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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Tough schedule will challenge young team

By Liz Frome

With last year’s senior Morgan Warburton off the season’s roster, head coach Elaine Elliott said the women’s basketball team has a huge amount of talent to replace.

Warburton averaged more than 18 points per game and racked up 203 rebounds and 113 assists in her senior season with the Utes. Warburton was drafted into the WNBA and plays for the Sacramento Monarchs.

“Morgan was a great teacher,” said senior forward Kalee Whipple. “I think she was a great leader that throughout her three years has taught me a lot. I played with her for three years, and it’s just kind of different that she’s not over there by my side, but I think that we’ll be OK.”

Elliott said a lot of the pressure from Warburton being gone will fall on Whipple and fellow senior forward Halie Sawyer.

“From Kalee and Halie, I expect everything they have and more,” Elliott said. “They are our only returning kids, and they both have great experience and great talent. Beyond that, they have the responsibility to carry everybody else. Teaching the new players what the program is about is really the most important part of the process.”

Whipple, who was a Player of the Year candidate and a preseason all-conference selection, said she and Sawyer are prepared to lead the young team through the season.
“Me and Halie both have an obligation to lead this team,” Whipple said. “We’re the seniors that have had the most experience, so I think it’s only right that we teach our young freshmen…the style of basketball that we play here.”

The Utes have 14 athletes on their roster this season, six of them freshmen.
With a tough schedule marked to start in less than three weeks and only five days of full-time practices on the court so far, Elliott said she’s been impressed with how the new athletes are adjusting to Utah’s system.

“They’re doing really well,” Elliott said. “I can’t sometimes believe we’re just four days in…I really think they are doing better in our motion understanding than most. Even in our spread game…they really are pretty darn good. That’s going to go a long way toward helping us early to have a little more success than not.”

Elliott said she is expecting the preseason schedule to be challenging for the young team, and developed a tough initial schedule to make the team better in its conference.
The Utes’ preseason schedule includes matchups against big teams such as Minnesota, Stanford and Louisville.

“(The schedule’s) not created to give me 25 wins,” Elliott said. “It’s created to give the kids the competition and national level that they want to compete at. It’s created to get the program the exposure that we want it to have, and…to make us the best team we can be in January.”

The Utes will have a new offensive leader this season in starting sophomore point guard Janita Badon. Badon was on the Ute roster last season, but earlier this year Elliott said she needed Badon to improve in order to effectively lead the offense.

Just two and a half short weeks out from the start of the season, Whipple said she’s been impressed with how much improvement Badon made during the break.

anita’s gotten really good,” Whipple said. “I think people will be surprised by how much better she’s gotten over the summer, how much better her shot’s gotten. Defensively, she’s really good.”

Elliott said the team has adapted well with Badon at the point.

“I think everybody saw the amazing progress that kid went through in one year,” Elliott said. “She gets better every day and got better all summer and just has a confidence now that takes time to build. The kids absolutely know that this is our point, this is our gal, this is the person who’s gonna bring it and get it done.”

The Utes are ranked third in the Mountain West Conference preseason rankings and will make their 2009-2010 debut at home against Chadron State on Nov. 6.

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Lennie Mahler

Senior Kalee Whipple will play an important role in replacing the talent lost in Morgan Warburton.

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