The Ups And Downs Of Youth

By
Brad Friedman

Dateline
Updated Sun, Dec 29, 2013 9:50 am
Photo Credit: 
Logan Riely
Ohio's Kiyanna Black dribbles past Xavier's Kayla Davis in the Convocation Center. The sophomore scored 35 points in the Bobcats' 94-88 win on Nov. 10, 2013.

Through nine games, Hannah Boesinger, Yamonie Jenkins, Quiera Lampkins, Kiyanna Black and Lexie Baldwin recorded 59 percent of Ohio’s points (329), 48 percent of its rebounds (155), and 52 percent of its total minutes played (954).

The average age of these five athletes is 19 years, 94 days.

In addition to those five, freshmen Destini Cooper and Jasmine Weatherspoon contributed 14 percent of Ohio’s point total (80), 25 percent of the team’s rebounds (80), and 21 percent of total minutes played (376).

As a matter of fact, seniors Erin Bailes and Olivia McCuskey have not played a minute this year due to injury. Third-year players Mariah Byard and Kat Yelle are the most tenured Bobcats to earn playing time this year.

While men’s college basketball is in the midst of an era of “one-and-done” players, relying upon young basketball players is uncommon in the women’s game and presents both opportunities and challenges. Head coach Bob Boldon sees his young squad as an excitable group of players that are willing to learn.

“They bring a lot of energy to the table,” Boldon said. “They don’t have any preconceived ideas of how things are supposed to be. Around every corner is a surprise.”

The energy that Boldon praised is visible through the team’s “hustle stats.” Excluding matchups against top-10 opponents Louisville and Maryland, Ohio outrebounded the other seven opponents 274-272 and registered 65 steals while only allowing 55 takeaways.

Boesinger, a freshman, noted that the young squad not only plays with a lot of energy, but with a lot of heart.

“We all really want it,” Boesinger said. “We’re starting fresh and we have a lot to learn and it sticks with us faster.”

Fortunately for Boldon and company, eight of Ohio’s players have two or three more seasons left in Athens after the conclusion of the 2013-14 year. Redshirt sophomore Yelle said a young core will be a crucial part of ensuring future success.

“We’re at a learning point,” Yelle said. “We’re going to learn how to play with each other on the floor and really learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses for days, months and years to come.”

As six freshmen make the transition from high school to college basketball, both experienced players and the new coaching staff are partially responsible for smoothing the transition.

“It’s really important that [upperclassmen] guide us in the right direction and help us make the right choices on and off the court,” Boesinger said.

The implementation Boldon’s new system remains a work in progress. The first-year coach admired the efforts that his staff and upperclassmen have made to move the team and program in the right direction.

“I think we’ve realized that we’re all trying to work towards the same goal,” Boldon said. “That’s improving the culture and teamwork concept of our team.”

Boldon has always been clear with his intention to win as many games as possible. Wins in basketball tend to be a product of strong chemistry amongst teammates. Yelle noted that chemistry between younger and older players has developed quickly, but communication continues to be an area in need of improvement.

“We all know that we’re a really young team, so in a way, it makes us closer together,” Yelle said. “We know that we really need to teach each other how to communicate.”

In addition to communication, both Boesinger and Boldon stressed the importance of “playing tough.” With two-thirds of regular season games yet to be played, muscles will ache and every player and coach will be tested physically and mentally.

Despite the young age of his athletes, Boldon never hesitates to bluntly point out mistakes during practices and games.

“We run a no-nonsense kind of program. There is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things,” Boldon said. “We’re doing them a disservice if we don’t push them, if we don’t allow them the opportunity to reach their potential.”

The young Bobcats continue their season Dec. 29 against James Madison in Harrisonburg, Va.

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