New era, new start for women’s basketball

This past summer, Oswego State hired Sean Pinkerton as the head coach of the women’s basketball team. In his previous five seasons at St. Catherine University, he turned the struggling Wildcats women’s basketball program around. The team went from one win in 2012-13 to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in over 35 years.

Last season, he led the Wildcats to their highest conference finish at 15-11. A major role in the rapid change of fate for the Wildcats was Pinkerton’s recruiting. He recruited 11 players who won all-conference honors, and one was awarded an All-West Region award. Recruiting is a big deal for Pinkerton and a factor in his decision to come to Oswego.

“[I wanted an] institution set up for success, where you can bring in good recruits,” Pinkerton said. “You look at the men’s [basketball] team, the hockey team and the baseball team, and it’s evident you can recruit kids here where you can build a good program.”

As important as good recruits are, they still need to be coached, and Pinkerton does a great job at that. He is not afraid to tell it how it is, and the players appreciate that.

“[Pinkerton] is getting back to the basics and showing us things we should have known,” senior forward Rachael Windhausen said. “He is not afraid to correct us, which is a good thing.”

One of the things that Pinkerton wants to see corrected is ball security. Both he and Windhausen emphasized this is a small nuance, and it shows how well the leaders on the team are getting along with the new head coach.

“All around, we need to make better and smarter passes. We have focused on that a lot,” Windhausen said.

Pinkerton reiterated that point and has noticed that has been the issue in recent seasons for the Laker women’s basketball team.

“We need to take better care of the ball,” Pinkerton said. “We had a scrimmage last week, and [turnovers] were a huge issue. We need to spend a lot of time working in that area of the game to be stronger with the ball and to focus on the little things.”

As important as good passing is, it may be a struggle coming out of the gate. The Lakers are going to have to rely on very young guards, like Quincey Zimmerman, as they lost prominent guards such as Mary Mazzella and Alison Nunziato from last season who played over 65 minutes a night combined.

Oswego State dropped their season opener Wednesday night to Clarkson University 67-52. The Lakers kept it close at halftime trailing 31-29, but the Golden Knights pulled away in the second half.

“Clarkson is really good. They have a couple of guards who are really athletic,” Pinkerton said. “They do an awesome job forcing teams to turn over the ball. I mean, they forced almost 200 more [turnovers] than they committed.”

Although it was a tough matchup for Oswego State, it serves as a great measuring stick for the Lakers, who went 9-16 (6-12) last season.

A significant contributor for the Lakers last season was Courtney Ameele. As a junior last season, the guard scored over 11 points per game. This season, with Heather Herbert, last season’s leading scorer gone due to graduating, Ameele needs to step up and become a big-time point producer as one of the primary offensive weapons on the team.

“[I am] prepared [to take that next step,] but we have Rachael [Windhausen] to help inside, and it’s good to have a 6’2’’ girl,” Ameele said. “We also have other girls in Quincy [Zimmerman] and Zana [Dillard].”

For Oswego State’s stake, it is promising to see they have a plethora of scoring options. Last season, the Lakers had some struggles with scoring, as they were seventh in the SUNYAC in scoring. So, if Oswego State wants to see an uptick in wins, it is vital to start producing at an efficient clip.

This is something that should come with time, as the athletes Ameele mentioned will continue to grow and hone their craft as they get older. With Pinkerton’s emphasis on ball control and quality shots, the shooters like Amelee should be able to stretch the floor just enough to open up passing lanes for Windhausen, who parks herself under the hoop.

Although Oswego State had a rough season last year, it is a brand-new team with completely new captains, five underclassmen and a new head coach. With that in mind, the women’s basketball team should find more success as the season progresses and talents develop.

Photo:Taylor Woods | The Oswegonian