The Harvard women's basketball team has suffered a beating from the loss of four key players to graduation.
The Crimson lost two starters, forward Sharon Hayes and guard Barb Keffer, who combined to average 26 points per game last season and finished as Harvard's top two all-time scorers. Also missing from the Harvard roster will be defensive wizard Nancy Cibotti and the tenacious Mary Baldauf.
However, Coach Kathy Delaney Smith's motto these days must be, "We can rebuild. Bigger...faster...stronger...better."
"We have more potential than I expected," the seventh-year coach said. "There are a lot of new faces, but my major worries right now are turnovers and foul shots, both of which are correctible."
Harvard will be hard-pressed to match its accomplishments of last winter, when the Crimson racked up 21 wins en route to a share of the Ivy League title with Dartmouth. Included among Delaney Smith's victims last year were Boston University, Boston College, Rice, Vermont, Maine and the University of Massachusetts. However, the cagers' impressive record (21-5, 12-2 Ivy League) and resume of victories over tough, non-league opponents still wasn't enough to garner an NCAA or NWIT tournament bid. (See accompanying story--Harvard Needs Respect.)
This year's Crimson squad has a different look, including a new motion offense, adapted from Dean Smith's offense at the University of North Carolina, which is designed to take advantage of the increased athletic abilities of the current roster. Delaney Smith emphasized the importance of being able to utilize the diverse talents of Co-Captains Sarah Duncan and Beth Chandler both under the basket and on the perimeter.
"We have a physically fast, extremely talented team this year," Duncan said. "We will fast break and press a lot more than last year. It's a lot more exciting brand of basketball--the kind everyone likes to play."
The burden of Harvard's fortunes this year will fall on the squad's three returning starters, Duncan, Chandler and point guard Heidi Kosh.
The 6-ft. Duncan led the team last year with 13.7 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game, a .497 shooting percentage and 78 blocked shots. The First Team All-Ivy forward also added 56 assists and 33 steals for the Crimson.
Duncan is currently tied for fourth place on the all-time Crimson scoring list with 870 points, trailing the leader, Hayes, by 432 points.
Chandler came through with a spectacular junior season after missing the previous year because of knee surgery. The 6-ft. center was the Crimson's "Chairman of the Boards," tearing down 198 rebounds last season while also adding 10.3 points per game.
Kosh is the remaining member of the Special K combination following Keffer's graduation. (See accompanying story.) The junior inherits her ex-backcourt mate's role as point guard and catalyst of the offense, after contributing 88 assists, 40 steals and 8.8 points per game to the Ivy League champions' efforts.
Returning from a year off is senior guard Hanya Bluestone, who will need to contribute experience, aggressive defense and offensive direction in the backcourt. (See accompanying story.) Bluestone was a member of Harvard's first Ivy League championship squad in 1986.
"We have four players with a lot of experience who will have to lead this squad," Duncan said, "but the combination of talent and inexperience on the rest of the squad often leads to inconsistency. We cannot let ourselves be inconsistent."
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