As the Washington women’s basketball team gets set to open its season against CSU Bakersfield this Friday at 7 p.m., here are five things to look for and anticipate ahead of the season:
Will Amber Melgoza increase her production?
The standout senior guard saw a slight dip in her scoring a year ago but increased her rebounding and assist numbers to become a more well-rounded, do-it-all player for the Huskies. Much like the rest of the team, Melgoza closed out the season strong as she scored 53 points in the team’s final two games. With just one season left on Montlake, will Melgoza average over 20 points for the first time this season while still contributing in other ways on the floor? Coming into the season with 1,202 career points, Melgoza has a strong chance to become the 14th UW player to score 1,500 in a season.
How much better will Darcy Rees be?
The progression arc of the young center looks like this could be a breakout year, but how much so? In her first year, she got the experience she needed, starting in 23 games, and learning as the season wore on. She even added a three-point shot and worked a lot in the offseason to improve many aspects of her game. She will likely be the starting center from Day 1, so look for her to hit the ground running.
Who will be the primary ball handler?
It sounds like Rita Pleskevich may be the true point guard to play alongside Melgoza and that’s what head coach Jody Wynn told her on her visit with the Huskies. She primarily looks to get others involved as a distributor and is also a capable shooter from deep. The junior college transfer put up great numbers at Broward College but has never played a game in Division I. Will she be ready to start right off the bat, or will it take some time to get her incorporated into the offense?
Can the Huskies find a scorer at the forward position?
Last year the leading scorer at the position was Mai-Loni Henson, but she only averaged 5.2 points per game, the fourth-best mark on the team. Henson returns for her senior year and could become a reliable scoring option alongside the loaded backcourt. Another name to keep an eye on is Haley Van Dyke; during her senior year of high school, she averaged 29.8 points per game and 17.3 rebounds. Now in her second year at the UW, Van Dyke’s had time to adjust to the college game and may also break through for the Huskies.
Which freshman center will play a bigger role?
Within a young core of centers, two freshmen came to Montlake this year with high hopes. By the nature of the position, one will likely be Rees’ backup and play more minutes, unless Wynn runs out a twin towers lineup at times with both JaQuaya Miller and Ali Bamberger against teams like Stanford and Oregon State. Miller was rated one of the top post-players in the country and the best in the state of Washington coming out of High School, while Bamberger averaged over 19 points in her final two seasons in California. The Huskies have a couple valid options for what will likely be the back-up center position.
Reach reporter Josh Eddy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JoshTreEddy