MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Head coach Mike Carey and the No. 22 WVU women’s basketball team will begin their season at the WVU Coliseum Tuesday night.
The Mountaineers host Saint Francis in the first of three games in six days to begin the new season. It’s a quick turn around for a West Virginia team with plenty of newcomers, but Carey and his players feel they have the depth to not only handle playing multiple games in a few days’ time, but to also play the style of basketball that the head coach wants.
“We’re going to be deep,” Carey said on Monday.
“We’re going to get after it,” added junior guard KK Deans.
West Virginia will lean on contributions from junior guards KK Deans and Jayla Hemingway, as well as forwards like senior Kari Niblack and junior Esmery Martinez. It’s what’s behind those players in the rotation that has the Mountaineers excited.
“I think we’re very deep in the post,” Carey said. “To me, it’s just getting the combinations. We need our post to run a little bit more, but we’re strong in the paint.”
With depth comes the ability to play the in your face, give them you know what, style of defense that Carey loves for a full 40 minutes.
“This is the first year for a while that I feel we can go ahead and extend some, and get out and and see what we can do with full-court pressure,” said Carey. “Whether its full-court man, whether it’s trapping, no matter what, give different looks full court. We are definitely going to do that. We’ll see. We work on it a lot in practice.”
That’s been the main focus over the past two weeks of practice, aside from correcting any mistakes seen in the Mountaineers’ scrimmage against WVU Tech last month.
“We’re pressing a lot more, just doing full-court stuff. Man-to-man full-court, not really a real press. You have to be really in shape to do a lot of that stuff,” Deans said with a laugh. “Having the bench is really good, because they can come in and do the same thing. A lot of people have bench players, but there’s a drop off. When you don’t have a drop off it’s hard to beat teams like that.”
With that depth, and the ability to do the things that Carey wants to do, comes a raised standard of expectations.
“Playing hard for 40 minutes. Always having five people on the floor playing together, playing hard, playing defense, going after loose balls,” said junior guard Jayla Hemingway. “Just not giving up, not letting up at all.”
For the players that have to get it done on the court, they’ve ready to show what they’ve been working on all offseason long. The Mountaineers are the only team featured in the AP Top 25 that has yet to play a regular season game this year.
“We’ve been getting at it, we’ve been going up and down,” said Deans. “We’ve been perfecting our half-court game. Just getting a lot of shots up to make everybody get back in game-ready mode.”
West Virginia returns eight players from last year’s team that made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, while also welcoming in seven new players.
Tipoff for Tuesday’s season opener is set for 7 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum against Saint Francis (Pa.). The contest will stream live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.