When the UTEP women's basketball team takes the court Saturday afternoon, they will be the team with a bull's-eye on their back. After a successful campaign last year resulting in a regular season and Conference USA tournament championship, it's pretty safe to say everyone will be gunning for the Miners.
Monday afternoon was no different from others this season as it was another opportunity for head coach Kietha Adams and the team to get back to business. The only difference this Monday came in the form of media day for the team as Adams held her first press conference of the year to talk about the start of the season Saturday against St. Mary's.
I had a chance to speak with her after the full media session and I asked her a few questions.
Chad Middleton: One big void in this years team is the one that has been left by Gloria Brown with her gone, who is going to step up and be the spark and leader on this year's team?
Kietha Adams: I think Kayla (Thornton) has got to be someone that's got to be that spark plug and that energy player. Kelli (Willingham) will be running the point and she's gonna have to be really good and she will be. She has played for us as a freshman and a sophomore.
Anete Steinberga is someone we are going to look to do big things for us at the five spot and then you have Kristine Vitola, the other post player. So really we have two seniors and two juniors and I think these four gals all together, are just really going to have to lead this team, produce and play well and that will help fill that spot."
CM: Another question is the growth of Jenzel Nash in the offseason. Nash stayed here for the summer and has been working hard. Are we going to see a different, more in control Jenzel Nash?
KA: Jenzel stepped up at times and played really well when we needed it, so I think she has proved herself in some really key moments. In the NCAA tournament, if you go back, she was on the floor a lot against Penn St. In some aspects, defensively she had a lot to learn last year, and she has. I think her experience last year, she is so much ahead right now today then she was a year ago then when she came in as a freshman.
I feel like I really kind of held Jenzel back a little last year. We has such a time with a lot of depth and I think it was a good growing experience for her, learning and also have a little bit of a different role from what she had in high school but this year her role is going to be much bigger and I look to turn her loose.
CM: When new season's come around you always have new people coming in to fill the spots of the people that leave and who in this years group of new people should we expect to see good things from?
KA: I think Irene Gari (pronounced Ear-ray-neigh Garr-EE), the young lady from Spain, has probably been our most impressive newcomer to this point. She's really got a great basketball IQ and she really understands the game. She can score, she can shoot it and she's got good size, so I would say she would be our most impressive as of right now.
CM: Finally, Saturday is an exhibition game, what is the approach toward St. Mary's? Is this going to be like a really game in your eyes and will you treat it like a real game, sort of like a dress rehearsal for November 10?
KA: It's definitely a rehearsal but we're going to treat it like a real game and we'll have to be ready to play. (St. Mary's head coach) Jason (Martens) does a really good job. Last year they made us earn it and that's good for us, we've had on closed scrimmage and that was really good for us and then Saturday we'll have the exhibition game and we'll treat it like a game and right now I am in a very observing mode too of our newcomers. I have to learn (our players tendencies) and they have to learn mine. We're just in that growing process.