It’s basketball by committee this summer as the Indiana State women work toward molding their 14 candidates for Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year into a cohesive team.
Coach Vicki Hall has had the group together for almost a month of practice — and, the last couple of weeks, helping with camps — and she likes what she sees, but an all-new group brings with it a particular set of challenges.
“It’s a talented group,” she said Monday, “but young. We need to learn to play together and learn how to get through adversity as a group.
“No one has separated themselves yet,” she continued. “The talent level is really high, but we’re trying to figure out about leadership.”
Which brings us to the committees.
There are three of them: one for outreach, both in the community and within the team; one for positive influence, its duties including picking a quote of the day and a practice captain for the day; and one for academics. The academic committee also gets to choose the team’s gear, Hall explained.
By being members of the committees, the new Sycamores get to know each other better, learn to focus on what their teammates are doing and can take ownership of their situation.
“We have a captain now — me,” Hall said. “But really successful teams don’t have their head coach be their captain . . . and I’m pleasantly surprised by how well we’re doing.”
Three of the players who took a few moments away from their camp duties seemed to agree.
“It’s a really good environment,” said freshman Del’Janae Williams. “The campus is really great, we’re all getting along . . . for all of us just getting here, it’s really great.”
“I’ve been liking everything so far,” added Pearl Dean, a transfer from Wabash Valley and the team’s only sophomore. “It’s definitely been different, but I’ve been loving what I’ve been doing.”
“I’m excited,” said junior Leandra Echi, a transfer from Northwest Florida. “We’ve got a lot of young girls with so much potential. It’s a battle every practice.”
With 14 players all wanting and expecting playing time, that “battle” aspect seemed inevitable. But the players emphasized that the team would sort itself out.
“We’re all so close [already],” Echi said. “It’s a family-type vibe.”
“We’re a young team, so we have time to develop and figure out everything,” Dean pointed out. And, she added, the fact that everyone is a newcomer may work in the Sycamores’ favor.
“We don’t have anybody making everybody else feeling different because they’ve been here a year,” she said.
“We all bring something to the table every single day,” Echi said, “and we all do it for the love of the game. If you all do it in your area, you’ll get playing time.”
“It’s gonna work out,” Williams said confidently. “We’re all gonna play as a team and do our parts.”
“It’s all about who works hard,” Dean concluded. “You have to be willing to put in extra time.”
Because of Hulman Center renovations, Sycamore fans won’t get to see the women at home often early in the season. Right now the first home date is Dec. 3, when the women play Marshall and the ISU men play North Dakota State.