Wright State women’s basketball: First-year coach seeing progress

Credit: © Courtesy Wright State Univers

Credit: © Courtesy Wright State Univers

FAIRBORN — New Wright State women’s basketball coach Kari Hoffman is an avid golfer — good enough that any foursome in a charity scramble would want her on their team.

Her assistants also dabble at the sport. And they could think of no better way to spend a sunny afternoon on Tuesday — after practice and before recruits arrived that evening — than teeing it up at the Country Club of the North.

But while hitting the links may have sounded like a good idea, the fun faded quickly.

“It was terrible,” Hoffman said with a laugh. “We were all hitting the ball into the woods. At the fifth hole, we just said, ‘Let’s go get some dinner.’”

ExploreWSU men picked second, women 7th in league preseason poll

Bonding with her hand-picked staff will be no problem for Hoffman, but she knows she’ll need to win over a locker room of mostly unfamiliar players to have some success this season.

Nine Raiders came to Wright State to play for the highly regarded Katrina Merriweather, who was as much a mentor as a coach. And some may be slow to warm to the new regime.

“We’ve had our growing pains,” said Hoffman, who had a 106-38 record with three conference titles in five years at Division-II Cedarville.

“I think it’s going to be a process as the year goes along. We’re still getting to know each other and how we all work. But I have definitely felt welcomed. It’s been nothing but open arms for us.”

While Hoffman is working to build trust, she’s also installing a new system. She hopes the Raiders will be as committed as ever to defense and rebounding — which helped them win the Horizon League last season — and also be willing to take on more responsibility on offense.

First-team all-league guard Angel Baker transferred to Ole Miss, and third-team all-league center Tyler Frierson and all-freshman team pick Emani Jefferson joined Merriweather at Memphis.

Of the nine holdovers, only Jada Roberson, Destyne Jackson and Jada Wright started games, and the highest scoring average among the bunch was Roberson’s 6.9 per game.

“They’re used to having a couple stars next to them — as in, they throw the ball to so-and-so and they go score,” Hoffman said. “They’ve played with Angel Baker and some really good guards and big people inside.

“We’re all about sharing the ball. They were really excited to hear about that. But it’s easier said than done. That’s part of the game where we’ll hopefully see improvement. We’re taking small baby steps every day.”

Wright State, which went 19-8 last season and notched its first NCAA tourney win by upsetting Arkansas, was picked to finish behind six other teams in the HL coaches poll Tuesday. And no Raiders were preseason all-league selections.

IUPUI is the overwhelming favorite, followed by Milwaukee, Green Bay and Northern Kentucky.

“It’s definitely a motivator. Anybody who knows anything about Wright State basketball, we haven’t been picked below 2 or 3 in a while,” Hoffman said.

“The players understand that. There’s an expectation here. And, hopefully, it will push them to put together a really good product on the floor.”

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