It was a rough head coaching debut for Greg McCall at Cal State Bakersfield last season. The women's team went 7-22 in a season marred by a rash of injuries that decimated the roster. There were games when CSUB only suited up six players.
McCall got the job after Tim La Kose left CSUB to become head coach at San Jose State. McCall was promoted to head coach after spending four seasons as La Kose's top assistant. Prior to that he spent 10 seasons coaching women's basketball at Taft College.
He played on CSUB's men's squad that reached the Division II Final Four in 1991.
McCall discussed this year's team with The Californian
Q: Could you reflect on last season?
A: It was very challenging because of the injuries. We had five players out, all with knees: Jana Smith, Marilyn Naderhoff, Ty Outland, Dajy Vines and Tyler Collins. Marilyn was in and out, the others were ACLs that ended their seasons.
Q: What is their current health?
A: All are back except Jana. It was too serious for her to continue her career. Dajy is still recovering after a last-minute scope. She should be back in a couple of weeks.
Q: What are your expectations this season?
A: The word I've been using all year is "health." If we can stay healthy, we should be OK. We'll be able to compete with a lot of teams.
When you lose people like we did last year, it takes a toll on you, a mental toll on your team. As a coach, I had to figure out a way to get the mental part back, the mental edge back.
I had to learn a whole different coaching strategy myself, which made me, I believe, a better coach, a smarter coach.
One of the other things we've harped on is defense. We feel we can score with anyone in the country, but we want to stop people. Even when we had six or seven players last year and we still put up a lot of points.
But if we want to win, it's defense that's going to get us there. Our offense will be there.
Q: How have practices gone?
A: My expectations are high. We push them every day. Lauren Carter, Ty Outland and Amber Williams are the three captains of the team, chosen by their teammates. We need them to lead and play consistently.
Another player from last year who has done a good job is Brooklynn Hinkens. She has the green light to shoot anytime. She can knock down shots. She proved that last year.
Amber has moved back to the (off-guard) spot where she's most comfortable. She and Lauren Carter have come back in tremendous shape.
We've done a good job recruiting. We're ready to hit the floor.
Q: Which newcomers are you expecting big things from?
A: One who is back but didn't play is Janae Coffee (a 6-foot-4 center who transferred from Long Beach State). She's a big girl, very strong, with a good, soft touch around the rim who can also pass the ball.
We have five new freshmen. One, Erika Williams, won't play because she had two ACL surgeries.
Batabe Zampare from Arizona is a 6-2 rebounding machine who we expect to back Coffee up.
(Point guard) Alyssa Shannon, from Stockdale, has come along very strong. She's done a good job controlling the tempo, pushing it, She's doing exactly what we want her to do.
We're looking forward to (guard) Shahana Zeigler, who brings mental toughness and physical play. She's from Lynwood High where Ty Outland came from.
The other newcomer is (guard) Gina Henderson, who has a hurt ankle but will be back in the next couple of weeks.
Q: How will you use your roster?
A: We'd like to play 10 deep. If we can go 10 deep, that would be great after last year when we were at 6 or 7 most of the time.
We're going to play up-tempo, so we want to make frequent subs and keep pressure on teams. We started out last year doing that but then everyone started getting hurt.
Q: What is the position breakdown?
A: The guards who will play are Amber (Williams), Ty Outland, Cierra Ford, Cebrina Johnson, Alyssa Shannon, Shahana Zeigler and Gina Henderson. We have a lot of guards who can bring it.
We have post players (Coffee, Collins and Carter) who can run the floor. Lauren Carter and Tyler Collins will play a lot of (power forward). We can do a lot of different things this year.
Q: What are your thoughts on next season's move into the Western Athletic Conference.
A: That's really exciting, really exciting for the whole school itself.
It's something we as an athletic department have been looking forward to since we moved to Division I.
We will have something to play for to try and get to the big dance, the NCAA Tournament.
Q: What about the WAC move for women's basketball specifically?
A: We feel like we've put ourselves in a position, recruiting-wise with the players we've brought in, so we'll be able to compete right away.
That's what you want. You don't want to have to build up to the WAC. We want to compete for the WAC title our first year.
Q: What is your message to CSUB fans this season?
A: If we stay healthy, we'll be able to compete and challenge a lot of teams.