Oct. 3, 2012
By Jason Clay
By Jason Clay
FRESNO, Calif. - The Fresno State women's basketball team, under the direction of first-year head coach Raegan Pebley, began preparations for the 2012-13 season on Sunday, Sept. 30, with its first practice of the year.
Pebley, hired on April 7 as the ninth head coach in Bulldog history, inherits a veteran squad that returns 4-of-5 starters and nine players from last year's team that set a new program record with 28 wins and won the WAC regular season and tournament championships.
Moving into the Mountain West this season, Pebley's team will continue to strive to win league championships and advance to the NCAA Tournament, which the Bulldogs have reached in each of the past five seasons.
"I love the experience that this whole program has right now," Pebley said. "We got those seniors. We got a great group of juniors, too, and then the experience on the staff."
Assistant coach Ron Stewart and director of operations Shane Rinner have both been head coaches before. Then the other assistants - Danyelle Snelgro and Hanna Howard - both coached with Pebley at Utah State, a program she resurrected from scratch.
"A lot of that helps a lot when you are new in a program," Pebley said of having an experienced coaching staff by her side.
The coaches were excited to finally get out with the team on the court to start their preparations for the season.
"You're taking care of so many other parts of your program and it's in anticipation for really getting a chance to work with your team on the floor," Pebley said of the offseason. "It's something the girls have been anxious for. We as a coaching staff have been anxious to get ready. We really were excited to start putting the pieces together."
Of course, the process of finding the right fits is simplified when you have an experienced and talented squad returning.
"There are great things about it because they know what to expect at the Division I level," Pebley said was a benefit of having a veteran team. "The intensity that's required, the focus that's required, what they are preparing for and what that's like mentally."
Fresno State returns three of its top four scorers from last year and 68.5 percent of its total scoring from a year ago.
It all starts with junior guard Ki-Ki Moore, who averaged 16.8 points per game last year and 7.2 rebounds. Moore was the 2012 WAC Player of the Year and WAC Tournament MVP in leading the Bulldogs to a 28-6 overall record.
Guard/forward Rosie Moult is back for her senior season. Moult, a second-team All-WAC selection last year, averaged 13.1 points per game, led the conference with 92 3-pointers made and ranked eighth nationally in 3-pointers made per game (2.94).
Gearing up the Bulldogs on offense is point guard Taylor Thompson. Also a second-team All-WAC selection in 2011-12, Thompson averaged 8.0 points and 4.2 rebounds while dishing out a team-high 124 assists. Thompson had the highest assist-to-turnover ratio in the WAC last year and the 16th-best in the country at 2.1.
The speed at which Bulldog fans grew accustomed to in the past should not be all that different this season.
"We always want to be playing fast, but playing smart is most important," Pebley said. "What we challenge our team in practice every day through drills is to ensure that we are doing both of those things simultaneously - fast and smart, playing with a purpose.
"I've been really, really grateful for their willingness to learn a new way to play the game with the same goal of playing up-tempo."
Forward Alex Sheedy is the fourth returning starter of the group. As a freshman last year, she averaged 6.6 points and 4.0 rebounds in just over 20 minutes per game.
Thrown in a mix of other key returnees like Bree Farley, who has played in 66 games over the last two seasons, Alex Furr, Jeanna Furst, Robin Draper and Raven Fox, and the Bulldogs have a lot of depth.
That should make an easy transition for Pebley getting her team playing the way she wants - with confidence.
"We always want to play confident," she said. "We're going feel confident in our preparation, confident in what we do and why we do it, so there's an educational process along with our practices.
"We're really trying to make sure there is a culture of physicality, that we are a physical team. We also want to be aggressive and that's a byproduct of playing physical and playing confident."
Pebley has been impressed with how her players have bought in to what the coaching staff is preaching.
"There is so much that has to be taught. I think they are doing really well," she said. "They have a great competitiveness to them and the chemistry is good. We are encouraging them to be more player focused as a team so that they hold each other accountable more than their coaching staff does."
The Bulldogs kick off the season on Nov. 9 at Stanford, a team that reached the Final Four a year ago. The Cardinal are one of four Pac-12 teams the Bulldogs face in non-conference play. Two of those four, Washington State (Nov. 30) and USC (Dec. 5), will travel to Fresno to play the 'Dogs at the Save Mart Center.
Once in conference play, Fresno State has a favorable end to the year by playing four of its final six games of the regular season at home.
"Discover Fresno State Athletics" - Log on to GoBulldogs.com for up-to-date information on the Fresno State women's basketball team. Stay connected with the Bulldogs on Facebook (fresnostateathletics) and Twitter (@FSAthletics).
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