Women's Hoops Announces 2008-09 Slate, Hires Assistant Coach

Coach Smith announces new schedule and hiring of new assistant coach

The women's basketball program has announced its 2007-08 season

Sept. 8, 2008

by Matias Saari, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

FAIRBANKS — A year ago, the Alaska Nanooks women’s basketball team stormed out of the gate with a 7-1 preseason record, but limped home with a 5-13 mark in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

First-year coach Darryl Smith isn’t promising such a gaudy start — in part because this year’s nonconference schedule is much tougher — but he is confident the Nanooks will be prepared for the rigors of the ultra-competitive GNAC.

“It’s a good schedule with a lot of good competition in the preseason, but I think that’s what we need,” Smith said by phone Sunday evening, a few hours after taking to the court for individual work with the Nanooks for the first time.

The Nanooks play just three preseason games on the road, but they’re all tough. From Nov. 20-22, Alaska takes on Chico State twice and Sonoma State once. Both teams reached the NCAA Division II tournament last year, before losing to Alaska Anchorage, which reached the Final Four.

“It’s not a losing venture. I think it’s an opportunity,” Smith said of the trip.

The Nanooks proved they could hang with Chico State last year, as they led the Wildcats with five minutes to go in the North Star Invitational championship before falling 74-65.

Two other tournament teams from a year ago, the University of California San Diego (25-10 last year) and Holy Family University (32-1), will visit the Patty Center Nov. 27-29 for the North Star Invitational.

The Nanooks also have scheduled a few perceived “cupcakes” at home, namely Christian schools Georgian Court (the season opener on Nov. 14) and Kuyper College (Dec. 30-31).

With seven of the first 10 games at the Patty Center, Smith hopes the schedule will help build crowd support for a team that returns nine players — including leading scorer Sheena Brown of Fairbanks — and has brought in three recruits from California.

“You get people excited if you win,” said Smith, a native of San Jose, Calif., who brings 17 years of coaching experience to his new job. “We want to put a good product on the floor early.”

The Nanooks start the GNAC schedule on Jan. 8 at Western Oregon, the first of three straight road games. Alaska also has a four-game road swing in late-February, but that is balanced by seven home contests among eight outings from Jan. 17-Feb. 14. The GNAC schedule is set in advance by the conference, so Smith had no input.

The Nanooks last season tied for eighth place (of 10 teams) in the GNAC and will have to prove they are better than that this year.

“We’ll be picked toward the bottom just because of the past,” said Smith, who lamented that the GNAC has no postseason tournament.

The Nanooks’ full 2008-09 schedule is in today’s Sports Scoreboard on page C2.

Assistant coach

Christian Hood opted to attend Oklahoma State University on a basketball scholarship, though she was recruited by many schools. Among them was Wichita State, coached then by none other than Smith.

Though they went different paths then, the pair has now been united as Hood is the new assistant women’s coach for the Nanooks.

“I applied for the job because this is what I’ve dreamed to do,” said Hood, who graduated from Division I OSU in 2007 after four years of playing hoops there as a 6-foot-5 center.

Hood, 23, spent last season playing professionally in Romania. This is her first coaching post, and she replaces Laura Gonsalves, who resigned along with former coach Lynne Andrew last spring. Gonsalves has landed an assistant coaching position at NCAA Division I Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

Hood, a native of Hutchinson, Kansas, has been in town for a week.

“I actually got off the plane (last) Monday morning at 7 and I think I was at the (basketball) office at 7:30,” she said.

The other finalist interviewed for the position was former Nanooks standout post player Cody Burgess.

“(Hood’s) experience overseas was probably the deciding factor,” said Smith, who hopes to recruit foreign players in the future.

Hood, the all-time leading shot blocker at OSU, will be responsible in part for coaching the Nanooks’ post players.

Smith is confident Hood will provide stability to a job that has turned over each of the last four seasons.

“I have no doubt that Christian will be here for three years,” Smith said.

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