MSU women gearing up for exhibition opener

October 21, 2012 1:11:18 AM

Adam Minichino - [email protected]


STARKVILLE -- Vic Schaefer won't get caught up in numbers games in his first season as Mississippi State University women's basketball coach. 


Instead of worrying about which players will play where and for how long, Schaefer will spend more time watching to see if his players have the right mind-set to play the in-your-face, aggressive style he will demand from all 12 players. 


In the frontcourt, that mind-set will be even more important. With only four true post players, Schaefer and his coaching staff have tried to teach the power forward, or four position, and the center spot, the five, to Martha Alwal, Carnecia Williams, Sherise Williams, and J'Net Wash nbso the Lady Bulldogs can have some size on the floor. 


Schaefer said earlier this week tat Alwal, a sophomore who started games last season, likely would be in the starting lineup at one spot and that he would take any one of the three at the other. The longtime assistant and associate head coach at the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M University didn't have to make those decisions last week, but he will have make up his mind this week as MSU begins final preparations for its exhibition opener against Shorter at 7 p.m. Friday at Humphrey Coliseum. 


At 6-foot-3, Carnecia Williams is a more physical player, Schaefer said, while Sherise Williams, at 6-2, 160 pounds, is a "raw, inexperienced, athletic kid" who can go get you some rebounds. 


"At certain position, you can get away with some undersized players," Schaefer said. "Energy and effort can certainly make up a lot for what is a lack of skill, in my mind. I visited with the kids today about work ethic, commitment, earning your check, being a pro, having that mentality when you come every day you bring you lunch pail and you are here to get after it and work. The way I want to play, I think it is important that that is the No. 1 factor, our effort on the floor." 


Carnecia Williams feels she is prepared to provide that effort. After being redshirted in 2010-11, Williams played only 69 minutes in 16 games last season. She battled through a concussion, an injured finger, and an injured ankle, but feels she is getting closer and closer to 100 percent every day. Last year, she had a minor knee injury that didn't require surgery. 


"I am pushing through a lot of stuff and trying to be a big-time rebounder because we're going to need it because we're kind of a small team," Williams said. "I am feeling really good. There are a lot of positive things going on, and I am trying to get into the mix of everything." 


Williams has seen how much Schaefer appreciates hard work and getting up after it. She said it is going to take time for the Lady Bulldogs to play that way all of the time, but she feels the team has a lot of potential once it gets there. Williams has the potential to add to that mix, too. While at White Station High School in Memphis, Tenn., she was voted the best defensive player as a senior. That should fit right in with a coach like Schaefer whose nickname is "Secretary of Defense." 


Sherise Williams, who is from St. Louis, gained her eligibility right before the start of the fall semester. The former standout at McCluer High School averaged a double-double in her junior year at the school. Although she admits she needs to work on her strength and conditioning, Williams has shown she is ready to step in and contribute. She was one of the first players to finish nearly every conditioning drill at the end of the team's first official practice Since then, the self-described "noodle" has transformed into a "string bean." She hopes to continue to mature into a "carrot" so she can be an even bigger contributor. 


"I think I have got a lot more to improve on," Williams said. 'I am doing a lot better, and I know have to hit the weights because I am smaller than the other post players. I am really skinny and agile and quicker than most people, so I am going to do what I do best and use my athleticism."  


Like Carnecia, Sherise has quickly learned Schaefer and his coaches won't accept average, which is why she is focused on building strength and speed so she can be on the floor to make an impact. She said her goal is to make everyone in the program proud and to help the team upset a lot of opponents this season. 


"Every little thing is going to count for us," Williams said. "We're going to have to box out a lot, and everybody on the team is going to have to rebound. I am just going to give it my all. Our coaches demand a lot, and I am just going to give them as much as I can and do my best." 


Schaefer said he isn't sure if or how sophomore Shamia Robinson, of West Oktibbeha County High School, will factor into the mix in the frontcourt because she has been coming off surgery and she has been sick, so her practice time has been limited. 


For now, that leaves MSU will four candidates for two of its three front-court positions. And while the Lady Bulldogs may be at a size disadvantage compared to opponents, Schaefer wants his players to make up for that with their tenacity, hustle, and focus. 


"As long as we hold them to a standard they're going to get it," Schaefer said. "I think as coaches it is imperative we are demanding, we don't apologize for being demanding, and we hold them to a standard and a level of expectation. To me, that's really the critical piece for us as a staff is that we hold them accountable." 


Schaefer feels the Lady Bulldogs understand their class, years of service in the program, or size aren't going to determine how many minutes they play. He said the players have seen they will be held accountable and there will be repercussions if things aren't done the right way. He hopes that carries over this week and the following week when MSU plays host to the University of Houston at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 in its season opener at Humphrey Coliseum. 


"They want to please and they want to win. I think they will do what it takes to win. Right now, we're learning what it takes to win. I know my kids are good kids, they're working hard, and they want to please us. At the end of the day, that is a pretty good situation, and that allows you to have an equation for success. I am proud of them for that, we just have to keep working at it."

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.