Women’s hoops bonding together

by Dan Miller

Yelling the “Minnesota Rouser” at campus restaurants and reading the assigned war novel “Band of Brothers,” Minnesota’s women’s basketball team is trying hard to build a “band of sisters.”

Minnesota freshman Liz Podominick and the rest of the Gophers formed two teams with a checklist of 10 things they had to do – and they had to bring a videotape back as proof they did the deeds.

“It is important that we do chemistry-building activities, especially with a group of only 10 players that can play,” Podominick said.

Podominick comes to the Gophers as one of three freshmen and five players who are new to the Minnesota program.

“We have a lot of talent on this team,” Podominick said. “There have been a lot of team activities because the coaches want to get us to know each other better.”

Coach Pam Borton knows how important chemistry is to any team wanting to succeed.

“Chemistry is the most important ingredient to a successful basketball team and a successful season,” Borton said.

Borton has put Brian Frye, operations director for the Gophers, in charge of organizing team-building activities every two weeks.

The team has eaten dinners, gone to movies and had slumber parties to get to know each other off the court instead of just on the court.

“It has made us hit it off right away,” senior forward Kadidja Andersson said. “It forces you to open up in ways that all of us might not do normally.

“I really feel comfortable with the core group of players we have coming back as well as the freshmen and transfers that have come in.”

With the team running with only 10 eligible players on the roster, it is crucial that Podominick not only bond with team off the court but bond even more quickly with the coaching philosophy and system.

Borton feels confident the strong team chemistry will carry over onto the court and help the learning process become efficient. The first lesson should not be too hard for the Gophers – talking.

“We were not very good at communication last year,” Borton said. “We are really trying to focus on that in practice.”

With a couple practices under the team’s belt, Andersson said the players feel they are off to a faster start than last year and pointed out that things are corrected faster in practice.

And communication has been a matter of endurance during the game.

“We are working on talking for the whole game,” Podominick said. “After we get tired, we start to stop talking.”

Perhaps the assigned reading for this week should be the chapter “Bastogne” in “Band of Brothers” – when communication is down and the unit’s numbers grow low.

In any case, the team will focus on communication and chemistry during the next five weeks as the team heads to war in the Big Ten conference.

In the paint

ï According to the WBCA/Summerville RPI, the Gophers’ preseason strength of schedule ranking is 17th in nonconference pairings and 34th in the overall rankings.

Last season, the Gophers had the 302nd-ranked nonconference schedule.

Borton said Minnesota has made the dramatic changes in nonconference upgrades to prepare for the Big Ten conference race.

“We are going to be tested early on before we even start the Big Ten season,” Borton said.

ï The Gophers enter the season ranked 12th in the Street and Smith Preseason top 25.

ï Minnesota senior guard Lindsay Whalen is on the Wooden Women’s Award Preseason All-American Team as a preseason candidate for the inaugural John R. Wooden Women’s Award.