With the departure of former head coach Jamie Craighead and forward Kylie Kuhns, who ranks at or near the top of every career statistical category in the team’s history, Sacramento State women’s basketball will need new leadership to fill in the gaps.
In her final season at the helm, Craighead led the Hornets to a 19-12 record, including a 13-7 mark in the Big Sky Conference in 2012-13.
Sac State hired Bunky Harkleroad from Glenville State College Oct. 8.
After filling the head coaching spot, the Hornets will have to fill the hole left by the departure of their star forward.
Kuhns led the team with 12.9 points and 11.0 rebounds a game all while shooting 53 percent from the floor, is the school’s all-time leader in rebounds, as well as one of 10 players in program history to score 1,000 career points.
Two leadership carryovers from the Craighead era are senior guard Allie Moreno and junior point guard Fantasia Hilliard.
Moreno said she is ready to assume an increased leadership role.
“I don’t feel too much pressure and I feel honored to lead this team,” Moreno said. “Last year I tried to be a leader, but when you have a player as good as Kylie (Kuhns) it was kind of easy at that point. I’m trying to fill her shoes as a great leader.”
Moreno ranks first in program history with 586 career 3-point attempts and is third all-time with 171 makes.
Hilliard enters the season fourth on the team’s all-time career assists list with 334. Last season she led the Big Sky and ranked 21st in the nation with 5.9 assists per game.
Despite having to make key leadership adjustments, Harkleroad expressed his thoughts on what he expects from the team this season.
“We want to win every game because that is the objective,” Harkleroad said. “We want to get better every day, and we want to compete for a Big Sky championship.”
According to the Big Sky preseason coaches poll, the Hornets are expected to finish ninth in an 11-team conference,while the media poll predicts Sac State to finish 6th with 186 points.
The Big Sky’s defending champion Eastern Washington ranked first in both polls with coaches and was picked Montana to finish second, Northern Colorado third, Montana State fourth and Idaho State fifth.
Last season Montana won the Big Sky with a conference record of 16-4. Eastern Washington finished 3rd with a 14-6 record.
The Hornets will get their first crack at conference opponents when Big Sky play begins in early January.
Some key games will include a Jan. 4 matchup with Montana, as well as a road game against Eastern Washington Jan. 18. The Hornets will face each conference opponent twice this season.
While the polls may not be expecting a first place finish for the Hornets, the coaches expect the team to succeed with the new philosophy that has been instilled.
Assistant coach Bill Baxter, the only holdover on the coaching staff from a year ago, expressed his thoughts on the matter.
“I think the kids have bought into the new philosophy, and they love playing it,” Baxter said. “I think they saw it work, and they continue to buy into it because they see the success it can bring them.”
Harkleroad stressed the importance of the team playing their hardest collectively.
“It is important that after each game, when people leave they know that our team played harder regardless of what the score is,” he said. “We want to be known as being a team that plays extremely hard night in and night out.”
The season officially begins for Sac State when they take to their home floor against Cal State Northridge Friday.