After a disappointing 2017-2018 season, the SUU Women’s Basketball team looks to usher in a new era of basketball with new Head Coach Tracy Sanders.
Last season yielded just three wins, and the Athletic Department decided to make a change and brought Sanders in last April.
Sanders comes from Saint Mary’s College, where she was the Associate Head Coach for the last five seasons. Along with her coaching success, Sanders was prolific player at Saint Mary’s from 1996-2000.
She inherits a team that struggled last season but returns key contributors and exciting new prospects. Sanders will be tasked with mixing experience and new blood, and establishing a culture of winning at SUU.
Among the returners are last season’s minutes leader, Rebecca Cardenas, last season’s leading scorer Bre Reid, as well as leading rebounder Ashley Larsen.
Cardenas also led the team in assists and was second in the Big Sky in steals per game. Cardenas will act as a primary ball handler who can facilitate the offense and guard the opponent’s best perimeter player on defense.
Reid is the team’s lone senior, and provides much needed scoring to a team that struggled to put up points all through the year. She has never seen a shot she doesn’t like, and provides confidence and leadership.
Larsen needs to make strides offensively to add to her defensive performance last year.
Kiana Johnson also adds perimeter shooting to go along with some playmaking capability.
The program is excited by the arrival of freshmen Claudia Armato, Geassy Germano and Hannah Robins. Peyton Shepherd will be available for the season after sitting out all but five games of last year’s season due to injury.
BYU transfer Jessica Chatman will be eligible after sitting out last year due to transfer rules. Harley Hansen also arrived at SUU after transferring from Snow College.
Armato is a highly decorated prospect from Melbourne, Australia. Germano is a three-star prospect from São Paolo, Brazil, and played for the U17 Brazilian National Team. Robins almost averaged a double-double during her senior season at Juab High School (14.9 PPG, 9.9 RPG).
Chatman was a tow-time All-District team member in Washington before she committed to BYU where she appeared in 19 games before transferring to SUU. Hansen was a standout at Snow, where she averaged 11.3 PPG and hauled in more than six rebounds per contest.
SUU finished last in the Big Sky last season and was toward the bottom of the Big Sky in almost every statistical category. Righting the ship won’t just happen because a new coach walks through the door.
The T-Bird offense needs to be more efficient, and Sanders is teaching players how to make plays, instead of relying on a set system of plays. That could lead to players flourishing in the opportunity, or it may lead to an offense that becomes stagnant when playmakers aren’t opening up defenses.
The program will also to benefit from very low expectations. Sanders should feel no pressure to win immediately. If SUU wins ten games this year, they’ll double their win total from last year and match the win total from the last two seasons.
Low expectations should provide the environment the team needs to focus on improving and creating chemistry for the future. UConn wasn’t built overnight, but Sanders should begin to implement the first steps of an entirely new outlook for women’s basketball in Cedar City.
The Lady Thunderbirds begin their season Nov. 7 at 6:60 p.m. against the University of San Diego. Watch the game on Pluto TV channel 236.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photos by: SUU Athletics Strategic Communication