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San Diego State ramping up and rebuilding with new coach and personnel

San Diego State Aztecs, 2013-2014 – photo by SDSU Athletics
Most coaches would be worried about losing their first- and second-leading scorers and team leaders. But Stacie Terry isn’t most coaches.

In her first year at San Diego State, Terry is faced with replacing guard Courtney Clements (17.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and point guard Chelsea Hopkins (13.6 ppg, 8 rpg) – two players who rallied the team in many ways. They were a big part of the reason why the Aztecs outscored opponents last season by about 33 percent.

Terry is approaching the issue realistically, meticulously, and with optimism.

“We have big shoes to fill with the loss of Courtney and Chelsea,” she said. “But we have a very talented group. We are lucky because the cupboard is not bare by any means – we just don’t have a lot of experience.”

Two other starters also graduated, leaving junior forward Erimma Amarikwa (9.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg) the lone returnee. Three other juniors are also back: forwards Desi Culberson and Khristina Hunter, and guard Ahjalee Harvey. Returning sophomores are forwards Aleiah Brandon, Deajanae Scurry and redshirt Deidra Smith. Senior guard Danesha Long returns, and is joined by senior center transfer Cierra Warren.

Three freshmen begin at SDSU this season: point guard Ariell Bostick, who was ranked 67th in her class at the position; forward Alyssa Lawrence and guard Chloe Johnson.

Terry said that with the new lineup comes new strategies and a whole new look on the court.

“It will be a totally different dynamic,” she said of the Aztec’s offense. “We will do it by committee. We will work to create more options for ourselves. We’ve talked about five with 10 points. We’re going to go from the inside out.”

In addition to tough practices, Terry has been readying SDSU off the court, too. She said the team has been working a lot on building chemistry.

“Women perform better when they feel better about themselves,” she said. “We are focused on team chemistry. You have to break down confidence to kids by helping them understand how good they are and how good they could be.”

Terry said the juniors, who were highly-touted when they arrived two years ago, will be key for the Aztecs because they’ve had the most collective experience.

“The junior class will be huge for us because of their experience,” Terry said. “They’ll be asked to carry the load.”

Until their offense gets up to speed, Terry said SDSU will rely on strong defense.

“We are really athletic, and we can create easy baskets for ourselves with defense,” she said.

The defending Mountain West Conference champions will face some tough opponents in preconference, including South Carolina, UCLA, USC and Texas A&M. But Terry is confident about the season overall.

“We will have some bumps early, but it will be smooth sailing by the time we begin conference play,” she said.

The Aztecs will host Colorado State Jan. 2 to begin conference competition.

Coach Stacie Terry is more than ready to run the show

San Diego State coach Stacie Terry – photo by SDSU Athletics

If there was a prototype for head coach preparation, Stacie Terry would be it.

San Diego State’s new leader has been a successful college assistant coach for 14 years, under some great coaches. And the San Diego native might have remained as such if the position with the Aztecs hadn’t become open.

“I wasn’t necessarily looking this year, as I’d come off of a great year at LSU,” Terry said. “When the SDSU job opened up, it was a perfect fit for me. My family is still here – this is home for me. The school has such beautiful facilities. This is my dream job.”

After a successful playing career at Texas-Arlington, she became a graduate assistant to the team before landing her first assistant coaching job at Louisville. Terry stayed there for three years, during which time the Cardinals appeared in the NCAA Tournament and WNIT. After a year at Dayton, she spent the next three at Illinois, working under Hall of Fame coach Theresa Grentz.

After a year at Southern Mississippi, Terry got the call from Nikki Caldwell to be her assistant at UCLA. The coaching staff turned the program around and took the Bruins to the NCAA Tournament twice. Terry followed Caldwell to LSU in 2011, where they took the Tigers to the Tournament twice, including a Sweet Sixteen appearance last season.

Terry still holds the career scoring record at El Capitan High School in San Diego.

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