Rebuilding Badgers open season Friday
After back-to-back appearances at the national championships, the Brock women’s basketball team is in rebuild mode.
“We are not like we were in the past,” Brock head coach Mike Rao said. “We have to rebuild this team, put some pieces together, we have had some injuries and we are still learning how to play together.”
Rao has never been afraid of a rebuild as evidenced by his first year at Brock where he had to scour the halls to cobble a roster together.
“I am used to it but the only issue is that I am a little older so it wears on you a bit,” he said. “I would have liked to have been in a position where we could sustain a level and we haven’t.”
Knowing he had a squad that could contend for a national title last season, Rao focused his recruiting on bringing in experienced/older players such as Mackenzie Robinson, Ivana Twumasi and Victoria Lawrence at the expense of younger players who would be ready to step into a bigger role in the 2022-23 campaign.
“I played for that year knowing this year was going to be an issue,” he said. “But it’s one thing to know it then. It is a little harder to be in that situation now that I am in the fire,” he said. “We are totally new and we don’t have a step-up program. We are trying to create that now with some of the younger kids and it takes time.”
The Badgers open Friday at Toronto and will host Laurier Saturday at 6 p.m. Rao is hoping his team can develop and build as the season progresses.
“There are a lot of new faces and we just have to learn how to trust each and we have to play with more urgency. The urgency is not there yet because a few have come from other programs and it is a different culture and there are different expectations. I have to get them to my expectations and they just aren’t there yet.”
Rao isn’t sure if he has a playoff team.
“I will let you know after the weekend but right now that is the goal,” the former USPORTS coach of the year said. “We want to stay above water, makes the playoffs and see where we can go from there. That is a realistic goal for me and we are trying to make today a little better than yesterday and yesterday a little better than the day before.”
Rao would love to head into the Christmas break with a record around .500.
“Then we can get in the mix and see where we go from there. My idea is to make progress. I don’t want to take a big step and drop. I want see us slowly climb.”
The Badgers will be led by sophomore player Madalyn Weinert, who averaged 11.7 points and 8.2 points a game last season and was named to the Ontario University Athletics West All-Rookie Team. She was injured in the first quarter of the first game of exhibition play but is ready to go for the season opener.
“She will be a key for us,” he said.
Rao is also hoping for good things from: guard Oluwatito Akinnusi, a 5-foot-10 shooting guard from the Caledon Basketball Academy; 5-foot-10 guard/forward Theresa Brown, a former Ontario Colleges Athletic Association all-star and Sheridan’s career scoring leader; guard Allie Addy, who came on strong at the end of last season after returning from a high ankle sprain; and, Madison MacInnis, who averaged 1.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 12.9 minutes of playing time last season,
Rao is hoping Addy can take a big step this season.
“She has to grow up fast and that is what we are asking,” he said. “Her effort every day is really good, she learns quick, she is really good with the ball and she can shoot it.”
Rao is looking for MacInnis to “hold the fort” at the centre position.
“She brings a lot of physicality and does some good things for us.”
He is expecting Chloe Peters and guard Kaley DeMont can return from injury after Christmas and give the Badgers a second-half jolt.