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Tulsa Has High Expectations For 2000-01


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Aug. 15, 2000

One year ago the Tulsa Golden Hurricane reached new heights when it posted the second best season in school history with a 14-15 overall record, a fourth-place 9-5 league mark and a semifinals finish at the Western Athletic Conference Tournament. Tulsa was 9-4 on its home floor, including 6-1 in conference action.

Tulsa Head Coach Kathy McConnell-Miller begins her second season at the helm of the TU women's basketball program. McConnell-Miller, the 2000 WAC Coach of the Year, returns seven letterwinners, including three starters, for the 2000-01 season.

Tulsa's success in 1999-2000 paid large dividends in the recruiting department as the Hurricane welcomes six newcomers for the 2000-01 campaign, including four freshmen and two junior transfers.

As the Hurricane continues to build into a conference power, Tulsa will look to surpass last year's win total and continue its climb toward its first-ever WAC championship.

Frontcourt The strength of the team this season lies in Tulsa's frontcourt. With nine players, including five returning letterwinners, occupying either the forward or center positions, this area should be the backbone of the team.

Senior forward Denise Wagner (6'1") will head up TU's frontline. Wagner was the leading rebounder and shot blocker a year ago with 6.2 boards and 1.1 blocks per game and completed the season fourth on the team in scoring with 8.8 points per contest. Wagner started 28 of TU's 29 games last season and pulled down 10 or more rebounds in 10 games, including a career-high 15 vs. UTEP. Wagner is the Hurricane's all-time leader for blocked shots and enters her final season ranked 10th among the school's career scoring leaders with 533 points. She also ranks eighth in both career rebounds (325) and steals (90).

Sophomore Shequinna Dinkens (5'11"), who averaged 7.2 points and 5.8 rebounds as a freshman in 1998-99, returns to the lineup after sitting out last season with an ankle injury. As a freshman, Dinkens started 23 of 26 games and scored in double-figures seven times, including a career-high 19 points against Wyoming.

Leela Farr (5'11") enters her junior season with 44 career games and 27 starts under her belt. Farr was a member of 1998 all-WAC Mountain Division Newcomer team as a freshman. After missing the 1998-99 season with an injury, she returned last season to average 3.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in 17 games.

Senior Rachel Henkelmann (5'8") provides solid depth and leadership. Henkelmann enters her final season as a Hurricane ranked eighth among TU leaders for games played with 69. Henkelmann saw action in 21 games last season and earned one start against Eastern Illinois.

Joining the foursome is freshman Kim Chiconas (6'1") from nearby Jenks. Chiconas, a three-year letterwinner at Jenks High School, led the Lady Trojans to the 6A state championship, a regional title and a conference crown as a senior. National PrepHoops and Greg Swaim's Midwest Basketball rated her as one of the top-10 players in Oklahoma.

At the small forward spot in the lineup is junior standout Carla Morrow (6'0"). Last season, Morrow not only became a legitimate scoring threat, but a solid rebounder as well. A two-year starter, Morrow was TU's third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder with 9.0 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, respectively. She scored in double figures in 14 games year ago, including a career-high 20 points against Colorado State. Morrow begins her junior campaign ranked 10th among Tulsa's career rebounding leaders with 298, and sixth among career steals leaders with 94.

Pushing Morrow for minutes will be freshman Kayla Elliott (5'9"). Elliott, a native of Oklahoma City, was a four-year letterwinner at Southeast High School. A 2000 all-state performer, Elliott led her team in scoring all four years of her prep career and finished first in rebounding and blocked shots as a senior.

Manning the middle of the lane could be freshman center Becky Heidotten (6'3"). A four-year letterwinner at Rosary High School in St. Louis, Mo., Heidotten completed her stellar prep career as an all-state selection in 2000. She led her team to a state championship as a sophomore and a runner-up finish as a freshman. She also guided Rosary High School to four-straight conference titles and two district championships. Midwest Basketball and National PrepHoops rated Heidotten as one of the top-5 players in Missouri.

Although she won't play this season, junior-transfer Alyssa Shriver (6'3") will certainly add a presence to the paint in 2001-02. Shriver will sit out this season after transferring to Tulsa from Iowa State.

Backcourt Graduation took a heavy toll on Tulsa's backcourt with the departure of Kasie Pittman, Tammy Goyne and Emily Stagner. Pittman left TU as the school's all-time leader in scoring, assists and steals, while Goyne completed her career just behind Pittman in both steals and assists. Stagner provided experienced depth at both the point guard position as well as the off-guard spot.

Senior Athena Pirpich (5'4") is the only letterwinner returning to run the point position. Despite an injury-plagued season in 1999-2000, Pirpich played in 18 games and averaged 2.5 points per contest. She was one the Hurricane's top free throw shooters, connecting on 14-of-16 attempts (.875). Pirpich's best performance came against UTEP when she nailed 3-of-4 three-point attempts and finished with a career-high 11 points.

With just one point guard returning for the 2000-01 campaign, McConnell-Miller and her staff landed one of the nation's top assist leaders in junior Mia Williams (5'6"). Williams comes to Tulsa from Monroe Community College (NJCAA Division II) in Rochester, N.Y. In two seasons at Monroe, Williams averaged 10.8 points, 7.4 assists and 3.5 steals per game while leading the Tribunes to a combined mark of 66-5. As a sophomore, she earned first team all-region honors and NJCAA third-team All-America merits. Williams accomplished an even more remarkable feat as a Tribune, leading the nation in assists as a freshman and sophomore.

Junior Rachel Hall (5'7") and freshman Candice Brewer (5'8") will look to fill Pittman's shoes this season. Hall played in all 29 games last season and earned the starting assignment against TCU and Colorado State.

Brewer hails from Fayetteville, Ark., where she was a three-year letterwinner for the Lady Bulldogs. Brewer led Fayetteville High School to a state runner-up finish as a senior and garnered all-state honors in two second straight seasons. She was a three-year all-conference performer and a member of the all-state tournament team as a senior. Both Midwest Basketball and National PrepHoops rated Brewer as one of the top-5 players in the state.

The Schedule The Hurricane should benefit from a very competitive but favorable schedule. Tulsa will play 13 home games at the Reynolds Center, three games at the Mabee Center on the campus of Oral Roberts and one game less than two hours from the TU campus.

But perhaps the most important aspect of the 2000-01 schedule is the fact that The University of Tulsa will serve as the host site for the 2001 WAC Tournament.

Tulsa will battle seven postseason teams from a year ago, including four NCAA Tournament participants and three WNIT squads.

The NCAA squads are Oklahoma, who reached the NCAA "Sweet Sixteen", San Diego and WAC foes Rice and SMU. The WNIT teams consist of Arkansas, Colorado State and WAC rival Hawai`i.

Tulsa's non-conference home dates feature New Orleans, Western Michigan, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Duquesne and UMKC.

The Hurricane will face a tough non-conference slate on the road against Creighton, Colorado State, San Diego, Oral Roberts and Arkansas.

TU will square off against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State at the Mabee Center in the Bertha Teague Classic.

Tulsa will play three opponents for the first time in 2000-01 including Western Michigan, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and new WAC member Nevada.

The Hurricane will look to a challenging non-conference schedule to prepare it for the always-tough WAC slate. After facing four 2000 postseason teams during non-conference action, Tulsa opens the 2001 league tilt on the road against defending WAC Tournament Champion Rice.

What to Expect As TU heads into its second season under McConnell-Miller, the biggest obstacle facing the team will be to replace a majority of the scoring vacated by TU's four seniors. Pittman, Lila Osceola, Goyne and Stagner accounted for 1,087 of the 1,819 total points scored.

So, not only will it be critical for Wagner and Morrow to pick up where they left off last season, but Tulsa's versatile newcomers will be looked upon to provide scoring as well.

TU will also need to maintain a homecourt advantage. Since moving into the Reynolds Center in January 1999, Tulsa is 13-7 overall and 10-4 in WAC games.

In order for the Hurricane to contend for the 2001 WAC title, Tulsa's newcomers will have to make an immediate impact, TU will have to continue to play well at home and come up with some big wins on the road. Tulsa does have two three-game homestands during the conference portion of the season, but must play three straight games on the road in January at TCU, Hawai'i and San Jose State, and again in February at UTEP, Fresno State and Nevada.

If TU can improve on its 3-4 WAC road record from a year ago, the Hurricane could be sitting pretty when it comes time to host the WAC Tournament in the friendly confines of the Reynolds Center in March.

The Hurricane returns to the court for the 2000-01 season with high expectations and will look to build on last season's record-setting performances.