Nov. 5, 2001
Head Coach Sue Semrau and the Florida State women’s basketball team will get their first test of the season on Tuesday when the Seminoles host the Premier Players in exhibition play at 7 p.m. at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center. The Premier Players, a team consisting of several top former collegiate players including Georgia’s Coco and Kelly Miller, is 2-0 with wins against both North Carolina (89-79) and Auburn (75-66) – two of FSU’s opponents this season.
“We are playing a very good team on Tuesday,” Semrau said. “It should be a very good test for us. Premier has already beaten two solid teams in North Carolina and Auburn, so we know we’ll have our hands full, but we’re looking forward to the challenge. It’s going to be a good opportunity for us to gauge where the team is and what areas we still need the most work.”
The Seminoles return five letterwinners, including three starters, from last year’s 19-12, NCAA Tournament team, but will be without the services of junior Katelyn Vujas on Tuesday. Vujas is out at least two weeks with a left foot stress fracture. Her injured foot has been placed in a walking boot for the next two weeks at which time doctors will re-evaluate the injury.
The starting line up for Tuesday’s contest will likely consist of returning starters Lakesha Springle (point guard) and April Traylor (two guard), both seniors, junior Shinikki Whiting (wing) and sophomores Tasheika Morris (wing) and Lauren Bradley (post). Springle enters her second season as the starting point guard while Traylor, a third team All-ACC selection last year, was the team’s leading scorer at 15.1 points per game a year ago. The game will be Morris’ first in a Seminole uniform. She transferred to FSU from Tennessee in the summer of 2000 and sat out last season per NCAA regulations, but was able to practice with the team. After a solid freshman campaign, Bradley took a redshirt season in 2000-01 because of various injuries. Both are expected to see plenty of action this season. Whiting played in all 31 games last season, including two starts, and averaged 8.1 points per game.
Senior point guard Petra Hofmann, who played in all 31 games last season, and sophomore guard Kim Small, who once again joins the team as a walk on, round out the team’s returning players. The Seminoles also have five new players learning the system, which is quite different than how things looked a year ago. Heading into last season, FSU had four starters returning, just one newcomer and no freshman on the squad.
“It’s been quite a shift,” Semrau said. “Practices are different every day. Coaching-wise, it takes more energy, but in some ways, it gives me more energy too, because of the enthusiasm of the young players. They’re enthusiastically making mistakes, but they are really fun group to coach.”
According to Semrau, the biggest challenge has been blending a veteran group with a group of newcomers.
“You’ve got veterans who want to take off and you’ve got newcomers who want to take off too, but there’s a learning curve,” Semrau said. “It’s such a balance between them. You’ve got five who played last year, you’ve got five who are new and you’ve got two that were here, but didn’t play last year. Getting them all on the same page has been the biggest challenge. It’s knowing how quickly to push the newcomers without holding the veterans back.”
With so many new faces, the leadership factor is of utmost importance. Semrau will not only rely on her three seniors, but all of the returning players as the squad begins to build chemistry.
“The biggest surprise has been the quick development of our chemistry,” Semrau said. ” I don’t think I anticipated, in fact I think I even wondered, how quickly will they blend together as a team and in the last week, I’ve seen them go from strangers to a unit and that’s exciting.”
Springle, who enters her second season as the starting point guard, has been selected the sole team captain of this year’s squad.
“I’m just proud to make Kesha our captain,” Semrau said. “She’s the little kid from Thomasville, Georgia who had big dreams and has worked very hard to make her dreams come true. She’s not only taking care of herself, and making her own dreams come true, but has the capacity to take other people with her. Since naming her captain, already I can see the difference in the way that she deals with the other kids on the team. She’s taken the responsibility to heart, already.
“Kesha is in every way what we want here at Florida State. She’s been exemplary of who we want to be in the classroom and on the court. She takes care of other people off the court and on the court, comes ready to practice everyday. Her comfort level as a leader has just risen.”
So what can Seminole fans expect to see on the floor this week? The talent level on the team has continued to rise with each season, but what will the personality be with so many new players?
“I don’t know what the personality of this team is yet,” Sermau said. “I don’t want to push one on them. I want them to develop it over time. I think we’ll know by the time we play our tournament in the Virgin Islands. They’re serious, yet they’re fun loving. I think they know how good they want to be, I don’t think they know how good they can be and I think the competition against somebody else is really going to help us with that.”
As with the start of every season, there are question marks and there are holes to fill. However, there is one certainly heading into this season. The stability of the program, that Semrau and her staff, has created and with last year’s success, the Seminoles believe in themselves and believe in this program.
“Four years ago, we had a group of very hardworking kids who maybe didn’t deep down inside believe that they could be winners,” Semrau said. “Now, I’ve got players who I know believe that they’re winners and we’re just teaching them what it takes to win. The mentality has really switched in our program, which has been exhilarating. It just really has.”