During Jody Adams' first two seasons at Wichita State, the Shockers seemed to be just a little short on something.
Short on depth. Short on height. Short on scorers.
Adams is deep into women's basketball fall practices (most often working with groups of four players) and believes those days are over in her third season as coach.
"We have height," she said. "We have great shooters. We have speed. We have power."
Being short-handed didn't stop progress last season. Despite a roster of 10 (seven newcomers), the Shockers went 18-15 and won a game in the Women's Basketball Invitational postseason tournament. The Shockers relied on turnovers and rebounds to score — teams often dared them to shoot from the outside. To improve, Adams knew she needed shooters.
The return of guard Alicia Sanchez, who sat out last season due to personal reasons, helps. Transfer Heather Robben averaged 16.0 points and made 43.5 percent of her three-pointers as a sophomore at Hutchinson Community College. Freshman Krystle Henderson will shoot more threes than departed point guard Marisah Henderson.
"That spreads the defense, stretches it out," Adams said. "Last year, we didn't have that."
Those three should help WSU improve its three-point accuracy of 28.8 percent, which ranked last in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Shockers averaged 63.2 points, eighth in the MVC.
"I've definitely worked on my outside game a lot," Sanchez said. "I think, with the help of Heather Robben, we'll cause problems for teams trying to guard us."
WSU starts full practice sessions on Oct. 4. Until then, Adams prefers working in small groups (she did hold one full practice). With a team that is still learning her system, she wants plenty of time devoted to details.
"There's only one player who's played two years for us, and that's Haleigh (Lankster)," Adams said. "The thing we talk about is that champions are the best at doing the details. Their footwork is unbelievable. Their closeouts (defending shooters) are always precise. Communication is great."
Drilling on footwork isn't as fun as scrimmaging. The Shockers see the advantage of perfecting those skills now to help coming practices be more productive.
"We don't get that much individual time to work on our footwork," Sanchez said. "Jody asks us to come in and work on the little things, so we don't have to in practice."
Taking charge — Sanchez isn't limiting her contributions to outside shooting. Adams is pleased with her attitude and willingness to push her teammates.
"Alicia can get her teammates to do anything for her, which is the sign of a great leader," Adams said. "It's something that we've lacked, leadership, somebody that will be vocal and hold her teammates accountable."
Sanchez watched the Shockers from the bench last season and learned. Last season, the Shockers needed a leader on the floor to get players organized away from the reach of coaches.
"Jody asked me to step up and take responsibility for everybody," Sanchez said. "I wouldn't have it any other way. A great leader has to be there to set an example, but also be there to coach them through and be the coach on the floor."
New faces — Adams is blending four freshmen. Impressions of each:
* Henderson and forward Kelsey Jacobs both tore anterior cruciate ligaments late in their senior seasons. Both are practicing without limits, now around six months after surgery.
"This week of practices has been Krystle's best," Adams said. "She's getting it. She will be feisty."
There is a sliver lining for Jacobs.
"She's slowed her game down, and now she sees more," Adams said. "She sees the options passing and she sees the options shooting. She's very coachable. She takes a tough situation and turns it into a good one."
* Shannika Bryant gives WSU a true post player at 6-foot-4.
"Great hands, great feet," Adams said. "She just needs a lot of reps."
* Breanna Dawkins, a 5-6 guard, could turn into WSU's defensive stopper.
"She works hard and she's smart," Sanchez said. "She'll be big for us on defense if she can get in the right place. She's wide and she's aggressive. She's a pest."
Come on back — Many of WSU's biggest baseball names are expected to pitch in during alumni weekend Oct. 8-9.
Proceeds from the golf tournament, dinner and auction will benefit the Carl Hall Fund. Hall, a former WSU outfielder, was paralyzed in a car accident last summer.
Mike Pelfrey, Casey Blake, Pat Meares and Mike Lansing are among the former Shockers expected to attend. The golf tournament is Oct. 8. On Oct. 9, a celebrity softball game starts the day at noon. Current Shockers will scrimmage at 2 p.m., as part of their fall series. That night, former Shocker Eric Wedge, the 2007 American League Manager of the Year for Cleveland, will speak at the dinner.
Tickets for the dinner are $50. For information call 316-978-3636.