NORTHRIDGE, Calif. --- The Cal State Northridge women's basketball team held its first practices as a team Tuesday afternoon, starting the preparation for a season that tips-off in just three weeks. With a roster featuring a blend of veterans and fresh faces, head coach Jason Flowers and the Matadors are excited about the challenges of the upcoming 2011-12 campaign.
A quick glance at CSUN's roster shows an influx of new talent joining the five returning letterwinners. After doubling their conference win total from the previous year, the Matadors returns their top two scorers and rebounders and one of the conference's two players to finish with over 100 assists last season.
The incoming class is comprised of two transfers and six true freshmen. As a group, these eight players have experienced substantial success at levels ranging from high school to junior college to Division-I basketball.
Senior Jasmine Erving figures to be a prominent fixture in the team's plans. Coming off back-to-back All-Big West Conference Second Team honors, Erving represents one of the league's top interior players. She averaged 14.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in her junior season to rank second and fourth, respectively, among all league players in those categories.
And if she manages to score 558 points, or roughly an average of 19.3 per game in CSUN's scheduled 29 contests, Erving will find herself with the school scoring record. For the Santa, Ana, Calif., the enticement of scoring records will not deter her from a team-first approach.
Another returning player expected to continue to develop is Violet Alama. The versatile junior forward averaged career highs in points and rebounds last season and was among the conference's top free throw shooters.
Finally, sophomore Haley White put together a successful rookie campaign that saw her finish with 105 assists, the second-most dimes in the Big West. With reinforcements at the point guard position, White will have more of an ability to affect games from numerous positions.
Flowers and his staff hold all the incoming freshmen in high regards. On the interior, the team adds three prospects to give the team ample depth.
At Mater Dei High School, Jessica Duarte was a part of a national championship team and brings in good size and toughness to the interior. Camille Mahlknecht is a rangy 6-3 post with the versatility to play with her back to the basket or by facing up on the perimeter. Finally, Kourtney Ainsworth earned All-CIF honors for her play in high school and has already turned heads with her hustle in individual workouts.
The team added three perimeter-oriented rookies to the squad to give the backcourt a new look. Ashlee Guay, a point guard from San Diego, has already made waves with her tenacity in individual workouts and possesses great speed. Randi Friess is a long 6-0 guard who has tremendous versatility and athleticism that is just beginning to take shape. Finally, Janae Sharpe is an All-CIF standout from Rialto High School who has already impressed with her defense.
The two transfers arrive at Northridge after experiencing tremendous success at their previous schools. Kaitlyn Petersen spent a year with Gonzaga, helping the Bulldogs advance to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. Jianni Jackson is a 6-2 forward who played for Hampton University, helping the Pirates advance to the NCAA Tournament, and also spent a year at Mt. San Antonio College as the Mounties won a conference title.