By Craig Pearson
St. Louis — Indiana State’s only two seniors were surprised to see they were picked ahead of just three Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball teams Tuesday morning.
Forward Kara Schilli expected to be picked in the middle-of-the-pack with the loss of two key starters, Angela Phillips and Laura Rudolphi, who accounted for nearly 50 percent of ISU’s made field goals last season.
“The best thing about it is it’s predictions, it’s not reality,” Schilli said. “The goal every year is to be the top of the line, but we figure middle of the pack made sense.”
Leah Phillips, who played a key role off the bench as a freshman when ISU was picked as the preseason favorite in 2005-06, thinks the Sycamores’ potential was overlooked. She looks forward to helping the Sycamores be the hunter and not the hunted when the MVC slate rolls around.
“When you’re picked up high, you have that target on your back,” Phillips said. “We’ll be those people looking up front and going after those teams, and I think we’re really going to surprise people this year.”
There’s no doubt this senior duo differs in style and substance from last year’s standout senior duo. Schilli’s constant hustle and athleticism have granted her constant accolades from fans, and Phillips’ prolific 3-point shooting — her 145 made 3-pointers are fifth in program history and percentage of 39.8 is third all-time — have endeared her as well.
Work ethic could be as important as ever for a team with seven freshmen on the roster that will be counted on this season.
“Kara’s a hard worker. She’s the hardest worker on this team,” Phillips said. “The freshmen see that and think ‘we have to go hard. That’s what’s expected of us at Indiana State.’”
Both players were on campus all summer, fine tuning their games. Wiedie expects Phillips to bounce back from a sub-par junior season, and he expects bigger things out of Schilli.
“Kara’s a player we’ve talked to on numerous occasions about needing to be more selfish,” Wiedie said. “Kara’s strength is her ability to get to the basket. That’s one area more than anything I’d like to see her improve upon and that is to attack the basket. If she can get in that attack mindset, it will be good for her and it’s definitely going to be good for us.”
Wiedie alluded to Phillips showing more quickness than last season, and the 5-foot-7 guard offered to play point guard early this summer if she’s needed in that role. Wiedie suggested that Kelsey Luna would probably begin the season as the primary ballhandler, with Phillips, junior Sarah Paul and freshman Bianca Jarrett picking up minutes.
The lightning-quick Jarrett certainly has the potential to help, but “she has other things she needs to work on,” Wiedie said.
Creighton and Illinois State have the best mix of talent and experience in the league, but most of the other eight teams appear fairly equal at this point. Of course, this is why they play the games, and the Sycamores will begin to examine themselves in game action Saturday against the University of Indianapolis in an exhibition game.
As far as Phillips and Schilli are concerned, let the games begin.
“Even when we were ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll, you didn’t think too much about that,” Phillips said. “It was more of what you set your goals as. We know we want to be the best. We know we want to win conference. We know we want to win the conference tournament. We know we have those same goals.
“I think a lot of it is about heart and determination and effort. I think we can compete with anyone. It comes down to effort and who wants it the most, and I think our team really wants it this year.”
Craig Pearson can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone after 4 p.m. at (812) 231-4357.