By Joel Wass
After adding seven new players, the Ryerson women’s basketball team is hoping its extra ingredients mix well with current team chemistry.
“Without chemistry there is no team,” says captain Teaka Grizzle. “I hope we have the same chemistry as we did last year, but with so many people it’s going to be harder to achieve.”
The Rams shocked the round-ball world last season when their depleted eight-player squad advanced to the Ontario University Athletics championship game, following an upset over the heavily favoured Laurentian University Voyageurs.
Former captain Karrina Navarro is the only player from that elite eight who will not be returning, keeping expectations for this year’s club relatively high.
“I thought a lot about team chemistry while I was recruiting, but it isn’t something that happens overnight,” says head coach Sandy Pothier. “It’s just like in any relationship; you have to get to know people before you can feel confident with them.”
If any of the returning players lack confidence in the rookies, they’re not letting the newcomers know about it.
“The first time I met these girls they made me feel a part of this team,” says first-year player Alexis Rakovac. “I never feel like the outcast or the new girl.”
The Rams may be cooperating on the court, but Grizzle says it’s essential that they also mesh when not practicing.
“Our team is really big for going out together and bonding and we haven’t done any of that yet,” says Grizzle. “It’s still really early in the game so we’re just trying to get the team together.”
Although the recruits are new to Ryerson, not all are new to post-secondary basketball.
“I feel like I have some experience over the other rookies,” says Asha Forrester, who hooped it up at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology for two years. “University players are a lot bigger than they are in college, so its going to be a huge step up, especially since I’ll be playing the post where there is a lot more contact and it’s a lot harder on your body.”
Sculpting harder bodies is something every new player needs to reach for, says assistant coach Richard Dean.
“They could be in better shape, but they’re getting there,” says Dean. “They’ve shown they can run in practice. We’ll just have to see how that translates into games.”
Lisa Greg, a 5’6” rookie point guard, says she still has a long way to go before she’ll be satisfied with her personal physical level.
“I’m doing find on the conditioning part of things, but I definitely need to work on the strength,” says Greg. “Strength is one of my biggest weaknesses.”
One of Pothier’s bigger challenges will be dishing out playing time to a greater number of players.
“Everyone has a role and we need everyone to understand where they stand on this team,” says Pothier. “If practices are intense then I think they’ll all be ready for competition.”
Although the new players say they have a lot to learn each one is certain they are capable of making an immediate contribution.
“We all have to fight for our positions,” says Rakovac. “We’re all in competition, so we’re all going to have to shine to be played.”
Tamara Alleyne-Gittens is one faded star Pothier is also hoping will shine this season.
After leading the team in scoring during the regular season Alleyne-Gittens was not on the Rams playoff roster. Both Alleyne-Gittens and Pothier wouldn’t say what caused Alleyne-Gittens’ untimely exit.
“I’ve spoken to Tamara and she said she is committed to making the necessary changes to ensure there will not be a repeat of last year,” says Pothier.
Tina Valiunas is one rookie confident that last year’s success can easily be repeated.
“Judging on what they did last year with only eight players, I definitely think we can do better than what they did last year. I mean with all this new talent we got nowhere to go but straight to the top,” says Valiunas.