By: Derek Gonzales
Entering his sixth season at New Mexico State, Aggie women’s basketball head coach Mark Trakh has his program where he envisioned it when he arrived in Las Cruces in 2011. Going from 6-24 his first year to 26-5 last year has shown Trakh’s ability to build a program from scratch and recruit and develop players that will be the foundation of a successful team. Here are some things to watch as their season opener approaches on November 11 against San Jose State in the Pan American Center.
Replacing Sasha Weber
Sasha Weber was the mainstay of the women’s basketball program for the past four years. She graduated last May, and left NMSU with 256 career three-point makes, and a 12.4 point-per-game average through her career. She left some big shoes to fill production-wise and from a leadership standpoint, and the Aggies will look to guards Moriah Mack and Brooke Salas to fill the void. Mack was the sixth man last year, and averaging 11.3 points per game in almost 28 minutes of action a game.
Tough Non-Conference Slate
Though the team went 26-5 and won the WAC regular season and tournament championship, the Aggies were only able to earn a 15th seed in the NCAA Tournament, losing 74-52 in the first round. Trakh knew they needed to play tougher non-conference opponents since the WAC does not have any top-100 programs, and did just that this offseason. Games at UTEP and New Mexico are usual, but the team will also play in two tournaments. The Play for Kay Shootout in Las Vegas will have the Aggies opening up the tournament against Quinnipiac, and will meet Oregon State or UNLV in the second round. NMSU will also travel to Hawai’i in mid-November, playing against Sacramento State and Hawai’i in the Bank of Hawai’i Classic. Hosting Arizona on December 4 will be a huge test, as the Aggies lost a tough 68-64 game inside the McKale Center to the Wildcats a year.
Chances of a three-peat
Losing Weber and point guard Shanice Davis was the only major losses to the rotation for coach Trakh and company. Moving Mack into the starting lineup will soften the blow, and look for junior guard Zaire Williams to be more of a contributor. Newcomers Tonishia Childress and Gia Pack are looking at getting minutes, as Pack will be able to bring a presence rebounding the basketball for a team that has struggled against bigger teams in the past. Winning 26 games will be a tall task with a tougher schedule, but the team will be better. Here is the WAC pre-season coaches poll.