Much still unknown about upcoming basketball season

By Liz Frome , Staff Writer

Although the majority of Utah athletics are in full swing, the women’s basketball team is hanging in limbo.

“This is an interesting time for us,” said head coach Elaine Elliott. “I know we have a good work ethic, and I think (we’re) going to be a strong team…but there’s not enough hard practice time.”

The Utes are only able to spend two hours a week together on the court, leaving a lot up to the imagination of coaches and fans.

The other six hours a week that the team has been allotted for practices are spent in the weight room, and though Elliott said she’s pleased with the physical condition of the team, she said there is a lot that will be unknown until the start of regular practices Oct. 16.
“We’re trying to find out enough about the skills they have…in case we need to tweak something in the system,” Elliott said. “(We need to) know what kind of roles we want them to fill.”

Elliott said the team spent the majority of on-court practice time in September doing small group drills and working on individual games and fundamentals. She said she’s happy with the way things look at this point, but that it’s still far too early to know anything about the lineup for fall.

The Utes lost three seniors at the end of the 2008-2009 season, including Morgan Warburton, a guard who graduated and went to play in the WNBA with the Sacramento Monarchs.

Warburton played a big role for the Utes and left a void that returning players and new recruits will have to fill in order to build off their success last season.

The Utes finished 24-10 overall last year and made it to the second round of the NCAA playoffs before being knocked out of the tournament in a 71-56 loss to Maryland.

Senior forward Kalee Whipple was part of the Utes’ success last season, and coaches expect her to be a big part of the Utes’ system again this year.

Whipple is a two-time all-conference forward and was named to the preseason all-Mountain West Conference team. She is one of only two seniors who will be eligible to play for the Utes this season, as Sasha McKinnon will be redshirting.

“We understand that we’re not a veteran-laden team,” Elliott said. “We understand that, and we’ll let it develop.”

Even though Utah has only two juniors and three seniors on the roster this season, Elliott said she’s been impressed with the team’s practices and the adjustments it has made thus far.

“We’re more pleasantly surprised than the opposite,” Elliott said.

Elliott will be coaching her 26th consecutive season with the Utes this year and has made the women’s basketball program one of the most stable at the U, earning 23 winning seasons, 15 NCAA appearances and 10 conference titles since she took the position.
No injuries have been reported at this point, and Elliott said she is expecting everyone to be healthy and ready to go when full-time practices begin in two weeks. The Utes’ season will begin Nov. 6 when they host Chadron State.

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