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Vol. LXII, No. 46
 
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
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READ ALL ABOUT IT: Princeton University women’s basketball senior tri-captain Caitlin O’Neill holds a copy of the team’s media guide as teammates, from left, Jessica Berry, Whitney Downs (obscured), Addie Micir, and Julia Berger look over her shoulder. The Tigers are looking to write a winning chapter this winter. Princeton gets its 2008-9 season underway by playing at Fordham on November 14.

After Going Through Transition Process, PU Women’s Hoops Looking for Results

Bill Alden

Courtney Banghart has proven herself to be a quick study.

During her career with the Dartmouth College basketball team from 1996-2000, Banghart was a starter by the time she was a sophomore. The sharp-shooting guard went on to be an All-Ivy performer and a key part of two Ivy championship squads.

Later, she returned to her alma mater as an assistant coach with the women’s hoops program, helping the Big Green to a pair of Ivy crowns and earning a masters degree in writing and leadership development in her spare time.

Now as Banghart heads into her second year as the head coach of the Princeton University women’s basketball program, she is applying her ability to soak up knowledge in her effort to help the Tigers become Ivy contenders.

“I would hope I am a work in progress from now until the time I die; the only thing I know to do is to keep learning,” said Banghart, who went through a frustrating debut campaign that saw Princeton go 7-23 overall and 4-10 in league play.

“I am doing that through film, talking to a lot of coaches in the offseason, and reading. I have picked up a lot. Watching our kids constantly has helped me understand what they can do. They are a different kind of kid than what I have had in the past.”

Banghart is hoping for a different kind of season than the one the program experienced last year.

“I am a year better and I hope the kids are too,” said Banghart, whose team will tip off its 2008-09 campaign by playing at Fordham this Friday.

“I think year two is different for everyone, thank God. I think the first year is putting a new system and teaching our kids how to play instead of run plays. It takes time.”

The Tiger players should be much better fundamentally when it comes to playing on the offensive end of the floor.

“They have a little more skill in terms of passing, footwork, and catching,” said Banghart. “I also think we can score from all positions. I think the skill level of our returners has improved; they have just worked at it.”

That work has been prompted, in part, by the fact that Princeton is embarking on life after Meg Cowher, who graduated last year as the second-leading scorer in program history with 1,681 points.

“Meg is probably one of the better players who will ever play in the Ivy League,” asserted Banghart.

“We are going to replace Meg by committee. Now instead of the offense going through one person, it is going to go through five. I think that will allow everyone to play to their strengths a little more. With the loss of our best player we have a year of development with our other players since this past March. They had to play without their star and it is really fun to see them blossom as a result.”

In Banghart’s view, she has some talent ready to blossom in the post in junior Cheryl Stevens and two promising newcomers.

“Cheryl is our most improved player,” maintained Banghart. “She has lost 12 pounds, she is in great shape. She is much more coordinated; she has body control. She understood the game but she wasn’t able to execute when she needed to. We have two rookies inside. Devona Allgood is 6’3; her hands are as long as my legs. We also have 6’2 Angela Groves; she’s a legitimate five man.”

Princeton has potential all over the court. “Addie Micir is really talented, she gives us a lot of versatility,” said Banghart of the sophomore who averaged 7.5 points a game last year in a season shortened by a leg injury.

“She can play anywhere from the one to the four. She will play the two, three, or four; I expect a good year from her. I think we have a talented rookie group, one of whom is Lauren Edwards from Southern California. She was in between Stanford, UCLA, and Arizona State; they all offered her. The kid is a good player; she is still learning. I think once she gets some experience, she will help us. I am expecting increased play from Jess Berry. She has gained eight pounds; she now knows our system. She is a feisty competitor.”

The Tigers should be feistier defensively, focusing on ball pressure as they look to improve on a defense that allowed 69.3 points a game last winter.

“I think our depth allows us to have a little more flexibility,” said Banghart.

“If you don’t pressure the ball, then you can sit whereas last year we didn’t have a lot of bodies ready to play. We ended up crossing our fingers and hoping they would do it. Part of having ball pressure is trusting your teammates in the rotation.”

The Tigers certainly trust their quartet of senior leaders — Berry, Whitney Downs, Caitlin O’Neill, and Julia Berger.

“It’s been indescribable; they have been instrumental in the effort to get better,” said Banghart, whose tri-captains are Downs, O’Neill, and Berger.

“They know that their role is leadership first. Who plays is a function of what will emerge but leadership has to be a constant. I think they have learned over the course of three years from having different leaders, what they want to be. I might not have a better leadership core in the future.”

The second-year coach is optimistic, though about the near future. “My expectations are raised because we had from March to now for them to understand what I am asking them to do whereas last year we were building relationships and putting in a system,” added Banghart. “Now we are executing. Last year is process; this year is results.”

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