Women’s basketball ready for season despite obstacles
By Ryan Gaydos
The 2012-13 Kean Cougars women’s basketball team will be filled with different expectations than the team is usually used to by this time of year. Instead of being ranked as one of the top teams in the New Jersey Athletic Conference and in the nation, the team will be under the radar for a different reason. This will be how they can cope with the penalties that the NCAA handed down to the program this past April.
The NCAA cited the Kean women’s program for a lack of institutional control and hit the program with numerous violations. It was learned that former head coach Michele Sharp gave a student-athlete an improper benefit, in the form of a grade change, which made the student eligible to play after she was going to be ineligible.
This summer, the Cougars hired Mandy King to become the new head coach of the women’s basketball program. King previously spent the last five seasons at Washington and Lee University. She was extremely successful in her tenure at that school, becoming the all-time leader in wins for a coach with 123 in total and guiding the team to an NCAA Division III tournament berth in 2010.
What makes King a better hire for this team is her familiarly with the NJAC. King started her coaching career as a graduate assistant for The College of New Jersey and was with the Lions for five seasons.
With aspirations low for the Cougars heading into the season, King is trying to change the way people look at the program.
“We are creating a culture of high expectations and values of team first attitude, hard work, trust, respect, toughness, and discipline,” she said. “We understand that everything we’ll do this year will provide a foundation for future teams.”
The Cougars will not be allowed to participate in any postseason play in 2013 as part of the restrictions handed down by the NCAA. However, according to King, that is not the biggest challenge facing the team.
“The biggest challenge facing our team this year is helping our players to not put too much pressure on themselves,” she said. “They are committed to rebuilding the image and character of Kean Basketball and are striving each day to show who we are, what we believe in, and who we want to become as students, players, and people.”
The Cougars season begins at the Wingate Invitational in Grantham, P.A. The Cougars do not play a home game until Dec. 1 when the team takes on The College of New Jersey.