Gophers foresee dramatic improvements with Oldfield
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Forgive Kim Bell if she's hungry.
As the lone senior on the Minnesota women's basketball team, Bell has been a part of only six conference victories in the past three seasons, including a 1-15 mark in the Big Ten last year.
"I'm starving," Bell said during the team's media day Thursday. "I'm ready for [some wins]. I know we all are."
The Gophers are starting over, as new coach Brenda Oldfield takes over for Cheryl Littlejohn, whose tumultuous four-year run ended when she was fired in May for NCAA violations.
Oldfield, who helped turn around programs at Ball State and Iowa State, inherits a program that hasn't had a winning record in seven years and has won only nine Big Ten games in the past six seasons. She says she's ready for the challenge.
"The program here is no different," Oldfield said. "Its about changing a mentality."
The team's mentality under Littlejohn was oftentimes gloomy, Bell said.
"For me it's like night and day," she said of the change with Oldfield. "We come into practice excited and ready to work hard every day now. Last year, it was, 'Come in, do what you've got to do and get out.'"
On the court, Minnesota plans on playing up tempo, "run and gun" basketball, Bell said.
One of the Gophers' best gunners figures to be sophomore guard Lindsay Whalen, who averaged 17 points per game last year.
"I think we can definitely be competitive in every game in the Big Ten," Whalen said. "Last year, with [teams like] Purdue, it was, 'Hopefully we'll keep it under a 20 point loss.' This year, I think its evened up, and hopefully we'll compete with everyone."
Minnesota's roster is filled with sophomores and juniors, among them forward Kim Prince, who averaged 12.8 points per game last season.
"We're not going to jump up into those first three [top teams in the Big Ten] this year," Prince said. "But we'll surprise a lot of people."
The players haven't been surprised by Oldfield, saying the coach has been up front and honest with them from the start.
"When you see everyone on the team second-guessing the coach, how can you be motivated by that leader when the respect factor isn't there from the players?" Whalen said of playing under Littlejohn. "Its impossible -- you have to have respect. And everyone has had respect for the new coaching staff from day one."
Bell thinks that newfound respect will translate into some much-needed wins for the Gophers.
"The sky's the limit for us," she said. "With [Brenda's] encouragement and her coaching style, we're going to surprise a lot of people. And I know we've said that in previous years, but I truly believe it this year."