At one of the first lady raider practices of the season, I noticed quickly the absence of trainer Larry Munger. I usually look for Larry when I first get to practice just to see how everyone is physically. Turns out he was taking junior post Haley Schneider to the doctor because of a problem with her thyroid.
A couple weeks later, I come to practice only to find again - no Larry. This time, it was freshman Yvonne Cooke-Taylor's turn. Larry had taken her in for ACL surgery.
Fortunately, it went well and Yvonne is expected to fully recover and be at 100 percent next season. But you get the idea - it's already been a busy month for the lady raider trainer, before the team suits up for their first game Sunday afternoon against Arizona State.
So as we look ahead to the upcoming season and what to expect, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the 2012-'13 edition of the lady raiders.
But those two words "if healthy" loom large over this team based on what we've already seen. The most pressing situation now is with junior post Shauntal Nobles. She's been diagnosed with guillen barre disease? Which affects the immune system. Although sometimes the condition can be extremely dangerous, she's been treated and is expected to fully recover. It's when that nobody is certain of. But she's the top post position player for the lady raiders, and
They will be a much better team with her than without. Let's wish for a speedy recovery for shauntal for the team's sake, but more importantly - for hers.
Unlike previous years, the lady raiders can boast about depth in the frontcourt - with nobles or without. Expect big things from transfer Jackie Patterson first of all. The big 12 pre-season newcomer of the year looks to be a very active player on the glass who can play with her back to the basket or knock down the mid-range shot as well. Coaches have also been raving about Kelsi baker's off-season conditioning.
The junior forward from mesquite Is 23 pounds lighter this season and, for obvious reasons, that should help a lot. Fans will also be happy I think with local products Haley and Kellyn Schneider. The 6'5 sisters can give tech a size mismatch they haven't had much of lately when needed.
Haley seems to be more and more confident as time goes an, and Kellyn will provide some mobility at the post that you don't always get from a player 6'5. Kellyn will have to be dealt with delicately in the beginning however. She had heart surgery back in October to fix an irregularity with her heartbeat. Doctors have given her a clean bill of health, but her time may be limited early in the season. Without nobles this team can be pretty good in the frontcourt. With her, they could be very dangerous, and it will be nice to watch the advantage tech will have in the paint night in and night out.
I don't think there's a lot that needs to be said that's new about the 5 seniors. Christine Hyde is the only one of them that won't play the guard position on a regular basis, and will probably come off the bench more than in previous years. She also may get some time at the power forward position. That could give her a chance to use her quickness to the basket against defenders unable to match that speed.
As for the rest of the seniors, Monique Smalls still runs the show offensively, and expect her to make it a long day for those she's guarding at the other end. Don't be surprised to see more vocal leadership from Mo as well. Chynna brown will probably be the most consistent contributor, Casey Morris will quietly make a difference each night, and mary Bokencamp off the bench is still one of the best pure shooters in the league. I think sophomore guard amber battle can be a real x factor for this team.
She didn't see a lot of playing time last year and with all the senior guards ahead of her she might not get the attention she deserves from opponents. Minta spears is another freshman like Kellyn Schneider who could also see quality time this season, giving added scoring punch off the bench at either the one or two guard position.
With this team it's hard to say who will lead the way in production from one night to the next and that can be a good thing. Look for the lady raiders to be a very balanced team and also a very deep team.
And for the first time in a while, a very experienced team. Of course, I say that knocking on wood. Because much of it is depending on those operative words..."if healthy."