Nov. 15, 1999
It’s the task the Florida State women’s basketball team has put on themselves and one another.
“This is our challenge,” Florida State Head Coach Sue Semrau said. “It really doesn’t matter if an individual is excellent unless we can be excellent and come
together as a team.”
There will be several important keys to the success of the upcoming season for the Florida State Seminoles. And as with the theme of the season, individually each factor is important, but together they are crucial to the excellence that the team hopes to achieve.
“I feel like we have made positive steps,” Semrau said. “I really believe we have laid a foundation and now it’s time to turn the corner and make our move. We’re ready to jump out of the starting blocks.”
The return of lone senior Latavia “Tay” Coleman.
Coleman was averaging an ACC-leading 20.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game through the first 10 games of last season before suffering a torn ACL to her right knee in practice on December 26th. She had scored in double figures in all 10 games, including a 30-point performance vs. Louisiana Tech and a 38-point outing vs. North Carolina. Her return to the court is even more exciting with the supporting cast Coleman will have to work with this season.
“In addition to having Tay’s court presence, the knowledge that she gained on the sidelines last year is going to make a big impact when she does step on the court again,” Semrau said. “So many times she referred to all she was learning from a coaching perspective, more than she could ever see on the court. I believe the knowledge she gained having to sit out last year will be really valuable not only to Tay but also to the growth and development of our young team.”
The continuing emergence of junior Brooke Wyckoff.
A third team All-ACC selection in 1998-99, Wyckoff, who averaged 13.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore, spent her second straight summer with USA Basketball. She was a member of the 1999 USA Basketball World University Games team that earned the Silver Medal at the Games that were played in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. She averaged 7.0 points and a team-leading 7.0 rebounds in starting all seven games. A two-year starter, Wyckoff’s leadership and experience will help ground the young squad.
“Last year we called Brooke a sophomore and a half because of the USA Basketball experience that she had,” Semrau said. “This summer she was not only a part of a USA team, but she was a starter on that team and was the leading rebounder. She has always been a talented athlete, but I think now she has refined her game and her skills and she is much more effective in the mental aspect of her game.”
The impact of the newcomers.
Florida State lost five letterwinners, including two starters, from last year’s squad, but Semrau and her staff had a huge recruiting year. FSU welcomes a group that was ranked among the Top 10 recruiting classes in the nation by several publications. This group should have an immediate impact on the program.
“The expectations for the incoming freshmen are going to be very high, not only from the fans’ standpoint but from the standpoint of the players themselves,” Semrau said. “I don’t think that anyone’s expectations are going to be higher than their own expectations of themselves. It is a good kind of pressure to have when you are stepping into one of the top conferences in the country. These players all bring a great deal of talent, but also a winning tradition from their high school and AAU programs and that will be really valuable to the development of our program.”
The consistency of the coaching staff.
With Semrau’s arrival to Florida State in the summer of 1997, the Seminole women’s basketball program had had three different head coaches in three years. The 1999-2000 season will be Semrau’s third at the helm and her second recruiting class will enter the picture. FSU should start to reap the benefits of this consistency this season.
“When you are talking about a successful team and a successful program you are talking about two different things. We are looking to develop both,” Semrau said. “Consistency is one of the foundational elements that we believe necessary to have for these things to happen. We have the hardest working staff I believe anywhere. They are committed to Florida State women’s basketball and have developed a wonderful family atmosphere for our players, fans and the community. I can’t say enough about all they bring to this program.”
The squad will have three returning starters in Coleman, Wyckoff and sophomore April Traylor, a 1998-99 ACC All-Freshman Team honoree who ranked third on the team at 12.7 points per game. Traylor scored in double figures in 17 games as a rookie, including a career-high against Florida.
The Tribe returns good experience at nearly every position but point guard. Gone is four-year starter Jen Robinson, but sophomore Lakesha Springle returns. Springle played behind veterans Robinson and Val Linley, but still saw action in all 27 games, including three starts.
Sophomore Angela Sutton will also see some action at the point. Sutton played in 21 games with eight starts and only missed action because of a mid-foot sprain she suffered in late December. The presence Sutton brings to the floor defensively will also be important.
“The position that is most wide open for us is our point guard, having lost Jen Robinson,” Semrau said. “We really feel as if we have a great deal of talent at that position, but not a lot of experience.”
Florida State will have a great deal of versatility on the perimeter. Wyckoff headlines the group with her size and agility. She can score, rebound and block. Traylor is an explosive scorer and great penetrator. Freshman Shinikki Whiting is also valuable on the wing. She is a highly-touted player who simply needs to be on the floor and the coaches feel she is a natural leader. Whiting, who was pegged the USA Today All-American Player of the Year for the state of Florida, also garnered 1999 Miss Florida Basketball honors and holds 15 career records at Clearwater High School. Junior reserve Vanessa Fuchs is a solid outside shooter who brings depth to the position and her experience has allowed her to develop other aspects of her game. Fuchs played in 22 games last year. Freshman Molly Beal will also be a threat from the outside. A 1999 USA Today honorable-mention All-American, she averaged 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists as a senior at Pembroke High School. Junior reserve Lako Brown will likely be moved to the perimeter as well, which better suits her 5-10 frame. She is a tremendous rebounder who has great jumping ability.
“We have the potential to have many different weapons on this team,” Semrau said. “It’s going to be much more competitive in practice which will make us a better team.”
The Seminoles’ post game will be just as versatile with the strength of Coleman and the finesse of 6-3 sophomore Lea Bennett and 6-3 freshmen Lauren Bradley and Katelyn Vujas. Bennett, who played in 13 games last season, worked very hard in the offseason and is in good form. Both 1999 USA Today honorable-mention All-Americans, Bradley was the Florida 6A Player of the Year while Vujas was listed among the Blu Star Top 25. Transfer Levys Torres, who is one of the best rebounders to come out of the junior college ranks, averaged 20.0 points and 15.0 rebounds in her career at Chipola Junior College. At 6-4, she is the tallest of the post players.
“Every one of these players will add much needed size,” Semrau said. “In addition they are extremely active and mobile.”
The 1999-2000 schedule will offer all kinds of challenges for the Seminoles. In addition to the always strenuous Atlantic Coast Conference slate, FSU will also host SEC-powers Auburn and Florida. Xavier of the Atlantic 10 Conference will participate in the 1999 Tallahassee Democrat Seminole Classic. In all, the Seminoles could face nine teams that participated in last year’s NCAA Tournament. FSU will also play at Mercer in Macon, Ga., the home of senior Latavia Coleman, while the FIU Tournament will bring Vanessa Fuchs close to her Pompano Beach, Fla., home.
“We really want to keep our strength of schedule,” Semrau said. “With the ACC schedule tough already, we feel like it’s important to play some other top caliber schools in order to prepare for ACC competition.
“We are also excited about taking some players home this year with trips to Macon and Miami. Our pre-Christmas trip to Chicago will give the team a chance to look at different culture and climates.”