NORTHRIDGE, Calif. --- Change is afoot at Cal State Northridge for the women's basketball program. There is a new team room augmented by a hardwood floor reminiscent of the Boston Garden's famed parquet. The changes spill onto the roster, where a mixture of six fresh-faced rookies and two transfers who bring in NCAA credentials join the club.
And most importantly, there is a change in the culture and attitude of the program under second year head coach Jason Flowers. As Northridge postulates what the 2011-12 season holds in store, the Matadors know that they won't be entering any fight without the swagger and confidence that the changes have instilled.
Coming off a 4-26 season and a 4-12 Big West campaign last year, the Matadors have much higher expectations this season. The squad has welcomed in a class of eight newcomers, two of which are Division-I transfers, to go along with five returning student-athletes from a year ago.
One of those returning players, senior center Jasmine Erving (Santa Ana, Calif.), figures to be a key fixture in the fate of the Matadors' season. The first Northridge player to be named to the league's Preaseason Team since Ofa Tulikihihifo in 2006, Erving enters the year off a highly successful junior season where she averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 6.9 rebounds.
Erving also finished at 72 percent (85-of-118) from the free throw line, pulled down a career-high 205 rebounds and added 16 assists, 36 blocked shots and 17 steals during her junior season. In conference play, Erving averaged 17 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
Finally, Erving became the ninth player in school history to amass 1,000 career points, hitting the milestone at home against the Cal State Fullerton Titans. For her career, Erving has scored 1,074 points, good for eighth in school history and an average of 12.5 points per game.
The team's other senior is guard Bridgette Conejo (San Pedro, Calif.). A tough combo guard, Conejo appeared in 23 games and made 15 starts during her junior season. She averaged 5.7 points and 4.9 rebounds before a knee injury cut her season short.
Among the other returning players, Violet Alama (Honolulu, Hawai'i) had a breakout sophomore campaign that saw her average 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds. She also led the team at the charity stripe, shooting 79 percent (98-of-124) in 30 games.
Sophomore Haley White (Ontario, Calif.) 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.
The team's final returnee, junior Felicia Walker (Oakland, Calif.), brings a defensive presence with her ability to alter shots and rebound.
Among the newcomers, 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 (Fullerton, Calif.) was a part of a national championship team and brings in good size and toughness to the interior. Camille Mahlknecht (Agoura, Calif.) 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 (Duarte, Calif.) 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 (San Diego, Calif.), a point guard from San Diego, has already made waves with her tenacity in individual workouts and possesses great speed. Randi Friess (Savannah, Ga.) is a long 6-0 guard who has tremendous versatility and athleticism that is just beginning to take shape. Finally, Janae Sharpe (Rialto, Calif.) 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 (Mission Viejo, Calif.) spent a year with Gonzaga, helping the Bulldogs advance to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. Jianni Jackson (Riverside, Calif.) 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.
Marcel Proust once conjectured that, "time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them." It's a fitting analogy for the Matadors. After years of underwhelming performances, the Matadors bring in a squad hungry and determined to change people's perception of the program. That will have to do with the product they put out on the court, not in the hyperbole of preseason prognostications. And that kind of change is certainly a good thing.