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Women’s basketball holds first practice of 2017-18 season

Daniel Mendez

The UTEP women’s basketball program was eager to get the pace going. The team welcomed a new coach and staff, along with eight members returning from last season and four newcomers with the first official practice on Monday, Oct. 2.

“It’s an exciting day, the first official day to get going. Were all a little antsy a little bit ready to get going,” said head coach Kevin Baker. “We can’t wait, for 2:30 to hurry up and get here so we could set practice off. It’s a great day it’s a fun day, it’s a day that I know our team has been looking forward to for a long time. Our coaching staff and hopefully our community is as well.”

Baker will be replacing longtime coach Keitha Adams, who spent 16 seasons at UTEP. Adams, the former two-time Conference USA Coach of the Year, maintained a winning culture with high expectations for the squad. That is one thing that stood out to new coach Baker. The fact that he was coming into a place that cared so much for their basketball program.

“Coach Adams had so much success here, and such is such a great coach. It makes a job like mine easier because the expectations were set long before I got here,” he said. “I mean you want to come in to a place where expectations are already high. People want you to do well, I’ve gone into a lot of situations where nobody seemed to care. This is not that situation. So that’s hats off to the staff that was here before us and all the players that were here before us.”

Baker is the eighth head coach in UTEP’s women’s basketball history. He has an overall record of 344-123, and has led both a Division II, Angelo State, and Division III, UT-Tyler, to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

The lone senior on the squad is, Tamara Seda, who is expected to take on a much bigger leader ship role.

“Yeah coming back from the summer, I had that pressure on myself but its been pretty easy to lead my team because their really self-lead,” she said. “I can say that everybody is engaged everybody is motivated to do stuff so it’s easier for me to kind of help them with whatever difficulties they have.”

She is not alone. Baker has already looked at Seda and Junior guard Najala Howell to help sustain and build the culture that is established for women’s basketball here at UTEP.

“Tamara Seda has been around a little bit, she’s been through the fire as well as Najala Howell,” Baker said. “As senior (Seda) and junior (Howell), they know the expectations around here, they understand UTEP basketball so that will certainly help our young ones up and coming.”

The newcomers to keep an eye on this season are; forward junior, Jordan Alexander, a junior college transfer from Dallas. Guard, forward, Arizona Grill, another junior college transfer from Las Vegas. Junior guard Neidy Ocuanel, junior college transfer from Seward County community college, and the lone Freshmen, guard Jordan Jenkins from Buffalo, Texas.

Returning to the squad is Faith Cook, Kaira Ford, Howell, Roeshonda Patterson, Zuzanna Puc, Seda, Rachel Tapps, and Katarina Zec.

Last season, Seda recorded 10 double-doubles, the most for a Miner since former Miner and current WNBA player Kayla Thorton. Pac, became the first Miner in two years to be named C-USA Freshman of the Week, while finishing second in offensive rebounds, 62.
While Howell will look to improve her game as she from her freshmen season two years ago. As a freshman, she averaged one. Five points per game, I her sophomore season she moved up to third best in scoring, averaging eight. Five points a game, while reaching double figures in scoring in 13 games. Her season high as a freshman was six points.

“It’s going to be a new slate, a great season, everyone is excited,” Howell said.

Coach Baker on what he wants to see out of his squad as the season approaches and what style of play fans can be ready to see this season:

“I hope what they see is an offense that executes very well and a defense that plays hard,” he said. “Were excited about that we teach them every day that we want to get them up and down the floor. Shoot a lot of shots and make life hard for the other team defensively.”

The Miners will open play in a home exhibition against Sul Ross State on Oct. 29, at the Don Haskins Center and will open the regular season at home against CSU Bakersfield on Nov. 11.

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Daniel Mendez, Staff reporter
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Women’s basketball holds first practice of 2017-18 season