Women’s basketball: Freshmen making strides for Utah

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Brent Uberty

Freshman forward Emily Potter attacks the hoop at last week’s game against the Golden Bears at the Huntsman Center. Photo by Brent Uberty.

Freshman forward Emily Potter attacks the hoop at last week’s game against the Golden Bears at the Huntsman Center. Photo by Brent Uberty.
Freshman forward Emily Potter attacks the hoop at last week’s game against the Golden Bears at the Huntsman Center. Photo by Brent Uberty.
Although the goal of making the NCAA Tournament this year seems rather bleak, Utah can’t help but feel good about the years to come.

This season has not gone exactly as the Utes had hoped, as they have fallen to a 7-8 record, including an 0-4 mark in conference games. With injuries plaguing key players, Utah has been forced to play all of its freshmen. Emily Potter, filling in for the injured Taryn Wicijowski, said that not only does she see significant improvement but also signs of things to come for the program.

“I feel that we have come a really long way,” she said. “As a group of freshmen, we are all really close. I cannot wait to see where will be when we are seniors. Thinking about that is really exciting.”

The group — Potter, Malia Nawahine, Wendy Anae, Devri Owens and Nakia Arquette — has been getting experience playing against some of the best players in country, such as Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike and Washington’s Jazmine Davis, who the Utes will see on Friday when they face the Huskies in Seattle.
Utah head coach Anthony Levrets said the tough schedule and players of the Pac-12 have helped his players improve. Despite the many frustrations they have faced this season, he said his players have become more coachable. This, in turn, makes it easier to walk through with them on all phases of their game such as shooting, footwork and fundamentals.

“We recruit them because they are talented, but the biggest improvement in their game comes between their freshman and sophomore years and then their sophomore to junior year,” Levrets said. “What changes is their approach between how they come to practice, how they prepare and how they get ready for a game … When you see those changes, that is when you can start really coaching, because they are dialed in with what you are doing in making changes.”

Potter has seen significant improvement in her game as the season has progressed. Because of her 6’5’’ frame, Potter has become one of the Utes’ primary weapons under the hoop while being the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 11.7 points per game. She also has started all 15 games for Utah.

One thing Potter has been hoping to improve over the course of the season is her defense. Because she typically guards the basket, she is in the position to make a play or get called for a foul. During the first seven games of the season, Potter recorded six blocks, but in her last eight games, her production has more than doubled as she has blocked 15 shots.

Although improvement is clear, Potter knows she still gets called for more fouls than she’d like, and she wants to continue to work hard on her overall skills.

“There are always areas to improve,” Potter said. “I feel like I kind of started to figure it out. It is all about stepping in the right direction, but there is always something to improve on.”

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