Updated Mon, Oct 28, 2013 1:46 pm
Only a handful of practices separate the new-look Ohio Bobcats from a fresh start and the chance to revitalize a struggling program.
A new coach, game plan and mentality accompany a program that has not seen a winning season since 2007-08. Ohio’s 2012-13 mark of 6-23 (1-15) was the worst overall record since the program’s 1998-1999 season that yielded a 4-22 (2-14) record.
First-year head coach Bob Boldon comes to Athens as no stranger to turning around struggling programs. The Louisville, Ohio, native transformed a Youngstown State team that posted an 0-30 record in 2009-10 into a 23-10 (11-5) squad that won a first-round matchup in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
Boldon’s goal for 2013 is simple: play hard and win as many games as possible.
“I don’t know what that number is, but [we need to] try to get better every week-to-week, day-to-day more specifically,” Boldon said. “Right now, we’re just learning how to play hard on a regular basis; to play hard possession after possession.”
Senior guard Erin Bailes, who averaged a team-high 10.6 points per game in 2012, applauded Boldon’s work ethic from the get-go and said that the squad is looking forward to a new atmosphere around the program.
“We’re trying to learn his playing style, which is different than what we’re used to,” Bailes said, “It was an adjustment, but we came in positive and we’re ready to be there.”
Bailes said that Boldon’s new practice regimen places an emphasis on three-point shooting and attacking the paint in order to resurrect an offense that shot .339 from the field and averaged 54.8 points per contest.
The new system is similar to a five-out motion offense, according to sophomore guard Kiyanna Black. Pick-and-rolls and flare screens set up open lanes for cutters to attack to the basket. If the rotating defender covers the cutter, then the ball handler either takes the 3-point attempt herself or finds the free shooter along the perimeter.
Black said that mid-range shots will not be a major part of Boldon’s offense.
Boldon’s stress on fine-tuning outside shooting stems from the size of the athletes on his roster; 11 of Ohio’s 16 players are listed at 6-foot-1 or shorter. The 2012 Bobcats were also outrebounded by an average of nine boards per game.
With a lack of size, don’t look for the Bobcats to place high emphasis on post-up offense, unless there is a serious mismatch down low.
Efficient shot-taking and a high rate of play will open up other opportunities and boost the team’s confidence, according to both Bailes and Boldon.
“We’ll be able to stretch out the floor, allowing us to get to the rim easier,” Boldon said. “It’ll provide us some diversity on offense.”
The five-out offense relies heavily on an offense that can be smart and quick with the ball. Bailes said that energy will be a key factor to obtain success in Boldon’s system.
“The more energetic we are, the better we’ll feel about ourselves,” Bailes said.
The Huntington, W.Va., native said that while Boldon has placed a priority to lifting the offense, he has not let up on defensive training. Last season, Ohio allowed 67.4 points per contest and at least 70 points on 10 different occasions.
Ohio’s defense was often put on its heels due to an average of 16.6 turnovers per game. Bailes noted that communication is an area in need of improvement, but that she has seen progress.
Black admitted that a lack of communication has hurt the team in the past, making it all the more important that all of her teammates talk during the game.
“It’s better to communicate so that we know where to be and who’s guarding who,” Black said. “It’s just confusion when we don’t talk.”
Ohio opens its season against Xavier on Nov. 10, a squad whom Ohio defeated 68-62 in 2012. Since the team’s schedule was released, Boldon has been focused solely on the matchup against the Musketeers.
“As soon as that game is over, we’ll try to beat the next team, whoever that may be.”