Wichita State’s next women’s basketball coach won’t be hired for weeks, but he or she will likely begin with a checklist.
The Shockers (12-13, 7-7 Missouri Valley Conference) host Loyola on Friday night and Indiana State on Sunday in the final two home games of the season. They’ve held together well since coach Jody Adams-Birch mutually parted ways with the program in January and Linda Hargrove took over on an interim basis.
Before WSU can become conference contenders, the next coach will likely look to address several aspects of the team:
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1. Build around Bessard
Junior forward Rangie Bessard averages 15.9 points and 7.4 rebounds and has a good chance to be a first-team All-Valley pick. But barring an MVC Tournament win, the former transfer from Minnesota will begin her third season with WSU looking for her first postseason experience.
The Shockers have one senior among their top 11 scorers, so the new coach may be somewhat hamstrung if each player returns. The open spots could theoretically be filled by junior-college players or fifth-year transfers ready to contribute immediately.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this program,” Bessard said. “I believe in (athletic director) Darron Boatright, and I also believe in Coach Linda being part of the process to find the next coach.”
2. Can Bessard and Tompkins co-exist?
WSU’s second-most talented player might be Angiee Tompkins. She rarely plays with Bessard because, at 6-foot-2, she’s similar to the 6-1 Bessard.
They bring similar strengths in rebounding and interior scoring, though Bessard has a more advanced perimeter game. If the Shockers can figure out how to use them together – especially defensively – they’ll begin 2017-18 with an established post pairing.
“It’s definitely realistic,” Bessard said. “As a player, you should be able to play with anyone. With Angiee and I, it’s going to take some time to adjust to one another’s game. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I think in the offseason and the summer and the postseason, that’s something that can be built.”
3. Find a happy medium
Adams-Birch and Darryl Smith have been the most successful WSU coaches, each leading the Shockers to the postseason – Adams-Birch to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
They shared intense personalities and saw their tenures end less than pleasantly. Hargrove, who coached WSU from 1989-98, and Jane Albright (2003-08) approached the job more gently and didn’t reach the postseason. The next coach might look for balance.
“I think every player is motivated in a different way,” Hargrove said. “You can’t really collectively say that the team does well when you’re on their butts real hard or when you’re patting them on the back. I think individuals react differently. I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, and I think they’ve related pretty well with me since I’ve been here.”
4. Sort out the backcourt
Aundra Stovall, Keke Thompson and Diamond Lockhart, all juniors, have each spent time as the primary ball-handler. Hargrove entrusted Thompson at point guard before Thompson was injured, and she has missed the last three games.
“Keke was playing her best basketball when she got the concussion, and we were as well,” Hargrove said. “Aundra has done a tremendous job in her place, and I’ll really be happy to have both of them available.”
5. Recruit and/or develop perimeter shooters
WSU has made 32 percent of its three-pointers, an area that has improved under Hargrove. Jeliah Preston has made 27 of 64 but no other player shoots 35 percent with more than 10 attempts.
Preston, Stovall, freshman Kayla Williams and junior Tamara Lee all have perimeter capability, but the Shockers could be rebuilt with a new group of shooters to take pressure from Bessard, Tomkins and Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage.
“I think we’ve got the shooters on our team,” Hargrove said. “I’ve really stressed inside first since I’ve been here, because I think between Angiee, Sabrina and Rangie we have three really strong inside players compared to other teams in our league. But obviously, when you can hit the outside shot, it opens things up so much.”
Loyola at WSU women
- When: 7 p.m. Friday
- Where: Koch Arena
- Records: Loyola 2-23, 1-13 MVC; WSU 12-13, 7-7
- Broadcast: goshockers.com