Rams anticipate productive season
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) -- During the 1998-99 season, Colorado State rode the scoring duo of Becky Hammon and Katie Cronin into the regional semifinals of the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
The designs are similar this season for a deeper, talented cast that is the preseason favorite to win the Mountain West Conference championship.
"That team had two great players and was surrounded by three or four role players," said Colorado State coach Tom Collen of the 1998-99 team that lost to UCLA in a Sweet 16 tournament game. "The team this year is a team that has 11 or 12 solid players.
"We might have the most talent we've had from top to bottom. We don't appear to have any players who aren't capable of stepping up and playing this year."
The Rams lose only Heather Haanen from a 26-7 team that finished second to Utah in the Mountain West but won the conference tournament and beat Maryland before losing to top-ranked Connecticut in the NCAA tournament.
Power forward Ashley Augspurger and multi-purpose Angie Gorton make up the nucleus of the team. Augspurger, a first-team all-conference performer, reached double-digit scoring in 21 games, while Gorton had at least 10 points in 20 games while seeing time at both guard positions and small forward.
"We can go as far as we want to go," Augspurger said.
Joy Jenkins will play behind Augspurger. Jasai Ferrucho and Elizabeth English will start at point guard and allow Collen to move Gorton, the team's lone senior, to shooting guard.
"We figure Angie can score more from that position," Collen said. "It gives us an additional ballhandler against teams that decide to press us."
Juniors Borton and Jackie Campbell, both 3-point threats, will share time at small forward. Collen will again split the center duties between Shannon Strecker (7.6 points and 5.7 rebounds a game) and Lisa Narkiewicz (8.3 and 4.7).
"I think people underestimate us at center because we won't have anybody that averages in double figures," Collen said. "You take their combined numbers and they probably outscore every other team in our conference."
In addition, CSU expects its two incoming freshmen, guards Vanessa Espinoza and Venekamp, to contribute immediately. The Rams also have junior Adriene Boyd available to play either guard position and small forward.
"This is a versatile group, one that on any given night we've got a half dozen players capable of stepping up and scoring 20 points for us," Collen said. "We might not always have five players in double figures, but we might have three or four players in double figures, and two of those players might get 18 or 20 points."
Collen is well aware the Rams will be tested. In addition to their Mountain West slate, they host defending NCAA champion Notre Dame and highly regarded Colorado and have a Women's Sports Foundation Classic date with elite eight Xavier and either Louisville or Ohio State.
"We have the toughest schedule that we've ever had," Collen said. "This is a year where we might be a better team and only win 18 games."
Colorado State plays its regular-season opener against Sacramento State on home on Nov. 16 before its Nov. 21 meeting with Notre Dame here.