Before moving forward, I would like to point out to you that I worked 40 hours over the course of 3 days and got very little sleep while trying to write this in the little free time I had, so I was probably a little delirious, and noticed several errors and typos while skimming over this and I fixed as much as I could, so if there is a problem, see my assistant. I do not have an assistant, so good luck with that. There were many stretches where I just sat at my computer, wondering where the heck I was.
So I now have been to a few UNO women’s basketball games. It is not my lack of interest or lack of support as to why I have only been to a few games. During my time as a student at UNO, I would have night classes or work during most of the home games. After the transition, I lived in Utah which was close to no fun, and after moving back it has seemed like I would always have a scheduling conflict with the women’s teams home games. I listen to most of the games on the radio while I am working out, or doing other stuff. But I was able to make it Thursday night, and I got to tell you I feel pretty good about this team moving forward.
Let’s think about the lady Mavs’ division one life. First thing, they lose their coach. They find a new coach in Chance Lindley, who was an assistant at Arizona. Lindley would guide the Mavs to wins over three division one opponents in their first year: Western Illinois, Texas-Arlington, and UNO (holy crap they beat themselves! – no, no, that is New Orleans). In his second season, Lindley and his staff were able to pick up Carolyn Blair-Mobley, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma State, who made an immediate impact to help seniors Paige Frauendorfer and Jamie Nash create a big time Big 3. The lady Mavs were able to go 17-11 overall in their second year of transition.
Then, in a way, the whole thing comes crumbling down. The seniors graduate, which is kind of a given, and on top of that 4 other players leave the team, Cathleen Cox is injured, players decommit, and Lindley unexpectedly leaves the school. Brittany Lange is given the opportunity to fix the situation, which it appears she is becoming more and more comfortable dealing with day by day. To top things off, Cox is injured again, Brianna Bogard injures herself as well early in the season, who seemed to be expected to be a big piece of the offense, which the injuries and transfers leaves the team with one senior, 3 juniors, and 5 freshmen to be the players night in and night out. If you do not know anything about basketball rosters, that is not a lot, and why are you here? This year, Lange was given the chance to have a little more depth on the team, really just one more player added to last year’s roster would have seemed like a ton more depth, but it is a full roster now for sure.
It is incredibly difficult to rebuild a women’s basketball team. First of all there is very little parody in women’s basketball. My wife and I have discussed this on a number of occasions. On the men’s side, there are a million six foot tall shooting guards to knock down threes, and their dream is to play college basketball. There just are not as many girls that have that same love of basketball that can play at a highly competitive level. You also have to consider how many girls in high school basketball are playing it as their second sport, many go on to play volleyball, or soccer, or softball at the collegiate level. Combine that with a bunch of high school coaches that do not know what they are doing and go with a Hey This Volleyball Girl is Tall so Let’s Just Keep Feeding Her the Ball Even Though She Has no Hands approach. Basketball is just kind of the side job for many of them. I mean no disrespect to women in college basketball, I hope this should show as a sign of respect really to the ones who do play and have quality careers who put their love of the game and carry out for success. My wife mentioned at her high school, the basketball team had 7 players (throughout 3 different classes) go play division one, but none of them went on to play basketball. It was a second thing for all of them. My wife averaged 5 steals a game as a freshmen on varsity, and ended up playing college softball over basketball (although Belmont tried to get her to play her 5th year of eligibility for the basketball team, she beat the team in a scrimmage three point competition, Remy Davenport also has the same form on her shot as my wife as a FYI) With no parody in the sport, it creates situations in which the # 5 team in the country cruises past the # 15 team in the country by 30 points. So yes, rebuilding, especially in transition, is no easy situation in women’s basketball. It takes a committed coaching staff and patient athletic administration to get through the tough times, two things that UNO seems to have.
By the way, my wife is in her high school’s athletic all of fame for softball and basketball. The high school athletics program has apparently gone down hill in the last couple of years with some new high schools opening up and taking away some of the high level athletes. We went to her award ceremony which was at half time of the boy’s basketball game. We sat through girl’s game which was before the boy’s game. One of the teams scored a total of one point in the third quarter. It was the 6th layer of hell for me. If any coach is ever reading this, I urge you to not go recruit for girl’s basketball in the Vancouver, Washington area (Vancouver is the Council Bluffs of Portland, Oregon).
It did seem to take a little while to find a consistent lineup this season, but after finally settling in with a lineup, the Mavs seemed to pick things up, along with improving some fundamentals and especially their free throw shooting. Before the month of February the Mavs went 6-15, but were able to get to double degit wins by going 4-3 in the month of February. The Mavs were able to pick up wins against Western Illinois (finished 3rd in Summit League), North Dakota State (6th), Fort Wayne (9th), and Denver (T-7th with UNO) in the month of February, they also play competitively against the two top teams in the conference South Dakota and South Dakota State. So yes, the lady Mavs were able to end transition on a positive note.
With a more consistent lineup, the Mavs were able to get going, but the Mavs were able to move through the month by huge performances from sophomore Mikaela Shaw. How big? 23.1 points per game and 8.7 rebounds throughout the month of February big. Those are superstar numbers, like Other Teams Are Going to Stick Their Hands in Their Armpits and Then Smell Their Hands When Shaw Comes to Town, Because They Are Going to Be So Nervous type of superstar.
Looking ahead to the future, it may be comforting knowing that Mikaela Shaw (as of before the start of post season) led all sophomores in the Summit League in scoring, as well as rebounding. The only player that averaged more points than her that will be returning for next season will be Western Illinois’ Ashley Luke (assuming neither of these players leave for some reason). I would also like to extend this and point out that Madi Robson led all sophomores in assists. And yes, teams can pick up some stellar junior college players, and transfers from Florida that can just dominate the conference.
So the Mavs had their best season during transition with Frauendorfer and Nash leading the show. Having your power forward and point guard as your main characters is never a bad thing. Yes, I know Shaw is listed as a guard, but seriously, come on, she plays the 4. When your 4 and your guard are your main characters, you can utilize the pick and roll game a ton, look at any team that had Jerry Sloan as their coach.
Mikaela Shaw’s Twitter handle is shawesome_43, and I do not think I have ever seen a more appropriate twitter handle for a young college person, she is freaking awesome. She can score in a variety of ways, she can drive left, drive right, score on the baseline, knock down a 15 footer, knock down a three, I would not be shocked if she could dunk.
Shaw has easily become a star over the last two years. Let me just throw a few numbers out at you.
- I mentioned that she led all sophomores in points and rebounds this season, right?
- Her 38 points is the most by any lady Mav since transition, it was also the most by any woman in the Summit League this season
- Her 721 is the most career points in the transition period, Frauendorfer had 755 and Ericka House had 732, Shaw did that in her freshman and sophomore seasons, Frauendorfer and House scored their points as juniors and seniors
- After her sophomore year she already ranks 38th on the career overall scoring chart
- After her sophomore year she ranks 27th on the career rebounding chart
And that is just the scoring, she can rebound, pass the ball, block shots, defend the post, defend the perimeter, and her three point shooting has gotten better and better. I watched a play where she was on defense and went up to contest a shot, and she did not even block the shot, she literally just grabbed the shot out of the air and started a break down the floor. Is Grab Shot Out of Freaking Air a statistic? If it is, she at least averaged 0.1 this last season.
Like I said, rebuilding anywhere is difficult, especially for a women’s team in transition, by the way, have we praised Brittany Lange for taking this job over? Rebuilding a team in the middle of transition, that has to be a coach’s worst nightmare, especially taking the risk of starting your career with that. With basically an entirely new roster in her first season, Lange essentially got a job at one of those start up companies. Anyway, it is difficult to rebuild a team, and someone like Mikaela Shaw is a great marketing tool…no, no, no I am not saying we use her, it will just come naturally.
The smaller schools have to rely on that one above the rest of the conference player to market their program. The outsiders who essentially know nothing about the the smaller teams, they need to hear something is interesting is happen to pay attention. At this level, people want to hear about someone like Mikaela Shaw doing great things and they want to go see it for themselves. They want to sit around and talk shop afterwards and feel better about themselves and ponder real philosophical stuff like “yeah, she can score at UNO, but could score at a bigger school?” The high school kids want to learn from that player. If you went to high school in Omaha from 2001-2003, you would have seen every high school kid wearing their socks real high, growing their hair out (high school kids tend to grow their hair out anyway), trying to become a knock down three point shooter trying to be Creighton’s Kyle Korver. Go to a UNO softball game. If you went and saw UNO take on the Huskers last year, the middle school girls were there to watch Nebraska’s Tatum Edwards pitch, and they were there to learn from UNO’s Allie Mathewson. Every time Mathewson stepped up to the plate, the younger kids were up at the fence, studying her batting stance, wanting to be the next Allie Mathewson. The younger kids see the Mathewsons and the Shaws as the heros. The Nebraska girls that go in and dominate. The Nebraska Cornhuskers did not exist to those girls in those games between the Mavericks and Huskers.
Should it be amazing that she even came to UNO? I do not know. Per press releases from athletics and the Omaha World Herald, I have not seen any other offers she picked up other than a walk on role at Nebraska, but I have to tell you, a walk on offer to a small town Nebraska kid might be a better thing than a full ride some place else from a sports stand point. I do not know for sure if Deweese, Nebraska is a small town, but I am just just going to go with my Omaha instincts on this one and say yes it is a small town.
Let’s not look at this like it is the Omaha Shaws, it is still the Omaha Mavericks. If you would have gone to a women’s game, you could have seen the other pieces of the future.
I am going to take a side step before moving on. The players who never got to play after transition, should not be forgotten. Taijhe Kelly’s blocks, Nash’s ridiculous amount of steals and assists, House’s threes, Bough’s ability to do a little bit of everything, Frauendorfer’s…just Frauendorferness, and everyone else. They all helped the UNO program move on, I am simply just looking at what we have moving forward. If anything the players moving forward have a little bit of the past in them. Barajas has signs of playing like Kelly, Shaw has similarities to Frauendorfer, Robson to Nash, and so on.
So it is not just Mikaela Shaw that we have to look forward to. Madi Robson, if you are a point guard, you will have nothing but respect for her. If you love a score first point guard, then I always think there is something wrong with you, and her career average of 5 points per game will not impress you. If you watch her though, you will take notice of what she does for the Mavericks. She keeps the team moving, keeps communication up, finds players in their spots, sets screens on bigger players to get her teammates in a better position to make a play.
I have not seen if UNO has a +/- stat for games, I know North Dakota State does (just sayin’), but the second to last home game of the year against IPFW, I cannot stress to you how important she was in that game. If there was a +/- stat, I am pretty sure the Mavs would have been up 15 points whenever she was on the court. There was a stretch in the second half when she was on the bench where IPFW had dwindled down UNO’s lead to one possession, and I was thinking to myself – Where the Heck is Robson? Then what do you know, Robson comes into the game, and controls everything to a point to where the Mavs get back up by a few possessions.
She scored 15 points that game, and most of it were free throws as IPFW was fouling to try and get back into the game, but I swear she was capable of scoring much more. No matter what guard got on Robson, she would break that player down, IPFW could not stay in front of her. I was sitting next to some older gentlemen, who I assume were former UNO players, and every time Robson would break down their defender they would just laugh and cry out, “they have no chance at guarding her.” She would get by, and find the open player, or bring it back up to the top of the key so the Mavs could set something else up. You could tell that she had that game completely under control. While on the bench, the team was talking less, the defense was breaking down. It is not like they just muted themselves, I am just saying that while Robson was on the court, you could clearly hear the players better and more frequently. Taijhe Kelly was probably the second most talkative on defense, calling out whatever she saw. Not saying no one else was talking, those were just the two players that were clearly keeping up the talk. When Robson was on the bench, she was like a undergraduate coach, yelling whatever she could out to players, scolding them for mistakes. Scolding may be the wrong word, from everything I have seen, Robson does not have a mean bone in her body. I have not seen a college player (in person) take over an entire game without the need of scoring since Tyler McKinney at Creighton. Also, just a little bit ago when I shot out some numbers about Shaw, after Robson’s sophomore year, she is 16th in program history in assists.
So you take Robson and Shaw, you have Davenport coming off screens as the three point specialist, Vanessa Barajas as the rim protector, add transfer Marissa Preston to the crew, as well as incoming freshman Caroline Hogue, who is apparently a block specialist herself, and you have the recipe for a quality basketball team. So there is some hope for this improving basketball team that showed promise down the stretch of transition, and we know anything could happen, like (this is where some hypothetical situation is mentioned, something so horrifying, you vomit and crap yourself and cry out “no player deserves that”). Add that in with a committed coaching staff, and athletic administration that wants to put in their support, and you have a girls team that can climb the standings in the conference. and who knows what the limits are.