Utah head coach Elaine Elliott is preparing her 23rd Ute squad.
Oct. 18, 2005
SALT LAKE CITY -- The University of Utah women's basketball team opened practices in preparation for the 2005-06 season Saturday morning. Through the early stages of practice, Ute head coach Elaine Elliott is encouraged by what she's seen.
"We have good enthusiasm and good leadership," Elliott said. "I like what we have to work with."
What Elliott has to work with is a squad with four starters and three seniors returning. Included in that group are last season's co-Mountain West Conference Players of the Year - forward Kim Smith and guard Shona Thorburn. The Utes are returning plenty of experience to this year's squad, after losing just one player from last season.
This year's team was recently picked to win the Mountain West Conference by a vote of league coaches and media. Last year, the Utes finished 26-8, won a share of the MWC regular-season title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
According to Elliott, the challenge for her team at this point is adjusting to a practice routine and getting through some rigorous workouts in the next few weeks.
"We were ready for the first day," Elliott said. "Now have to settle in to longer practices and both the mental and physical difference between general conditioning and all-out practice."
Elliott said the Utes are in good health, while mentioning that sophomore center Deanne Hanchett's knees are always a concern. She also said much of the team is going through the normal aches and pains of "intense training."
Four Ute freshmen experienced their first collegiate practices last week. Despite some freshman jitters, the group of Joh-Teena Filipe, Sasha McKinnon, Morgan Warburton and Lydia Whitehead received praise from Elliott.
"As is expected, the freshman were somewhat nervous, but they really have a great energy about them," the Utah head coach said. "And they have some talent."
Utah opens with an exhibition game against Montana-Western on Nov. 3.