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COC women's basketball preview: New kids on the clock

COC’s youngsters could grow into contenders sooner than later

Posted: November 22, 2010 10:49 p.m.
Updated: November 22, 2010 10:49 p.m.

College of the Canyons guard Dominique Turner is one of three sophomores on the team this season. But there’s a wealth of talent in this freshman class, so much in fact that head coach Greg Herrick believes this team can contend for a state title.

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There are a couple of oddities with the 2010-11 College of the Canyons women’s basketball team — all have to do with the team’s youth.

First is the fact that there are 12 freshmen on the roster and three sophomores. With that many new faces, the thought would be that this team will have to work on gelling this season.

Not the case.

They already have gelled.

Second is the fact that head coach Greg Herrick said he feels that this team can challenge for a state title.

With 12 freshmen and three sophomores and one of the greatest players in program history having moved on to greener pastures?

“I think there’s an element of optimism in the coaching staff and the team,” Herrick said. “Last year at this time, I would have said we’re going to be OK, not great. But this year I think we’re going to be pretty good. ... Barring injury, I think we’ll be able to compete for the whole thing.”

Herrick miscalculated about last year’s team.

The Cougars weren’t just OK, they were great — having gone undefeated in the Western State Conference and finishing 24-9, despite a first-round Southern California Regional playoff exit.

Here’s hoping that he doesn’t miscalculate on this season’s squad.

The reason he has so much optimism is because a couple of factors.

First and foremost is what he has on the court.

In 30 years of coaching, Herrick said this might be the best shooting team he has ever had — male or female.

“We’ll shoot the ball more from the perimeter,” Herrick said. “If anyone zones us, they should be drug tested.”

As with every other Cougars basketball team, this one again will try and run teams out of the building.

It starts in the backcourt with two of the veterans on the team — point guard Kelli Lewis, who was a major reason for the Cougars’ success last year, and an improved Dominique Turner.

Both players were double-digit scorers last season.

The surrounding cast is intriguing.

Freshman guard Tinky Dahte is an import from Germany who has already shown scoring ability.

Freshman forward Jazzmyn Davis averaged 13.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game for Birmingham of Lake Balboa last season.

Freshman post player Erika Rivera was a defensive presence for Burroughs of Burbank last season, pulling down 7.5 rebounds and blocking 3.1 shots per game.

Finally, freshman Jenny Lentz, one of the Foothill League’s best shooters last year and an all-league and All-Santa Clarita Valley selection at Valencia, has already shown a multi-faceted game at COC.

Though she didn’t know what kind of impact she would make coming in.

“Coming in as a freshman, I was very intimidated, thinking, ‘What did I get myself into?’” Lentz said. “But everyone is so nice. We decided we’re all going to be like sisters. We need to be a tight-knit team to where we don’t have problems as a team.”

That’s the other reason for optimism — cohesion.

Lentz said she’s been on teams in the past where players didn’t get along.

She said it was Lewis, a Hart High graduate, who made it known early on that this wouldn’t be one of those teams.

“I think since everyone’s new, they don’t have as many friends, we all came together,” Lewis said.

Herrick said he’s more into what the team does on the court and worries less about what goes on off the court.

That’s where the team members have taken it upon themselves to connect off the court, thinking it will translate to games.
Thus far, they’ve had team dinners, gone bowling together and hung out at school.

“There’s always drama, but this team, they all get along, all appreciate each other. No egos. No superstar,” Herrick said. “We relinquished the superstar role to Ashley Wakefield (last year). She was reluctant to take it. This year, we don’t have anyone like that. I bet you you’ll see five players in double figures.”

But Wakefield is a huge loss.

Wakefield, now at the University of the Pacific, was named California Community College Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Co-Player of the Year last season, having averaged 18.6 points and 12.9 rebounds per game.

Also gone are Joslynn Frazier and Ashley Mason, who are now playing at Grand Canyon University and San Diego Christian, respectively.

Through four games, the Cougars are 2-2.

Lewis said coming back from a Nov. 6 loss to San Bernardino and beating Riverside the next day was a huge confidence boost and the point where the Cougars realized they will be a force this season.

“We will surprise people,” Lewis said. “We might not look as tough as last year’s team, but the way we play together, we really complement each other, I think we’ll surprise people. We all know our roles. That’s what the girls are learning right now.”

Herrick, in his 19th season at COC, expects the same teams to be there at the end — Mt. San Antonio College, Pasadena City College and Ventura, who represent the last five state champions.

The Cougars will have an uphill climb, being that those teams usually have the post advantage.

But if this COC doesn’t challenge in the state playoffs, maybe the next one will.

“I was thinking that the other day. When the three sophomores leave, we’re going to have a great bonded team already,” Lentz said. “When the freshmen come in (next year), we’ll have so much talent. It will be even stronger next year.”

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