Stephens College basketball builds with new talent

Friday, November 5, 2010 | 11:03 p.m. CDT; updated 7:20 p.m. CDT, Saturday, November 6, 2010


For the Stephens College basketball team, veteran experience is just out of reach.

The team is under new leadership with first-year head coach Bill Bixon and assistant coach Marta Menuez, and the players must also combat the lack of experience. 

Five of the team's nine players are freshman. Junior Andie Young is out for the season with a torn ACL. They also have yet to practice with three of their upperclassmen, who are currently playing volleyball for Stephens. 

Coach Bixon did not recruit the freshman he's working with this year. They were signed by the previous coach and kept their commitments to Stephens after the coaching change. 

"Those freshman are going to be asked to grow up right away and play significant time," Bixon said. 

The team has been practicing since the middle of October. For most of that time, only the newest members have been able to play because of the team's veterans have commitments to other sports.

"That's the biggest challenge," Bixon said. "When you have five kids in practice and three leaders still playing volleyball, it's hard. I haven't had my full team since day one"

However, the time spent working solely with each other could prove to be an asset for the freshmen. 

"The girls have to believe in each other and play as a team. That's the hardest part, especially with a young team," Menuez said.  

Coach Bixon says he's trying to change the entire culture of the program.  From workouts to practices, interactions with teammates and coaches, he's looking to usher in new ideas and ways of thinking.

Bixon says he's using Missouri women's basketball coach Robin Pingeton as an example to foster this new culture. 

Despite the challenges he's faced with, Bixon believes Stephens hasuntapped potential. He believes the location of the school offers an excellent recruiting pitch for his team.

"You have the best of both worlds as a young female student athlete. You get small class sizes, you get to play a sport that you always love playing and you can drive a mile down the road and do all the fun things Mizzou students might do," he said. 

Coach Bixon’s arrival to the Stars is part of an overhaul of the athletic department at Stephens College. After a recent switch from Division 3 of the NCAA to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in April 2004, Stephens has made several strides to expand its athletics and make them a more integral part of the school.

The Stars will play their first game in the Maui Midwest Classic against University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, Kan. Friday. Game time is set for 8:00 p.m.

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