

After nearly a month of practicing, the women’s basketball team is ready to play its first exhibition game a week after the men had theirs against Angola, and they don’t care whom it’s against. The Bulls get their chance to take the court for the first time tonight at 7 when they play the Premier Players, a travelling team made up of mostly WNBA players.

“We’re looking to just get the season started,” senior Dione Smith said. “Professional – they can be professional, DII, JUCO, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing.”

The game will also mark the debut of USF coach Jose Fernandez’s trapping, pressing defense and a recruiting class ranked 36th by All Star Girls Report. Full-court pressure will be the name of the game for USF as freshmen Jen Kline, Tristen Webb and Alana Tanksley figure to be the athleticism behind Fernandez’s version of 40 minutes of hell.

Offensively, the Bulls are heavy in the backcourt, with the expectation that all five players on the floor will be able to shoot the three.

Figure this year’s squad to be a dramatic departure from last year’s, not just in terms of names and faces, but in style, too.

“Last year, we were more half-court oriented,” Fernandez said. “We ran a lot of sets, took a lot of time off the shot clock, tried to shorten the game. (This year), our goal is to score at least 75-80 points a game. We want to outshoot our opponents by at least 20 shots a game and the only way to do that is to push the ball up the floor, taking quick shots. And (then), jumping right into our full-court pressure defense.”

Webb stated Fernandez’s philosophy very succinctly.”His main thing is three-pointers and pressure,” Webb said. “Nothing but business.”

The Premier Players will be led by 2001 WNBA first-round picks, sisters Kelly and Coco Miller. Both starred at Georgia in their collegiate days before Kelly joined the Charlotte Sting and the Washington Mystics drafted Coco.

The Players are a barnstorming team in the midst of a seven game swing through the Southeast. They beat Auburn 75-66 Saturday and defeated North Carolina by 10 Nov. 1 behind 31 points from the Millers.

“We got all these top national girls right now – the freshmen,” Smith said. “We got transfer Sonia Cotton that’s in, myself coming back and the other girls from last year back, it’s going to be very interesting. They may be professionals but they’re in for something good. You can count on that.”

  • Contact Anthony Gagliano at oracleanthony@yahoo.com