IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Men's and women's basketball preview
The University of Colorado's basketball programs are gearing up for the start of the 2007-08 season. Both teams will look to have strong campaigns in the Big 12 Conference behind veteran leadership and talented underclassmen.
The men's basketball program will open the season Nov. 9 against New Mexico under the leadership of first-year Coach Jeff Bzdelik.
Bzdelik is the University of Colorado's 17th men's basketball coach. He came to CU after a successful two-year coaching stint at the Air Force Academy, where he coached the Falcons to a 50-16 record, an NCAA tournament and NIT Final Four appearance. Bzdelik hopes to bring similar success to the Buffs.
"What most appealed to me about this job is that I love challenges," said Bzdelik, who spent 15 seasons as an NBA scout and coach before returning to college basketball in 2005. "I'm going to be tireless, and my staff is going to be tireless in our efforts to make everyone very proud of the men's basketball program."
The Colorado men's basketball team is returning four starters, three of them seniors, as well as a strong group of underclassmen. Richard Roby, a senior with three years of starting experience, will contribute his veteran leadership and scoring ability. Roby averaged 17.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season and is currently seventh on the all-time scoring list for Colorado. Joining Roby are seniors Marcus Hall and Marcus King-Stockton, who will also provide leadership and contributions on both ends of the court.
The Buffs will also rely on sophomores Xavier Silas, Dwight Thorne II and Jeremy Williams, as well five incoming freshman and two sophomore transfers to contribute their talents.
"The players have done a great job sacrificing themselves individually for a greater cause. Playing as a team is the only way for us to have a chance at success," Bzdelik said.
The Colorado women's basketball team will also work to become a more well-rounded team when they open their regular season play at the University of San Francisco Nov. 16.
"This year with our second (recruiting) class and the development of other players, I feel that we have more weapons, more shooters, more athleticism on the perimeter," said Kathy McConnell-Miller, who is entering her third season as the women's head coach.
Those perimeter options will take some of the pressure off of senior forward Jackie McFarland, who was voted to the preseason All-Big 12 team. McFarland is coming off of an outstanding 2006-07 season in which she averaged 17.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game while shooting 60.5 percent from the field. She was voted to the All-Big 12 first team and received an honorable mention for the AP All-America team.
McFarland will be joined in the front court by junior center Kara Richards, junior Caley Dow, sophomore Aija Putnina and redshirt freshman Courtney Dunn. In the back court, the Buffs will be led by sophomores Whitney Houston and Bianca Smith and senior Susie Powers.
The women's team will also look to freshmen Britney Blythe, Brittany Spears and Chelsea Dale as well as transfers Dina Piterniece and RyAnne Ridge for more scoring threats on the perimeter.
"Our goal early on is bringing the newcomers up to speed as quickly as we can, because they are needed for us to be successful," McConnell-Miller said.
With a combination of veteran leadership and young talent, the Colorado men's and women's basketball programs are set to have a successful 2007-08 season.
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