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Entering his fourth year as head coach of the Frank Phillips College Lady Plainsmen Basketball team, Eric Rodewald has been able to do a good job of retaining players from the prior year. This is a task that can be pretty difficult for most programs at the JUCO level that donâ€™t have the resources to offer full scholarships for essentially every player on the bench.
In less than two months, students will start heading to campus for the 2011 fall semester and Rodewald once again has done a good job being able to bring back experienced players, with six players from his 2010-11 squad expected to be back on the court for him this season.
Of the seven freshmen that were on the roster at the end of last season, only one player will not return.
Rodewald said that is due to the player wanting to attend a school closer to her home in western New Mexico.
When asked why he has been able to have success in having players return, Rodewald said, â€śI think it is a two-way street in being able to develop a good level of trust to where the girls know what to expect from me and what I expect from them.â€ť
Rodewald added, â€śWhen I talk to potential recruits I am upfront in telling them that this is not a place where you will spend a lot of time partying. But it is a place where they will be expected to work hard in the gym, in the classroom and be a part of the community. For the most part, our players have came in and bought into that and have taken advantage of the opportunities they have here.â€ť
At the end of last season, the Lady Plainsmen were a guard-heavy team, so it should come as no surprise that the experience Rodewald has returning is primarily in the backcourt.
Those returning are Laura Martinez, Nancy Castillo, Shardena Hudson, Kinjita Kelly, Shay Oâ€™Neal and Laâ€™Christa Nash.
Rodewald said having the six coming back give him a good foundation for this season, saying, â€śEach of these girls saw a lot of minutes where they were able to contribute as well as develop good chemistry on the floor, especially at the end of the season.â€ť
Like any coach, Rodewald expects all six to be improved from where they were last season.
However, Rodewald is interested to see how Castillo, a native of McLean, continues to develop as a vocal leader for the team, a role she took on towards the end of last season.
As far as new faces, Rodewald said with so many guards already on the team, he has tried to focus on bringing in players that are 5â€™10â€ť or taller to give the team more of a presence near the basket.
Rodewald said, â€śWe are still going to spread the floor to where we will have four guards on the court at once. But there is no question that adding height is something that needed to be addressed and I think the girls we have coming in can help out in that area.â€ť
Two of the new faces on the Lady Plainsmen are transfers, forward Andrea Ramirez (5â€™11â€ť) of Phoenix, Ariz., and guard/forward Alexis Menefield (5â€™11â€ť) who was a teammate of Castilloâ€™s on McLeanâ€™s state-qualifying team two years ago.
Both Ramirez and Menefield are expected to see most of their time playing the three or four positions, but Rodewald said both have the ability to contribute from the outside and inside near the basket.
The Lady Plainsmen potentially could have a solid presence inside, thanks to freshman Destiny Phillips (6â€™2â€ť) of Portland, Ore., along with a 6â€™2â€ť player from Nigeria whom Rodewald expects to officially sign with the team in the near future.
Rodewald said there a couple of players he is still in contract with that will provide more size to the team.
He is expecting to have around 15 players once the fall semester gets underway.
Rodewald said, â€śWe still have about five months before the season gets underway but I do feel good about having the right players we need to be able to take a step in the right direction.â€ť
The Lady Plainsmen will open their 2011-12 basketball season on Nov. 1 at Trinidad State College.