The New Mexico State women's basketball team opens the 2011-2012 season under the leadership of first year head coach Mark Trakh who takes over for Darin Spence. Trakh, previously the head coach at Pepperdine and Southern Cal, looks to build on the foundation left by Spence.
Joining Trakh's staff are Jamie Shadian, Tamara Inoue and graduate assistant Aarika Hughes. Shadian joins the staff from Tennessee State while Inoue was most recently at Santa Clara while Hughes played for Trakh at USC.
"I think I've got a great staff," said Trakh. "Jamie Shadian and Tamara Inoue are my co number ones. I'm really lucky to have my third assistant, Aarika Hughes, who played for me at USC."
Trakh, who likes to have a previous familiarity with his assistants, has known all three since their high school playing days. "When I coached high school ball I coached against Jamie and when I got the Pepperdine job she was a freshman at USF (San Francisco) and I coached against her for four years and she kinda kicked my tail in those four years," said Trakh. "She's a great on-floor coach and she's a tremendous fundraiser. We had over 200 people come to our tip-off banquet and Jamie organized that, pushed it in the community and raised a lot of money for the program. She's somebody that I've known for a long time that I'm very, very comfortable with."
Trakh recruited Inoue while coaching at Pepperdine, she would go on to Cal before transferring to Long Beach State and becoming a two-time All Big West performer. "She's a great floor coach, great X's and O's person as far as all the technical stuff, Facebook and Twitter, just a lot of marketing stuff," said Trakh. "They're both great recruiters. Tamara coached for seven years in Australia and has a great Australian connection," said Trakh. "She helped get a lot of those kids at Fresno State the last four years. They're both great great assistants and I'm really fortunate to have them."
At just 24 years old, graduate assistant Hughes is the youngest member of the staff but her impact on the coaching staff can't be understated. "She's just 24 years old but she does a lot for me for somebody that young and I'm really comfortable with her because she's an ex-player and she can really relate to the players as well."
Having Hughes on the staff is very important for Trakh and as a former player and someone close in age to the players, she'll be able to relate well to the current players. "It just shows you how highly I thought of Tamara and Jamie because I usually just hire ex-players," said Trakh. "Having Aarika is big because she's an ex-player, she knows me, she knows the system, can tell the kids where I'm coming from a lot of times, who can relate. She's got a great personality, she's very approachable, the kids love her. That's really, really big that I have an ex-player on staff."
The Aggies head into the season with a mix of experience and fresh faces but Trakh has the difficult task of replacing four-year letter winner and four time All-WAC point guard Madison Spence who graduated from the program. Also gone are Jasmine Lowe, a two-year starter, and Danisha Corbett, a solid contributor for each of the past three seasons. The trio accounted for over 50 percent of the Aggies' scoring last season combining for 37.0 points per game.
The Aggies return eight players who saw playing time last season as well as Kelsie Rozendaal, a redshirt senior who sat out due to injury.
At point guard, Trakh will turn to senior Kaitlyn Soto in her final season with the Aggies. "I love Kaitlyn." said Trakh. "She's a great kid, spark plug. She does everything we ask of her. She works hard. She's dedicated and wants to win. She's my point guard. She's gotta handle the ball for us and I've got a lot of confidence of in her."
Also figuring to get playing time at point guard this season will be true freshman Hannah Womack (Millville, Calif.) "Good shooter, point guard, handles the ball well," said Trakh. "She's stepped up the last few practices and I've seen some good things from her." Womack scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 22 minutes of play in an exhibition game last week.
One big key for the Aggie point guards will be to protect the ball. "Don't turn the ball over and get us in our offense," said Trakh. "Don't do anything fancy, get us in our offense, hit an open three, get to the hole when you have a good chance to drive and take care of the ball. We don't want to turn it over. We gotta hammer into them that victory favors the team that makes the least mistakes. We just can't turn the ball over a lot, not if we want to win."
Another freshman who may see playing time at the point guard position is Simone Reudin (Eltham, Victoria, Australia). "Really good offensive player, great defensive player," said Trakh. "She's athletic, can shoot the three, can get to the basket. She does pretty well for a freshman." Reudin could also spend time at the two guard position.
Joining the mix for potential playing time at the point guard spot is Dré Chenier who appeared in 32 games as a freshman last season while averaging just under 10 minutes per game . "Andrea is an athletic kid, has a nice shot, can handle the ball and can defend," said Trakh. "I think she's getting into better shape and she's becoming more aware of things on the basketball court. She's getting better and better every day and that's all you can ask."
The Aggies have an abundance of youth at the guard spot with several players looking to find time and the two and three spots. One player who figures to have a significant impact this season is sophomore Jasmine Rutledge. "She's very athletic, explosive kid," said Trakh. "She can really really defend. She can get to the basket, shoot the medium range jumper." Rutledge appeared in 31 games last season, starting 20 and averaged 4.8 rebounds per game (6.4 RPG during conference play). "We're expecting big things from her this season," said Trakh.
Junior Camila Rosen is another returnee from last year's team who hopes to have a big impact this season after having her season cut short due to an ACL injury. "Camila is long, athletic, she can defend," said Trakh. "She's got a good medium range jumper." The Aggies will also rely on Rosen for her defense as she returns as one of the Aggies' best defenders.
Joining the returnees are several fresh faces including a pair of international players. Keyora Wharry, a 5'9" guard from Fresno, Calif. headlines the group. "Keyora had a good fall for us. She's athletic and she can defend," said Trakh. "She's a freshman so she's gotta learn the game but she's quick, explosive, fast. She can get up and down the floor."
The Aggies will also look to get fellow international freshmen Paige Melville (Tumbi Umbi, NSW, Australia) and Keren Mozes (Herzalyia, Israel) time on the court. Paige is about 5'8, she's an athletic two guard. She's a good kid, works hard. She's a decent offensive player, she's a real good defensive player and really gets after it."
"Keren is a really good shooter, really good," said Trakh.
The Aggies also have several local walk-ons at the guard position in Justina Adams (Las Cruces, N.M.), Elena Holguin (La Cruces N.M.) , Maricel Medina (Albuquerque, N.M.) and Amanda Kerr (Kirtland, N.M.). Despite their walk-on status, Trakh expects them to contribute to the success of the team. "We expect them to work hard, come to practice every day with a good attitude and push the scholarship players and bring something to the program in terms of hard work, enthusiasm, dedication, passion," said Trakh. "That's required and they all do a great job." Holguin will redshirt this season due to injury.
The post positions are where the Aggies are the most experienced. The group is led by returning starter and preseason All-WAC selection Tabytha Wampler. "Tabytha is really really good. She needs to get the ball," said Trakh. "She has great back to the basket moves. She can fake to the basket at hit the 15 to 18 footer, she can actually go out to three point range. She's a smart player, works hard and is a great leader. She leads by example and doesn't let anybody outwork her." Wampler averaged 12.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last season and started all 32 of the Aggies' games. Wampler returns as one of the Aggies' best shooters, not just from the inside but from the outside as well. She hit 47.3 percent of her field goals and 40 percent of her three point attempts last season.
Joining Wampler is fellow senior Erica Sanchez. "Erica is a great shooter. She's almost automatic from three point range," said Trakh. "She's long. She works, really really hard. I'm expecting her to be a good rebounder and a really good shooter. She's a great kid and is very coachable."
Returning from an injury that resulted in a redshirt season, senior Kelsie Rozendaal will bring a tough, workmanlike mentality to the team. "Kelsey is one of the smartest players I've ever coached," said Trakh. "She's got a great attitude, very smart, works very hard, gets after it. She's a strong physical kid and has some good skills."
Joining the frontcourt fray will be juniors Christina Fletcher and Malia Magazzeni. "Christina is a very good athlete. Does all the little things, gets up and down the court, is a great defensive player and really understands the system," said Trakh. "She just brings a lot as far as work ethic and a lot of other things to the program." Fletcher played in 30 games last season for the Aggies. "Malia is very coachable, works really, really hard. She is a really solid role player for us. She sets screens, rebounds, defends and does all those things." Magazzeni played in 24 games for the Aggies last season but saw limited action averaging just 6.3 minutes per game.
The five bigs will be relied heavily upon for their rebounding and defense. "We've got to score, we've got to rebound and we have to defend," said Trakh. "All of them have to do that, especially Tabytha."
The Aggies will look to implement a motion offense this season. "We've got to outwork people, we've got to be a system team," said Trakh. "We want to pass three, four or five times. We want to go side to side with the ball and make the defense work. Get them off the help to the ball side a few times and open them up and make it a battle of wills. See if they can play defense for 30 seconds better than we can play offense for 30 seconds."
The Aggies will also look to change up their defense a bit this season as well. "Defensively we're going to play containment man-to-man and keep everything in front of us. We'll also play a zone, a matchup zone and again keep everything in front of us," said Trakh.
Trakh knows his team isn't the most physically talented team in the conference and a big key for the Aggies this season will be to outwork and out-hustle teams both offensively and defensively. "We're not bad talent-wise but we've got to outwork people. We don't have kids that are going to run and snatch rebounds and break you down on the dribble consistently. We need to really really play hard and outwork people," said Trakh. "If we don't do that and try to rely [just] on our talent, it could be a long season. If we don't outwork people we're not going to win games."
The Aggies aren't setting any win goals for the season but will instead look to focus on the process and staying the course in Trakh's system. "What we have to do is concentrate on the process. Concentrate on playing as hard as we can in the minute in front of us. We've got to play hard," said Trakh. "We need to play hard in the minute in front of us, play hard every game, dive on loose balls, take offensive charges and play together and just stay the course together."
The Aggies were picked to finish sixth out of eight teams by both the coaches and media in the preseason polls. "My first year at USC we were picked to finish eighth in the conference and we opened up with a three point win at UMass, then we lost to DePaul by 22 points," said Trakh. "We stayed with the system and we ended up beating TCU who was nationally ranked, on a last second shot at TCU. We wind up winning 20 games and almost made the Sweet 16, we lost on a last-second shot to Michigan State that would have got us in the Sweet 16. But that year we lost by 22 to DePaul and we lost by like 26 to Stanford at home and a week later in the conference tournament we took them to the last minute and almost won. We didn't panic, we just stayed the course."
With a young team, the Aggies will measure their success by the improvement shown throughout the season. "Whatever happens this year, if we get blown out in a game, we just have to stay the course and come back and continue to not decide, "Oh my gosh, we're losing now I've gotta throw up a three pointer." We don't want to play that way," said Trakh. "Regardless of what the score is, we've got to stay in the system and get better and by the end of the season hopefully we've improved. I don't know how much that improvement is going to be but I'm really going to judge how hard we play and if we can do the little things, take charges, dive on loose balls, help your teammate up when they're on the ground. Things like that are going to be big for us."