MU women: Both coach and team very green for now
HUNTINGTON -- As Marshall University women's basketball coach Matt Daniel has looked around his team throughout the early practices, his team resembles the shade of shirt that he wore to Thursday's Media Day press conference.
Daniel is busy trying to get a feel for his players while they get acclimated to his system, his speed and his expectations.
It isn't going to be an easy transition for the first-year Thundering Herd head coach, but he said it can lead to great things.
"We're evaluating everything that is going on to help fix things," Daniel said. "We are not trying to Band-Aid things. We are trying to clean up and build a program that the community and the state can be proud of and a program to be reckoned with all over the country."
The theme for Daniel has been "One at a time" -- whether that means one possession, one practice, one day or one class.
He said it starts with getting the first defensive stop and the first score in the season-opener against Radford.
Not only is Daniel looking to change the tempo from a methodical game to a fast-paced, energy-laced brand of basketball, but he is also trying to change the mentality of the players.
It was announced earlier this week that Marshall was picked to finish last in Conference USA.
Daniel said he isn't surprised by the prognostication, and it doesn't change his thinking at all.
"Our work ethic would not change if we were on the top or the bottom," he said.
Marshall coaches are working to instill confidence in the players. Daniel said part of that is getting players to realize it's OK to make a mistake as long as they give maximum effort.
Sophomore guard Shay Weaver said the team is getting to know its new coach.
"It makes it easier for us to adjust because at first, we were extremely nervous," Weaver said. "We were like what's he going to want, what's he going to expect, but just after being around him, we know all we have to do is relax and play our heart out and we don't have to worry about anything else."
Part of the unique style about the new coaching staff is that all are young and all are former basketball players. The average age of the women's basketball staff is 30 years old.
It won't be uncommon for Daniel and his staff members to throw on a pair of basketball shorts, lace up the shoes and get after the players.
"When he goes against us, he'll get us with crossovers and moves," Weaver said. "I was guarding him and he went past me and I got a little mad because I was like 'He's my coach. He's not supposed to be able to do that' and he did it with ease."
It is a technique that has built an early bond because the players see their coaches have been in their shoes before.
Daniel has also been in the situation before of resurrecting a women's program.
When he took over at Central Arkansas, the program was extremely down, but he built it to a Southland Conference contender and a team that won at least 21 games over the final three seasons he was there.
Now in Huntington, the only difference is that the Sugar Bears were purple and the Herd is green.
"Eerily similar from a standpoint of attendance was not great, where they stand in the conference race was not great," Daniel said. "The only thing that was a little bit different was the timing of the situation. I had a little bit more time recruiting-wise."
Including Weaver, the Herd returns 10 players from last year's team, but it will be a new beginning for all as Daniel tries to find those who mesh into his system.
Some of the key returnees include Veronica Ruiz, Erica Woods, Suporia Dickens, Shynisha Johnson and Jasmine Shaw.
Newcomers include Jennifer Ramirez and Norrisha Victrum, as well as former Huntington St. Joe standout Sara Sang, who is not eligible this year after transferring from the U.S. Naval Academy.
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