Coach’s Candor

Sports Staff

Editor’s note: Aaron Johnston’s women’s basketball team has been the model program at SDSU, both on and off the court. Now entering his 11th season, Johnston talked to The Collegian about breakthrough players, returning to the NCAA Tournament and senior leadership.

Q. What do you think will be a key area to focus on this year in order to get back to the Summit League Tournament? 

A. For us consistency is going to be important, really in two areas: how we defend and how we take care of the ball. Those are two areas we struggled with last year and that’s not uncommon. Everybody knows that who watched us play. When we got better in those two areas in late January and into February, we were really good again and this year’s team will have to do a good job in both those areas right away.

Q. Jill Young and Jennie Sunnarborg are the “rock” of your roster. What do they mean to your team and what do they need to do for you this year? 

A. It’s really nice to have players like Jennie and Jill in that senior class. One’s a guard, one’s a post so they both bring different dynamics to our team and defenses have to approach each of those players differently. Because of that, it really puts a lot of pressure on other teams. We have two really good options at the end of a game to hopefully close out a game and win in a close one. We’re excited about both of those two but they’ve got a good supporting cast around them. There are 11 other players who all are going to have chances to play and be very competitive too.

Q. Who do you think is going to step up and be a contributor to this year’s team?

A. Well Katie [Lingle] was a starter for us for half the [2010] season and did a great job coming off the bench mid-way through and was really one of the best defensive post players in the league last year. She’ll have a big role. Then you’ll see, hopefully, Ashley Eide and Leah Dietel take big steps forward. Now juniors, both had injuries last year that slowed them down. I’d say the same about Megan Waytashek, who had an injury. She had just moved into the starting lineup and the injury kind of took her out of the rest of the year … Just a lot of really good players that have played more supporting roles and now have to emerge as more go-to players.

Q. Who are you looking at that’ll give you the most troubles in conference play?

A.Well Oral Roberts is going to be the best. They have everybody back from last year and probably added some good freshmen too. But then outside of that, people are going to be surprised at how good our league is again. Oakland is going to be very good, NDSU is going to be very good, Kansas City (UMKC), Fort Wayne (IPFW) — all of those teams pretty much return their whole roster and all their key players, so they’re going to be better. That means it’s going to be a little more competitive but I think we’ll be a little better too and we’re excited about that.