Freshmen shed inexperience in time for WNIT

With season nearing end, coach Cindy Stein ignores players’ ages.
Sunday, March 18, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:06 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

If freshman Jessra Johnson were allowed to participate in postseason NCAA bracketing, Duke’s loss to Virginia Commonwealth would have ruined her predictions.

On the other hand, fellow freshman Toy Richbow seemed immune to the racket surrounding the men’s NCAA Tournament.

“I’m just worried about us and next year,” Richbow said.

Johnson and Richbow, along with freshmen Amanda Hanneman and Marissa Scott, will play in their first postseason game at 3 p.m. today in Wyoming in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

“I don’t think any freshman is too nervous about playing,” Johnson said.

Richbow plays the most of the four freshmen, sharing her time at point guard with two seniors.

“For the returning players and myself, it will give us a good couple steps to the next year’s season,” Richbow said. “I’m just trying to get all the experience I can and learn from these seniors we have left before they leave.”

While Richbow is thinking about next season and concentrating on wiping away any traces of inexperience, Missouri coach Cindy Stein is focused on ending this season on a positive note.

“We’re not looking at the WNIT as a springboard for next year,” Stein said. “We’re looking at the WNIT to win the first game, and then focus on winning the second, regardless of whether it’s a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior playing.”

Stein said she no longer looks at playing experience or class rank. She looks at how hard a person plays in practice and how much she can contribute.

“All of them you can tell have improved a lot,” Stein said of the freshmen. “They’ve put themselves in the position to gain more playing time, if not start, and that’s kind of where we are.”

Richbow started the first game of the season against Southern Illinois and the last game against Texas in the Big 12 Conference Tournament. Against Texas in the tournament, Hanneman played eight minutes, one of her largest totals after battling minor injuries earlier in the season. Stein said Hanneman is being considered as a starter for the Wyoming game.

If the Tigers win, they will play the winner of the Oregon-University of California Santa Barbara game.

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