2012-13 Women's Basketball Preview
Release: November 07, 2012
FARGO, N.D. -- Looking to keep last season's 11-20 finish in the rear view mirror, the North Dakota State University women's basketball team has used it well in the off-season to serve as motivation for the upcoming winter and the rigors of The Summit League.
NDSU's fifth-year head coach Carolyn DeHoff and a dozen returning letterwinners including six seniors and four starters look forward to starting with a clean slate in 2012-13. Nine of the returnees started at least one game last year.
"Our goals for this season are no different than in previous years. We want to compete at a high level, execute to the best of our abilities and win the Summit League Conference championship," said DeHoff.
"We know what we want to accomplish, our challenge is how we are going to achieve our goals and meet our expectations. We have to be more disciplined and dedicated to our personal best so we succeed as a team."
Anxious to get back on the court is all-league guard Katie Birkel, who returns after missing the entire 2012 season due to a knee injury. Birkel, a 5-foot-8 senior from Lincoln, Neb., is already a member of the school's 1,000-point club at No. 29, and is climbing the assist and steal career charts. She averaged 13.2 points as a junior.
Joining Birkel in the backcourt will be fellow Nebraska native Jamie Van Kirk, who also is coming back from a knee injury that sidelined her in the final regular season game. Van Kirk, 5-9 sophomore from Sutton, Neb., averaged 8.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game to land a spot on the league's all-newcomer team.
"Katie (Birkel) and Jamie (Van Kirk) have recovered nicely from ACL surgery," said DeHoff.
Five-foot-11 senior and cancer survivor Hannah Linz (Watkins, Minn.) continues to be an inspiration on and off the court. Linz, who averaged 8.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, was the only Bison player to start in all 31 games last season and ranked 12th in the NCAA in three-point accuracy (39.9 percent).
"Hannah (Linz) is an incredibly smart basketball player which translates to her teammates in practice and on the game floor," said DeHoff.
"Her ability to shoot with range will help stretch out the opponent’s defense."
Another all-league performer is 6-foot-5 center Janae Burich, who ranked 14th nationally averaging 2.81 blocked shots per game in 2012. Burich was named to the 2012 Capital One Academic All-America® third team. The senior from Roseville, Minn., averaged 10.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. She is 17 blocked shots away from Lisa Stamp's school career record of 222 entering this season and bidding to become the 30th member of the Bison 1,000-point club.
"Janae (Burich) has been our staple inside for three years now," said DeHoff.
"We look for “big” things from Janae this year and she is ready for the challenge"
Versatile 5-10 senior Dani DeGagne (Brandon, Manitoba) could be found anywhere on the floor for North Dakota State. She averaged 10.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game making 22 starts.
" Dani (DeGagne) is expanding her game to the wing this year," said DeHoff.
"Dani’s perimeter skills will blend nicely on the wing as we saw a number of times last year with her running the point."
The backcourt also returns 5-9 sophomore Kahla Becken (Lino Lakes, Minn.), 5-8 senior Britney Gaines (Mesquite, Texas) and 5-11 sophomore Alisa Brown(Sioux Falls, S.D.). Becken averaged 4.4 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in six starts, while Gaines provided pop off the bench from beyond the arc hitting 20 of 61 three-pointers. Brown's effort in practice led to minutes on the court last year.
Also returning for NDSU are 6-1 senior Catavia Jones (St. Paul, Minn.), 6-2 junior Miki Stephenson (Moorhead, Minn.), 5-11 redshirt sophomore Ali Browning (Iowa City, Iowa) and 6-foot sophomore Liz Keena (Hastings, Minn.). Both Jones and Stephenson provided valuable minutes off the bench, Browning is healthy looking to contribute and Keena had a profitable first year at the collegiate level.
"There is plenty of competition here at the post position. The young post players have gotten stronger, smarter with their physiques and game," said DeHoff.
Newcomers include a transfer from Southern Illinois in 5-6 junior Brooke LeMar, and a trio of freshman, 6-foot forward Holly Johnson (Minot, N.D.), 5-9 guard Brittany Wiebe (Brandon, Manitoba) and 5-11 forward Marena Whittle (Vermont So., Victoria, Australia). LeMar sits out this year due to NCAA transfer rules but will make practice interesting. Johnson was the 2012 North Dakota Class A Miss Basketball, Wiebe went to the same high school as DeGagne and will redshirt, and Whittle is the program's first international player not north of the border.
North Dakota State is scheduled to open the regular season at home against Harvard University at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9. It's one of 15 home games on the schedule this season.
The Bison open Summit League play at four-time defending champion South Dakota State at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, in Brookings.
"Our success will come down to execution, winning on the road, and doing both with consistency. Of course we need to stay healthy. We have a good blend of experience in our upperclassmen splashed in with young athletic, skilled players," said DeHoff.
"Our leadership will have to set a tone with this group by realizing that we have to do the little things much better and more often. This group is going to have to make sacrifices beyond anything they have experienced in the previous seasons."