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November 11, 2010 - Image 8

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8A - Thursday, November 11, 2010

I
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

8A - Thursday, November 11, 2010 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

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Young Wolverines to rely
on last season's nucleus

ByEVERETT COOK
Daily Sports Writer
Michigan women's basketball
coach Kevin Borseth sat alone at a
table during Big Ten Media Day on
October 29. All around him, some of
the best players and coaches in the
country answered questions about
the upcoming season. Borseth's
table was empty for most of the day,
with the exception a former beat
writer or two coming over to talk
every so often. He knows his team
doesn't enjoy the fanfare as the pro-
grams at Ohio State and Iowa do.
But the lack of visitors doesn't faze
Borseth, as he pulls out a crossword
puzzle and goes to work.
It would be an understatement
to say that Michigan is flying under
the radar entering this season. The
Wolverines are not ranked in the
top three in either of the Big Ten
preseason and media polls and have
no players named to the preseason
All-Big Ten teams.
Borseth was the first coach to
speak during Big Ten media day,
and he started off his press confer-
ence by saying, "It's my job to make
sure these microphones work soyou
can hear everyone else afterwards."
Borseth seems to relish the lack
of attention. He breaks out of his
crossword-induced bubble when he
begins to talk about his team, one
with a scary dearth experience. The
team's youth is a major reason for its
low profile early on, somethingthat
Borseth understands completely.
"Jury is always out on young
teams," Borseth said. "And we cer-
tainly are young."
The Wolverines return only one
senior, but if one is all you get then
guard Veronica Hicks is a good one
to have. She was named Michigan's
most valuable player last year and
was an All-Big Ten Honorable Men-
tion. Hicks will be the go-to scorer
this year, but her role goes beyond
just offense. Borseth calls Hicks the
leader and rock of the team, a role
that she embraces.
She bears the responsibility of

showing a green roster the right
way to do things, and so far, she
has led the team through offseason
workouts by being vocal and work-
ing hard.
"I think everybody knew what
they wanted to work- on this sum-
mer, and instead of just talking
about it we all went out and did it,"
Hicks said. "We have seen improve-
ments all around as a team."
The other two returning starters
are junior guard/forward Carmen
Reynolds and sophomore guard
Jenny Ryan. Reynolds was also an
All-Big Ten Honorable Mention,
mostly because her three-point
percentage was the 10th best in the
country. For this team to be success-
ful, Reynolds must continue to be a
shooting threat to take some of the
offensive pressure off of Hicks. But
her impactgoes beyond that.
"I definitely want to step up
vocally because we are a younger
team, and if I carry myself with con-
fidence everyone else will follow,"
Reynolds said.
The team will need its players to
shoot consistently from the outside
in order to succeed on the offensive
end. If Reynolds can shoot like she
has in past seasons, the Michigan
offense will be in good shape.
On the other side of the spectrum
is Ryan, Michigan's defensive play-
er of the year last season. Known
for her rebounding abilities, Ryan
understands that she has to step up
offensivelyas well this year.
"I'm not saying I don't need to
continuetoimproveonmydefense,"
Ryan said at Michigan Media Day
last month. "But this year from an
offensive standpoint, I need to be a
threat because last year I felt that
people could relax on me defen-
sively."
As far as experience goes, that's
it. Besides those three players,
Michigan does not have anyone on
its roster who played more than 10
minutes agame lastseason.
"We have three players coming
back fromlastseason with consider-
able experience and other than that

we have a bunch of greenhorns,"
Borseth said."They have ability, but
you just don't know until you see
them on the court."
While the Wolverines won't
know exactly what they have in
their arsenal until the season is
underway, there are several young
players predicted to get signifi-
cant playing time. Junior Courtney
Boylan is the team's projected start-
ing point guard and will see a lot of
the court this season. Boylan is list-
ed as a generous 5-foot-7, but plays
with an aggressive style that makes
up for her lack of size.
Sophomore Sam Arnold and
freshman Val Driscoll will likely
split the playing time at center,
unless Borseth decides to go with
a smaller, quicker lineup. Arnold
didn't get a lot of playing time last
year, but has put in plenty of offsea-
son work and has been praised for
her improvement by both Borseth
and Hicks. She is 6-foot-4, but runs
the floor better than Driscoll and is
more of a threat from the outside.
Driscoll plays like a true cen-
ter and should bring an element
of toughness to the post. There is
a chance she could be one of the
team's leading rebounders this sea-
son, depending on how quickly she
can pick up the college game.
The surprise player for the Wol-

ARIEL BOND/Daily

Senior guard Veronica Hicks is the only senior on the Michigan women's basketball team.

verines migh
ward Nya J
hand injury e
but still man
eth.
"She is a b
hand than a]
two," Borsetl
going to be a
Ultimately
or die with it
youth eventu
Wolverines ci
"Some ofu
we have the
the know-hon
Ryan said. "
drill matters
and every gar
show up in M

it be sophomore for- here's a poster hanging
ordan. Jordan had a in junior point guard
arlier in the offseason, L Courtney Boylan's lock-
aged to impress Bors- er. It's been there for inspira-
tion since her freshman year.
netter player with one "I've always, always looked
lot of people are with up to her as a role model,"
h said. "Nya Jordan is Boylan says of the basketball
good player." player in the poster.
, Michigan will ride But this poster isn't of one of
ts newcomers. If their her favorite players from when
ally betrays them, the she was a kid. It's a poster of
ould crash and burn. her teammate, Veronica (Roni)
s have the experience, Hicks.
athletes, and we have "I always just thought if
w to take it day by day," Roni is in the gym, then I need
We know that every to be in the gym," Boylan said
every play matters, after practice last Wednesday.
me matters, and it will "She's always getting shots in.
arch." That's kind of the reason I put
her poster in my locker. She's a
vocal leader. That girl does not
want to lose. She's competitive
as hell. That's kind of always
the mentality that I wanted to
have too."
Boylan isn't the only Michi-
gan player who looks up to
Hicks. Ask nearly any player
about Hicks and the answer will
sound familiar - she is always
working hard and looking out
for her teammates.
Hicks's disciplined mental-
ity comes through in the class-
room, too. She has taken classes
every summer since she's been
on campus so that she could
graduate this spring with a
degree in industrial and opera-
tions engineering.
It might seem odd that a play-
er would have a poster of her
SAMANTHA TRAUBEN/Daily own teammate in her locker.
But get to know Hicks, and you
just might consider grabbing
one for yourself.

Junior guard/forward Carmen Reynolds brings a 3-point shooting spark to the Wolverines.
Stiff competition in the Bil

grade and soon after began
playing AAU basketball. That's
when her commitment to bas-
ketball started to get serious -
she played on an AAU team that
featured players now playing
at Notre Dame, Ohio State and
Indiana.
"Competing with them every
day, you had to get better,"
Hicks said. "I just loved to play,
and I played whenever I could."
Hicks quickly began to utilize
her potential. By the end of her
freshman season in high school,
she was on the varsity team at
Thornwood High in suburban
Chicago.
"(Getting moved up to var-
sity) really showed me that I
could compete at a high level,"
Hicks said. "Just being able to
see the competition and what
it's like in the playoffs was
huge."
Two weeks into her sopho-
more year, she had taken hold
of the starting point guard posi-
tion. By the end of that year, she
already had offers from 39 dif-
ferent universities, including
some Division-I programs. But
Michigan was not one of them.
At the beginning of her senior
year, she finally received a let-
ter from the Wolverines, and it
was different from the others.
"They sent us more than just
a regular envelope," Luther
recalled. "They sent her a big
manila envelope, and in it they
wrote things that they appreci-
ate about her character, her ath-
letic ability and her academics.
It was a very nice package."
Just a couple of months later,
Veronica signed her letter of
intent to play for Michigan.
Luther, a Northwestern grad,
was ecstatic that his daughter
would be playing in the Big Ten.
With a little faith, the decision
was a no-brainer for the Hicks
family.
"Everyone recognizes the
block 'M'," Veronica said. "It's
a big symbol both athletically
and academically, and I knew I
wanted to play in the Big Ten. I
really wanted to go somewhere
where I could thrive and not
really have to be at odds with
teammates over certain things.
We're a praying, playful family,
and we prayed about it. It was
just meant for me to be here.
God sent me to Michigan so I
just came."
And when she came to Ann
Arbor, she made sure that she
didn't leave her faith behind.
LIVING THROUGH FAITH
It's a pretty common sight to
see an athlete listening to his or
her iPod before a game.
But take a look at what Veron-
ica Hicks is listening to, and you
might do a double take.
"It's funny because she's
pretty quiet before games,"
Boylan said. "She always listens
to this one Christian song that
gets her super pumped up. She
just goes to the corner of the
locker room and starts rockin'
out to her Christian music."
For Hicks, "Rain Down on
Me" by Lonnie Hunter serves
more of a purpose than to just
pump her up.

"When I'm on the court,
sometimes I just feel like I don't
even want to be the one in con-
trol," Hicks said. "It's kind of
like, 'You know God, if you want
to take over from here and just
do what you do through me, go
ahead.' So it just kind of gets my
spirit into it."
It's faith that motivates
Hicks every day. Growing up
in a tight-knit family, religion
was always important, as her
parents, Luther and Brenda,
made sure that she was exposed
to faith at an early age. Veron-
ica began going to church with
her family as soon as she could
walk, and she attended a Chris-
tian grade school through sixth
grade.
"She keeps her eye on God,"
said Tasha Harris, Veronica's
older sister. "That helps us stay
grounded and loving. She fin-
ishes what she starts and she is
a woman of God.
A similar tone rings true in
the locker room, as Hicks leads
the team in prayer before each
game.
"I know that where I am right
now is because of God," Hicks
said, "and that's why I'm always
very confident and optimistic
because I have a strong faith
that everything is going to turn
out for my good."
A CONFIDENT LEADER
Michigan coach Kevin Bors-
eth experienced Hicks's confi-
dence the first time he met with
her in the fall of 2007. Borseth
knew little about her because
he, too, was new to Michigan.
He was hired at the start of
Hicks's freshman campaign.
"Roni set up a meeting with
me, and I just thought, 'Oh boy,
here comes another meeting
where the player's going to tell
me that they deserve to play,"'
Borseth recalled on Monday.
"But she just said, 'Coach, all I
can tell you is that one of these
days you're gonna look down on
the bench and you're gonna say,
'I need to get her in the game.''
And that kind of brought a smile
to my face."
That confidence has only
grown since Hicks's arrival at
Ann Arbor. She has improved in
nearly every statistical category
in each of her first three years
at Michigan. But this year,
Hicks still has some unfinished
business.
"I'm grateful for the stage
I'm at right now, but there's still
things that we haven't accom-
plished," she said. "There's
some championships I'd like
to get, some goals I'd like to
achieve on and off the court. I
haven't graduated yet, so I've
still got to do that. I'd like to 4
bring a championship to Michi-
gan before I leave it, and since
it's my last year, it has to be this
year."
Because of its youth and the
fact there is only one senior on
the team, many will question 4
Michigan's chances for success
this season.
But that one senior is Veron-
ica Hicks.
And sometimes you just gotta
have a little faith.

g ien

By CAITLIN SMITH
Daily Sports Writer
Preseason predictions have the
Michigan women's basketball team
in the middle of the conference
heap. Of course, as a late-season
tournament spark showed lastyear,
the Wolverines are capable of rising
above expectations.
This season, it will take passion-
ate play to compete in a Big Ten that
should be solid from top to bottom.
The league is arguably stronger
than ever, and it's considered one of
the toughest in the nation.
No team in the Big Ten can be
taken for granted.
The Wolverines return only
three players with considerable
experience, including just one
senior, guard Veronica Hicks. But
according to Hicks, Michigan does
not look at that as a disadvantage.
"Having new players, having
a new look, having a new way of
playing is really gonna show when
wegetout on the court," Hicks said
two weeks ago at Big Ten Media
Day in Chicago.
The Wolverines are optimistic,
but they will face still competition
in the conference, especially from
Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan
State, the top three teams in both
polls, respectively.
Ohio State remains a domi-
nant competitor, returning all five
starters from last year - including
powerhouse senior center Jantel
Lavender. Last season, Lavender

averaged a double-double, with2l.4
points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
Those numbers ranked ninth and
25th in the nation. Lavender, the
three-time reigning Big Ten Player
of the Year, earned the preseason
honor for the third straight season.
Lavender, along with junior
guard Samantha Prahalis make a
dominant duo. Prahalis, earned a
spot on the preseason Big Ten team
along with Lavender, and was sec-
ond in the nation with eight assists
pergame last season. Lavender and
Prahalis were two of three Big Ten
standouts selected to the Wade and
Wooden award watch lists for the
nation's best player this summer.
Last season, this Buckeye com-
bination led the team to its sixth
straight Big Ten Championship.
Ohio State also claimed the 2009-
2010 Big Ten Tournament title.
"We most definitely have a tar-
get on our back," Lavendar said
during Big Ten Media Day. "I
mean, I would if somebody was in
my conference and they kept win-
ning. Thatd be my focus for the
whole season. But it's fun being on
top, it's fun being the target, it's fun
being the ones that everyone wants
to beat. It makes you that much
tougher."
Even Northwestern, a program
that traditionally hasn't had suc-
cess, is expected tobetough. Coach
Joe McKeown, going into his third
season, has installed new systems
and feverishly recruited top ath-
letes. McKeown could cturn the

Wildcats into the surprise team of
the Big Ten, building around super-
star senior center Amy Jaeschke.
"There are so many good teams
in this conference," Iowa coach
Lisa Bluder said. "It used to be
where maybe you look at the bot-
tom of the conference and think,
'Oh, there's a 'W,' there's a 'W.' But
there are no 'W's' on our schedule
anymore."'
Iowa, besides Ohio State, is
the only other team to return all
five starters. That includes senior
guard Kachine Alexander - who
was selected to both the Wade and
Wooden Award watch lists and
earned a spot on the preseason
All-Big Ten team - and last sea-
son's Big Ten Freshman of the Year,
Jaime Printy. The Hawkeyes are
slated to finish second after ending
last season tied for third and mak-
ing a run to the Big Ten Tourna-
ment final.
The Big Ten should be a battle
to the end. The conference has 17
All-Big Ten performers returning
to their respective teams, includ-
ing four first-team members and the
Big Ten Player and Freshman of the
Year. With dominant teams return-
ing and typical underdogs coming
out swinging, it's impossible to pre-
dict whowill come outontop.
"Inthepast,notalloftheseteams
were able to contest," Lavender
said. "Before you could say, 'Well,
Ohio State is going to win.' But now
everybody is in the dog fight to be
thenext BigTenchampion."

A NATURAL GIFT
From the get-go, Luther Hicks
could tell that his daughter had
talent. When Veronica was only
three years old, he took her out
to a parking lot near their Chi-
cago home with a little ball -
the type that you would find
in a basket at the end of the toy
aisle at Target. He told her to
bounce the ball in front of her-
self and try to dribble. Luther
leaned against the nearest tree
and just watched. The rest was
up to Veronica.
"As soon as I told her, she
took off running on what I
guess would be her first fast
break," Luther said in an inter-
view with the Daily. "She drib-
bled with one hand in front of
herself on a dead sprint and did
not lose the ball. I was stunned,
because I never showed her
anything. It was just natural."
Veronica downplayed the sig-
nificance of the event.
"I'm always just like, 'Well
Dad, I'm pretty sure there's
some energetic three-year-olds
running around,' " she joked on
Monday. "But you got to love
that he's proud of me, and I
really appreciate his support."
Natural ability or not, Hicks
played a variety of sports
growing up. She took up ten-
nis, swimming and karate, and
even had a brief stint in cheer-
leading. But by sixth grade, she
knew which sport was hers.
She started playing competi-
tively at her school in seventh

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