FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas women’s basketball team holds its first official team practice of the 2011-12 season today in Bud Walton Arena signaling the start of the year for Tom Collen and his team.
Collen and the Razorbacks were 22-12 last year and notched a pair of wins over ranked opponents at home last year. The Razorbacks went on to the quarterfinals of the WNIT in the postseason.
The Razorbacks find themselve in new territory for the 2011-12 season. For the first timein Collen’s tenure at Arkansas, the Razorbacks are a veteran team with senior leadership. This year’s team returns a recognizable corps of players paced by senior three-year starting guards C’eira Ricketts and Lyndsay Harris. Although Harris suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first round of the SEC Tournament, she is expected to be ready for the season. In addition to the guards, Arkansas returns senior starters Jamesha Townsend and Ashley Daniels along with junior post Sarah Watkins for what could be one of the only teams to welcome back all five starters. “We are excited to have a veteran team returning,” Collen said. “I can’t remember a team I coached that returns their top seven or eight scorers. This group had a lot of ups and downs last year, but the first thing that comes to mind is that experienced players tend to make fewer mistakes. Although the starting lineup is still to be determined, I know the competition between veterans and newcomers should only make us better. We will be a little more confident and relaxed in late game situations and that could be the difference in the postseason this year. A look beyond Arkansas’ five returning starters revels more of what Collen is excited about. Juniors Julie Inman and Quistelle Williams each have two years in the system and sophomores Keira Peak and Dominique Robinson, coming off a redshirt season, both have significant minutes on the court as Razorbacks. Mix in two other redshirt players in Erin Gatling and Kelsey Hatcher along with an athletic freshman class that includes Fayetteville, Ark., product Calli Berna, along with Joey Bailey and Jhasmin Bowen and it is easy to see why Collen is excited for the season to begin. Collen paced the Razorbacks to a 12-win start last year, got the team back into the top 25 rankings in both polls and finished up with a solid run to the WNIT Quarterfinals in the postseason. With nearly all of his scoring and defense returning, Arkansas is a team who could challenge for bragging rights this year.