DENTON - The North Texas women’s basketball team has been built on athleticism, explosiveness, and talent. The 2004-05 season promises to have all of those ingredients along with possibly the most important one of all: experience. Head coach Tina Slinker, the second winningest active coach in the Sun Belt Conference, has reloaded the women’s basketball team and is prepared to make a run at the conference championship.
Heading into this season North Texas will enjoy a wealth of experience that may have been lacking in the past. The Mean Green has six upperclassmen on the roster this season, nine returning letterwinners, three returning starters, and three new freshman recruits to add to the mix with will make for a exciting brand of basketball.
North Texas will have five juniors this season led by point guard Erika Bobo. Bobo is one of the quickest players on the defensive end and has great vision on the offensive side of the ball. Last season Bobo matured into a complete player last season as she lead the team in assists and was second on the team in steals. Junior Mian Williams came on strong late in the season as she started the final nine games. Known for her defensive abilities, Williams also made strides on the offensive side of the ball as she connected on career-highs in 3-pointers and rebounds.
Junior guard Natalie Mireles has been plagued by injuries her first two seasons with the Mean Green, but when healthy she is starting to prove to be one of the most productive players on the team. Mireles shined in the final game of the season and over the course of two seasons is shooting 33 percent from beyond the arc. With Mireles expected to be at 100 percent, North Texas will have another weapon to choose from at the guard position.
Speaking of injuries, junior forward Kennethia Wilson had her season cut short after only 10 games last season. Prior to the injury, Wilson was beginning to show her potential and athletic ability. She had already set career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. With Wilson returning the Mean Green will have an athletic forward. Junior forward Marquita Carter will play a role this season for North Texas giving the Mean Green experience and depth off the bench. Senior post Dorota Klat also provided a spark off the bench last season. Klat will give North Texas more of the same this season with her size and rebounding ability.
Two of the most pleasant surprises last season were the play of sophomore’s Mia Ajekwu and Kelsie Edwards. Edwards had a sensational freshman campaign as she scored the most points by a North Texas freshman since the 1998-99 season. She was fourth on the team in scoring and third in rebounding. The 6-0 forward came off the bench in every game last year but was a physical presence down low and is expected to possibly make the move into the starting lineup this season. Edwards also brings with her an outside game as she was second on the team last season in 3-pointers.
Ajekwu, a 6-3 post player, gave the Mean Green the inside scoring threat they have been looking for. Ajekwu made her way onto the college scene quickly as she scored 14 points in her first collegiate game. Ajekwu soon found her way into the starting lineup an was a mainstay in the post for North Texas. Her biggest impact came against Denver when she scored 13 points, including the game-winning shot and free throw with 36 seconds left in the game. Ajekwu has the potential to develop into one of the most powerful low-post players North Texas has had in quite some time.
North Texas will add three freshman into the mix this season. Erica Howard was the Class 4A State Tournament MVP as she led Morrilton High School to the state title and a 28-1 record her junior season. She averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks per game last season as she was named to the Arkansas All-State team. As a sophomore Howard was named to the Arkansas All-State team along with the Arkansas All-Sophomore teams. She averaged 18.4 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per game. She has also been a two-time all-conference selection. Amber Jackson and Amanda Quattrocchi arrive after helping lead Brebeuf High School to the 3A state championship in Indiana. Jackson was named the winner of the 2004 Class 3A Girls Basketball Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award. As a senior Jackson averaged 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds a game in leading her team to the state championship. Her teammate, Quattrocchi, was the point guard on the championship team. Shei was named to the all-state team her senior season as she was named a Street and Smith Honorable Mention All-American. She ranked fifth in the state in three-point field goal percentage her senior season shooting 42 percent. Quattrocchi was named to the ICGSA-all state team her junior season after leading the state in 3-point shooting at 51 percent. Quattrocchi averaged 10.2 points, 6.2 assists, and 4.7 rebounds a game her junior year.
The 2004-05 North Texas basketball schedule is once again filled with some of the best team in women’s college basketball. The Mean Green will face eight teams that made post-season appearances, including five teams that advanced to the NCAA tournament.
Highlighting the non-conference schedule is a home game with the Texas Longhorns at the Super Pit. It will mark the first time that Texas has played the Mean Green at the Super Pit. North Texas will have a road game against Final Four participant LSU. The non-conference schedule features eight games against teams from Texas. North Texas will visit metroplex rival SMU while UTA comes to the Super Pit.
Sun Belt Conference play begins with a three game homestand against New Mexico State, Denver, and Florida International. Defending conference champion Middle Tennessee will visit the Super Pit this season. North Texas closes out the conference season with six of their final eight games on the road. The Mean Green will have the homecourt advantage this season as they host the 2005 Sun Belt Conference tournament.