Fair Game News Logo

Coaching Primer: More Women with Pro-Hoop Dreams and Thoughts on Success from the Best

August 12, 2009 – 8:56 AM

The Playbook is an ocassional series on University of Rhode Island Women’s Basketball team and head coach Cathy Inglese as she works to turn around a losing program.


By Laura Pappano

Go ahead and debate whether or not it’s a good thing, but women’s college basketball is changing: Young women don’t just talk about D1 ball as a way to cover the cost of a college degree, but see it as a path to the pros.  Certainly, some players have always aspired to keep playing — in the WNBA, for the USA, or in Europe. But increasingly female players come to college with hoop dreams.

“It’s a change,” says University of Rhode Island head coach Cathy Inglese, noting that’s one reason she hired two assistant coaches with professional experience: Ashley Earley (Vanderbilt ’05 who made 4 NCAA tournament appearances and played in Israel) and Amber Jacobs (BC ’04 who played in the WNBA 2004-2008). Inglese says one of the point guards she recruited this spring, Anisha Wilson from New Haven, CT, has pro aspirations. “Anisha wants to play in the WNBA,” says Inglese. “It’s something she has brought up.”

Sure, there were mixed reactions when Epiphany Prince announced in June she would skip her senior year at Rutgers to play in Europe and enter the 2010 WNBA draft. The worry: Are the women headed down the road of men’s college ball, where many hardly sit through a class before making their way into the NBA? Are inner-city girls now going to think basketball — and go light on the studies?

Unlikely. The troubling example of inner-city boys who plan for NBA careers only to be lost and uneducated at 20 is more about educational guidance and engagement (or lack of) than basketball. The professional venues for women don’t — dollarwise, anyway — negate the necessity for a college degree. Even Prince promises she’ll get hers. (We’ll check). On the other hand, this development will only improve the quality and competition of D1 play.

Meanwhile, let’s talk about coaching.

During her year sabbatical Inglese visited top D1 basketball programs and sat in on practices run by the best coaches in the business —  Geno Auriemma (Connecticut), Pat Summitt (Tennessee), Tara VanDerveer (Stanford), and Gail Goestenkors (Texas), among others.

Some take-aways:

1. When you coach, says Inglese, “you’ve got to do what is your personality. You can certainly pick and choose the drills, people do different things with video. It’s nice seeing it, but you’ve got to go with what you feel and be consistent. If you are up and down that confuses the kids.”

2. “You need to have leadership, a person on the court who sets the goal and creates a standard,” says Inglese, who believes Megan Shoniker could be that person for URI. “When I met with the team in the locker room, we were talking about goals and things and Megan said, ‘I don’t want the winning to start two years from now, I want it to start doing it now. I want to win now.’ She is a gutsy kid.”

3. “Geno and others, they let their staff be involved in the teaching and breaking down at practices. I used to think I had to bring the energy all the time to practice. They have to bring that themselves,” she says.

4. Inglese says she noticed the intensity at practice.  “The top coaches are into detail and being disciplined and doing things hard and game-like. That is something I have always known, but it was good seeing that.” In other words, practice how you play.