The Rutgers women's basketball team is set to begin the 2023-2024 season next week. In a new year with new players and new expectations, second-year head coach Coquese Wahington and the Scarlet Knights are prepared to start their out-of-conference schedule next week.
"They’re ready for the grind," Washington said. "They’re sick of practicing against each other. I’m sick of watching them practice against each other. So the fun part of the season is here."
Rutgers will look to improve on its 12-20 record last year. Here are three thoughts on the team before its journey to climb the college basketball ladder begins.
Expanded roster will be key
Last season, the Knights only had eight players on the roster, leaving them with little depth. Rutgers would then have to make substitutions early and often in games, which killed the team's momentum.
This season, though, the Knights will have a roster of 11 players. Out go former guards Kai Carter and Abby Streeter, and in comes freshman guard Jillian Huerter, junior guard and forward Destiny Adams, sophomore guard Mya Petticord and freshman guard Lisa Thompson.
Before the season begins, Washington commented on what each newcomer brings to the floor.
"To be honest, all four of them (have made an impact) in different ways," Washington said. "(Petticord) has definitely taken the reins as our point guard … (Thompson) is an incredible athlete, she’s got some tools … (Huerter) shoots lights out … and then (Adams) is a great rebounder, she’s a tough defender. She probably leads us in hustle plays."
"We can get through practice," Washington said. "You can withstand the things that come along with it if somebody’s not feeling well. Definitely gives us a chance to play with lineups and get more contributions from people."
Building a culture is crucial
"It's been almost a seamless transition," Washington said. "I think the returning players understand how important culture is for us. They’ve done a good job of trying to make sure they understand our culture, and they adapt to our culture. The new players have been very receptive to it. They want to be a part of a culture that is together, that is supportive, positive and challenging."
The team must work together in order to rack up wins on the court. Washington is proud of the program’s steps in getting there.
"I'm extremely happy about where the program is right now," Washington said in her Big Ten Media Day press conference earlier this month. "Our first year was really about building a foundation, building a culture, establishing how we're going to run our program, how we're going to recruit, how we're going to play on game day, and we were successful at that."
Reducing turnovers will be critical
Last season, one of the Knights' biggest problems was turnovers. Rutgers had the highest number of turnovers in the Big Ten, averaging 19.4 per game.
Washington believes that getting the players to understand their roles will help limit turnovers.
"Having a true point guard, I think that’ll help," Washington said. "Early in the season, it might be a little bit of a struggle as they’re learning how to play fast with new people, but I'm confident that as the season goes along, we’ll settle down, and we’ll be okay."
The Knights will look to showcase their cohesiveness when the season begins on Monday against fellow New Jersey foe Monmouth. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Jersey Mike’s Arena on Livingston campus. The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Plus and 88.7 WRSU-FM.
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