You would be hard pressed to find a basketball team more eager to start the season than the Seattle University women.
If it were golf, the Redhawks would have asked for a mulligan after last season’s 3-27 finish. After reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time in 2018, when everything seemed to go right, nothing went right last season.
They lost several players to injuries, and they lost close game after close game. But even with a record of 1-26, the Redhawks never gave up. They finished the season with two straight easy road wins, then lost by a basket in the WAC tournament opener.
The resolve and resiliency they displayed, along with a much deeper and experienced team, has coach Suzy Barcomb excited about what this season holds. She said the players developed a special bond last year going through that adversity.
“And now we’ve built momentum during the spring and the summer workouts, because we had people back and people were healthy, and we had redshirts who knew they could play (after having to sit out last season),” Barcomb said. “We saw what we were capable of (in the final three games last season), and then throughout the spring and summer we built our momentum up.”
Seattle U had just one senior last season, and the team’s three leading scorers return.
Also back is sophomore point guard McKenzi Williams from Auburn Riverside High School. She started 10 games as a freshman and was slated to start last year before an ACL injury ended her season before it started.
That started the rash of injuries that derailed the season.
Kamira Sanders, a senior, led the team in scoring last season at 13.4 points per game. But she struggled with defenses keying on her and 6-foot-3 center Joana Alves (13.1 points a game), particularly early in the season when guard Courtney Murphy (12.5) was out with a fractured ankle.
“She put so much on her shoulders last year, and it was just too much,” Barcomb said. “Her supporting cast wasn’t there. Now we have a supporting cast, so (opponents) can’t just focus on Kamira. She is ready for a big year.”
Those three should get plenty of scoring help this season, including from three players who were non-medical redshirts last year: 6-1 sophomore forward Chinwe Ezeonu, a transfer from San Jose State, who played at Seattle Prep; 6-3 sophomore forward Hailey Vice-Neat, a transfer from Boise State; and 6-3 freshman center Georgia Kehoe from Australia.
“All three will play significant minutes,” Barcomb said. “They are hands-down three of our top eight. We have eight players who could be starters, and that’s not what we had last year.”
They, along with 6-3 freshman forward Maddy Phillips from Australia, will also give plenty of support inside to Alves, who was pretty much team’s only inside presence last year.
Also being counted on are senior guard Olivia Crawford from Lakes High School, who started in all 20 games she played and averaged 5.9 points, and senior guard Carla Bieg, who started 10 games last season and averaged 6.4 points.
“When we’re all healthy, we are at least 10 deep,” Barcomb said. “Our leading scorer could be anyone, any night. I think we can have at least four or five people average double digits, easily.”
The Redhawks were picked to finish eighth of nine in the WAC preseason rankings, which Barcomb said suits her just fine. She likes being the underdog, but she expects her team to easily exceed those expectations, which are undoubtedly a reflection of what happened last year.
“You’re supposed to be glass half full and I don’t really like looking back much because that means you are not looking forward,” said Barcomb, who said the goal each year is to play for the WAC title. “We examined last year and we realized the reason we weren’t winning games is because we were inexperienced and we weren’t deep enough and our talent. Now we have experienced players and we’re deep. I think it’s just exponentially better looking forward.
“We can be pretty good. I am really looking forward to this season.”