The Huskies lose Natalie Romeo, who averaged 9.3 points last season, due to an undisclosed injury and there's no timetable on her return. She was UW's lone returning starter.
The Washington women’s basketball team’s leading returning scorer Natalie Romeo is out indefinitely due to undisclosed medical reasons, which is a devastating blow for an injury-depleted Huskies squad that lost four starters from last season.
Romeo, a three-point specialist and UW’s lone returning starter who averaged 9.3 points in 2016-17, is one of several players that’s out due to injuries.
Redshirt freshman forward GiGi Garcia will miss a second straight season due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury, coach Jody Wynn said Thursday.
Three of UW’s five returners have missed time in fall practice, which began Oct. 1, due to injuries including: forward Hannah Johnson (broken hand), center Deja Strother (lower-body extremity) and forward Mai-Loni Henson (back).
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The Huskies also awarded a scholarship to senior walk-on point guard Jenna Moser.
Here’s the transcript from Wynn’s press conference at Thursday’s media day.
(Opening statement) “Thanks for coming. Really appreciate it. It’s awesome to just get out on the court and work with these young women. They’re so hungry to learn and very dedicated to improving every single day. It’s a joy to coach even though today might not have seemed so in certain drills. It’s a joy to coach a group of people that really want to learn and really want to get better. It just makes it fun to come to practice every single day. We talk about controlling our effort every single day because that’s what we can control. Our effort and our attitude. If we can just take one step closer to our goal every single day then that’s all we can ask of each other. So it’s been fun. We started official practices on Oct. 1. The biggest challenge has been players coming in and out due to injury. And so we don’t really know every single day who’s in what drill. Not that we don’t know, but it’s just a challenges as coaches to really get a practice plan when kids are in and out of drills and in and out practices based on their injuries. That’s been not only the biggest challenge as coaches, but for them as a team to develop any sort of continuity with each other. What
“What else can I open up with besides I appreciate you guys being here. We’re going to work really, really hard. That’s one thing that we can control is our effort and our attitude every day. And we will get better through that.”
(Are you to a point to where you’re running out bodies and need people to walk on?) “Right now we’ve had some kids try out. They haven’t made the team. There’s no desperation. We have some players that are going to be slowly getting themselves back on to the court, but in the interim it’s just been a challenge so our coaches have to get out there and practice. Our male practice players are usually out here. Sometimes it’s a challenge having morning practices to get them in the gym because of their class schedule. That’s been pretty difficult for us to be able to go 5-on-5 because we don’t always have 10 that are able to get out there. Not 10 of our own players. Gosh if we had 10 of our own players I might sing a song. But just 10 bodies.”
(Any update on the injuries?) “I can’t be specific with some things because as you guys know the HIPAA laws. Kelli Kingma had to medically retire due to surgeries on both wrists. As you guys know from back in the spring, Breanna Ruiz medically retired due to her ACLs. Let’s see who else had to medically retire. I feel like there’s some more people. As you guys know and I think you were aware, GiGi (Garcia) is out because of another of her ACL. She was going to be out no matter what this year due to that. So she’s another body that’s out. Natalie Romeo is out indefinitely for medical reasons and that’s all I can mention in regards to that. Then we have some other kids who are nursing injuries and are making their way back onto the court. Today you saw Hannah (Johnson) with her hand all taped us. To us, that was huge because she’s been in this big huge brace and not able to do much of anything for six weeks. So she’s coming back after breaking her hand in two spots. Mai-Loni (Henson) will eventually get back onto the court hopefully within the next two weeks. It was the first time she’s done something even a little bit for about a week or so now. Keirra (Collier) and Missy (Peterson) are both nursing lower-body extremity injuries that they’ve had since last January. So they’re two people that hopefully will be back on the court by next week as well. And then Deja (Strother) has a lower-body extremity injury that she’s just out indefinitely.”
(What has this been like?) “I just try to kind of think that our players have gone through adversity being a coaching change and a roster change. I’ve asked them to respond positively. And I’ve asked them to continue to just put your best foot forward every single day and give your best effort no matter what the circumstances. There’s no place that’s Fantasy Island and there’s no such thing as utopia. There’s going to be challenges in your life every single day from here until the rest of your life. And that goes for us as coaches. For myself, I can’t ask them to fight through adversity in a positive manner and have a pity party because we’re losing players. Those were the cards that have been dealt. I can’t change it. So instead of being miserable every single day because another kid is out and another kid is out and pretty soon we’re down to 3-4 players in practice, I just have to give my energy in a positive manner to the girls that can practice and then make sure that the girls are not practicing still understand that we care for them. It’s not easy. But life isn’t easy either. We’ve definitely been challenged. Yeah, we came from the highest of highs in the spring. We knew that it was going to take some time, you just don’t always anticipate the injuries.”
(Do you know what type of team you’ll have on for the Nov. 12 opener?) “We’re used to playing 10, 11 or 12 players. That’s just our style. We certainly haven’t been able to do most of the things that we’ve done in the past. So there is definitely some modifications that have been made on both ends of the floor with regards to a philosophy with this particular group. But I will say that I guarantee you that we will have five and those five will play really, really hard. And that’s all I can control. If I had a crystal ball and I can tell you on Nov. 12 we’ll have 11 players suited up and ready to go, then I might go buy a lottery ticket today. I don’t know if that’s something I can forsee. I don’t know. It’s day by day that I hear how kids have been responding. This morning I get a text at 7 o’clock that one of our players – a freshman – her ankle was not feeling great. She’s been in practice every day and then all of a sudden today she couldn’t practice because of something that went on in the training room last night or whenever she went and saw the trainer last night. They re-evaluated this morning and said today she needs a day off. She’ll be back tomorrow with some treatment and some rest, but it’s things like that you can’t control the uncontrollables. I just have to focus on who do we have? Let’s go hard. Let’s talk to each other. Let’s get better today.”
(For someone who likes a pressure defense, do you do something radical and play zone?) “No. We’re trying to implement our philosophy, but we just have to modify it a little bit. So we want to teach some of the same concepts, certainly you wan to teach the terminology. One thing that’s been really unique – and that’s taking over a program anywhere – and it happened nine years ago when we went over to Long Beach State from USC is everybody is a freshman. This is my first year. We might have seniors that are labeled seniors, but we’re all first year together. Everybody is learning together. So our young kids aren’t learning from our older kids. The older kids aren’t modeling what to do for our younger players. So it takes time and it just slows the process down because we’re teaching every step of the way and they don’t really have each other to look and model at because everybody is learning the terminology at the same time. So it takes time. But that’s taking over any program. It would just be nice to have a few more bodies.”
(If you had to name a starting five, who is your point guard?) “We try to tell them that we’re position-less in the sense that we want everybody to be able to decision-make, handle the ball (and) initiate our offense. That’s our overall philosophy. However, we’re not all there with our skill set and what not. And to honest with you, we’ve been running our senior walk-on who we gave a scholarship to two weeks ago as our point guard and she’s done a fantastic job Jenna Moser. She’s one that probably hasn’t played a second until now and she’s going to get out there and run the offense. But it’s by committee. We’re going to decision-make and we’re going to handle the ball by committee. And we’re going to play defense as a group as well. The offense isn’t going to be run through one person if that’s what you’re asking, absolutely not. And the defense isn’t going to be captained by one person. It’s all five. And that’s really our philosophy as well.”
(Was Moser a recruited walk-on?) “No she was a walk-on and was on the tam last year as well. She’s a senior and we recognized how extremely hard she’s worked. She’s just an amazing young lady on the court, off the court and with her teammates. And we rewarded her with a scholarship two weeks ago.”
(Did she play last year?) “No. She was on the team.”
(How did she react?) “The team tackled her. Maybe that wasn’t smart. But we announced it after practice one day at center circle. Everybody just got fired up. People were crying. Then it got all of us crying. It was well deserved. She earned it. It wasn’t given to her. She earned it. She’s in incredible shape. And she takes time and comes in and watches film. She cares about her craft. She’s a great role model for the younger players. She was super excited. And got on the phone and talked to her mom and dad. The players love her to death and it was just a really special moment.”
(On being picked last in the Pac-12 preseason media poll) “We have nothing to lose. We’re just playing free, right. We’re concentrating on us. We don’t care what the media has to say about us as long as we’re taking care of business and we know we’re doing things the right way. With high character and high class and together and we support one another and we don’t point the finger. So if the media picked us 12th, we expected it. So it wasn’t like it was breaking news. It’s kind of like, OK now we have nothing to lose and we have everything to prove. And we’re really not trying to prove it to anybody but ourselves. We work hard for ourselves every single day and to put our program back into national prominence. And that’s baby steps every single day. And we’re working really, really hard to be the overachievers this year.”