November 14, 2012 10:39:57 PM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- The opportunities figure to be there for Candace Foster and Brittany Young.
With only 11 players on the Mississippi State University women's basketball team's roster, Foster and Young could be an injury or two away from being pressed into service.
Neither player hopes that will happen, but both know they can't take any moment in practice for granted because they, too, like their teammates, are still building trust with each member of the coaching staff, especially head coach Vic Schaefer.
"They're both hard-working kids, and I think they're learning to work at a level they have never worked at before," Schaefer said. "Neither one has been in the fire, and they're fixin' to be in the fire, so that is all new to them. Both kids are people pleasers and trying to please us. As a coach, that is all you look for in a player. You just want somebody to do what you're asking them to do. Both players have hearts of gold and they care."
Foster and Young will try to continue to impress Schaefer and the rest of MSU's coaching staff as the team prepares to play host to Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m. Friday at Humphrey Coliseum.
MSU (1-1) is coming off a 56-48 loss to Hampton University on Monday. Young (0-for-1 from the field in two minutes) and Young (no shots attempted in three minutes) played minimal roles in that game, but both bring intensity and energy to the court, which fits well with the full-court defensive strategy Schaefer hopes to instill in his team.
Even though Foster and Young are both juniors, they are like their teammates in that they are adjusting to the new coaching staff. Schaefer was hired in March to replace veteran coach Sharon Fanning-Otis. Since then, Foster and Young have tried to do all they can to carve out bigger roles for themselves. Last season, Foster played in 20 games (two starts) and had two points in 73 minutes. Young also played in 20 games and had 10 points in 93 minutes.
Both players are focused on making bigger contributions this season.
Foster started an exhibition game against Shorter and a controlled scrimmage against Tulane University. She felt right at home after Schaefer was introduced because she knew Schaefer enjoyed working with players who were going to give their best effort all of the time.
Foster epitomized that effort with her defensive play against Shorter. She was up on her opponent on nearly every occasion and trying not to let that player do what she wanted to do.
"Like our motto, 'All out, all game, all season,' " Foster said. "I just want to do that and bring my energy and effort and to be tough."
Foster hopes that mind-set has a domino effect on the rest of her game. She acknowledges she isn't the most accomplished player on the team, but she said she knows how to play within herself to help the team in any way possible.
Foster hopes to do the same thing, whether it mean getting a rebound, playing defense, or taking a charge. She said the style of play Schaefer and the staff have brought in has been an adjustment, especially in terms of conditioning.
Foster continues to work at it every day and feels she is a better player from last season. She also believes she is still finding her niche and is eager to make the most of a new look from a new group of coaches.
"It is a fresh start," Young said. "Coming off my freshman year going into my sophomore year, I thought I worked really hard. Coaches already have a perception of you from the previous year, so even if you do work hard, it is like they still remember you as this type of player.
"These coaches coming in didn't know anything about you. You had a chance to work and get better. Now they know a little bit about you and they see you progressing and getting better."
Young said the key to earning more playing time is relaxing and playing her game. She feels her size combined with her work ethic could help her get more minutes, especially if Schaefer needs a physical guard to rebound or to play defense.
Whatever role, Young said she wants to be an 'X' factor.
"While I am on the floor I want to give it my all," Young said. "I think I can be one of the players who brings energy and helps my teammates out. If they see me working hard, it will be a domino effect for them."
With sophomore guard/forward Shamia Robinson out four to six weeks with a stress fracture, Foster and Young could work themselves into the rotation at a two, shooting guard, or three, small forward, depending on matchups and Schaefer's desire to mix defenses and keep players fresh.
"I think for both of them it is just learning the level of expectation and understanding the level we're demanding of them and learning to get to that point," Schaefer said. "You get to a threshold and you think, 'I just can't do anything more. I have never been past this point.' You teach them how to get past that point and they get to a whole new level they have never seen before."
Schaefer said both players have strong work ethics, and he said they need to sustain that physical and mental focus for longer periods. He feels they will be able to do that because both players want to get better and have strong hearts. He hopes the rest of the Bulldogs see that tenacity and the willingness of Foster and Young to do the little things to get more playing time.
"They have to accentuate their work ethic and their physical frames," Schaefer said. "You have to have people on your team who set the example. I think both of those kids do that."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.