Ohio State women's basketball team faces questions, transition

USA TODAY Sports

A new coach, key departures, and a tough schedule provide more questions than answers as the season nears for the Lady Buckeyes

Ed. note – Ben Martens is another key cog in our loaded 2013 recruiting class. He'll be multi-disciplined in his additions to our team, but start to get to know him with this great write up about the Lady Buckeyes.

Tayler Hill is not walking through that door.

That is one of the few definitive answers Ohio State's Women's Basketball team has as they enter a transitional season for the program.  Hill, who just completed her rookie season for the WNBA's Washington Mystics, was an All-Big Ten performer and the undisputed star of the team the past few years.  Her departure takes with it over twenty points per game.

Also absent is longtime Head Coach Jim Foster, who was not retained after an 18-13 campaign last season.  Foster departs after eleven years at the helm.  The winningest Head Coach in program history with a record of 279-82 (.772), he was named Big Ten Coach of the Year four times, leading the team to six regular season conference championships and ten NCAA tournament appearances.

The losses of Hill and Foster leave questions abound for the Buckeyes as they prepare to tip-off the season against West Virginia in Morgantown on Friday evening.  So, where will the answers be found?

It all begins with new Head Coach Kevin McGuff, hired in April to replace Foster.  McGuff, who spent the past two seasons as Head Coach at the University of Washington, after nine seasons piloting Xavier, has injected a new level of energy and accountability into the program.

"I'm really big on effort and intensity, the way you conduct yourself on the court and committing to doing whatever it takes for the team to be successful," he said at the team's Media Day.

In preseason interviews, it is apparent that McGuff's players are buying into their new coach's philosophy, speaking excitedly about the new direction and the infusion of energy the new coaching staff has brought.

"Coach McGuff brings a different level of intensity and a different level of energy," said junior guard Amy Scullion.  "The standards and the expectations are out there.  If we don't meet them individually or as a team, there are consequences."

Raven Ferguson echoed that.  "This coaching staff makes you go hard in practice," she said.  "They don't take halfway or 75 percent.  They take 110-plus."

Ferguson, a junior guard, is one of three returning starters, along with senior center Ashley Adams and sophomore point guard Ameryst Alston.  Adams, the team's leading returning scorer from last season (9.9 PPG), will be expected to shoulder an even heavier offensive load.

"I'm getting more and more comfortable each day as I'm learning that I can put the ball in the hoop more often," she said.

The Buckeyes will need Adams to do just that if they hope to negotiate a demanding Big Ten, as well as a non-conference schedule featuring three preseason Top 25 teams, including top-ranked, perennial powerhouse Connecticut.

"We have a very tough non-conference schedule," McGuff said at Media Day.  "The good news is that it will expose our strengths and weaknesses very early on and give us the direction we need to get better as we head into the Big Ten season.  You can't play a schedule like that without some tough moments, but I believe we have the character and work ethic to work through it."

If the new Head Coach can navigate the team through its daunting schedule and develop the underclassmen, there is reason for optimism for the program's future.  McGuff has already landed commitments from four ESPN Top 100 recruits for next year's class, a stark improvement over his predecessor.

With so many questions, both coach and players are eager to get the season underway.  The Buckeyes will start getting their answers on Friday.

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