Pac-10 preview: the University of Washington

This is the seventh of a 10-part series previewing the Pac-10 basketball teams

by Daniel Uribe

Despite recent travails during her tenure at Washington, Coach Tia Jackson has never wavered in her optimism and work ethic as she continues to look for improvement in her team.

Despite the rough and tumble start to her career, Jackson guided her team to a sixth-place finish in the Pac-10 last year (13-18 overall, 7-11), and hopes to continue the upward trajectory in her fourth year as the Huskies head coach. And in trying to improve that record, Jackson will look to three returning starters to help lead the way – Kristi Kingma, Sarah Morton and Regina Rogers.

First and foremost, the Huskies will be without Sami Whitcomb, who is now the video coordinator for the team. She was the undoubted leader, as well as leading the team in scoring and rebounding. However, the coach believes that Sarah Morton, the team’s lone senior, will step in to fill that leadership void. Morton was solid (5.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.5 apg) if not spectacular, and there have been questions about her slight frame. According to Jackson, Morton has added size to her physique, and will be the primary ball handler for the team. But depth at the point guard position will be a concern, especially since the team also lost guards Sara Mosiman and Christina Rozier to graduation.

Junior guard Kristi Kingma (9.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 apg) will be looked upon to assist with ball-handling duties, as well as upping her offensive output, which has proven to be inconsistent despite having some brilliant offensive games last season.

Because of the lack of depth at guard, freshman Mercedes Wetmore may be the player called upon to help provide some valuable time off the bench at the point guard position. Jackson is high on the 5-foot-7 guard out of Lake Tapps, Wash. and Auburn-Riverside HS.

Despite losing a lot of experience at guard, Washington will have strength in the post returning starters Rogers, Mackenzie Argens and key contributor Mollie Williams.

Rogers (8.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg) – a redshirt junior – lost about 15 pounds during the off-season. However, some wonder if that will be enough. Despite dominating in the low-block last season she did struggle in keeping up with the offense, although she did improve as the season progressed and her conditioning improved. Rogers must be the primary option in the low-block if the Huskies are to stand a chance of moving up in the conference standings.

Argens, also a redshirt junior, did start all 31 of the team’s games last season and has served as the team’s starting center on six occasions, including the team’s final four game. Her speed at the center position will provide the Huskies another look for teams to combat and her points and rebounding (6.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg last year) are expected to go up, especially after the graduation of Laura McLellan.

Mollie Williams may be a big key for Jackson in her team’s campaign to improve. The 6-foot-2 junior forward out of Cerritos, Calif. has the ability to break out and dominate as she did during the Huskies campaign in Florida last year. Despite only averaging 4.8 ppg and 3.8 rpg, William did have offensive and rebounding outputs in the double digits and more is expected from her, especially in helping in the paint with rebounding.

Another player who Jackson is high on is freshman forward Marjorie Heard. The 6-foot-1 player out of Snohomish, Wash. has been described as the Jon Brockman of the team — an undersized post who is extremely physical and will bang with any player in the paint. She will be expected to also contribute valuable minutes off the bench.

Other returning players for the team are: sophomore guard/forward Jeneva Anderson; junior guard Charmaine Barlow; and redshirt freshman guard Amanda Johnson.

New players include: Ashley Moore, a 5-foot-10 freshman guard/forward from Vallejo, Calif.; and Kassia Fortier, a 5-foot-8 freshman guard from Issaquah, Wash.

On an unfortunate note, forward Liz Lay was forced to retire after being unable to gain medical clearance for injuries to her right knee. The 6-foot-1 forward out of Oklahoma City will retain her scholarship and will continue working towards her degree.

Washington will open its season at home versus Portland State on Nov. 14.

Daniel Uribe is an LA native and a freelance writer