Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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“Defense, defense, defense, defense” the key to SIU women’s basketball

Jaidynn+Mason+%2822%29+carries+the+ball+as+the+Salukis+prepare+for+the+upcoming+season+Oct.+2023+at+Banterra+Center+in+Carbondale%2C+Illinois.+
Dominic Hoscher
Jaidynn Mason (22) carries the ball as the Salukis prepare for the upcoming season Oct. 2023 at Banterra Center in Carbondale, Illinois.

As Saluki women’s basketball head coach Kelly Bond-White enters her second year on the job, she and her team are hanging their hats on one thing: defense.

“That’s what we’re looking forward to this season, is disrupting what our opponents want to do, what we call an organized chaos,” Bond-White said.

In the 2022-23 season, while the Salukis averaged 73.4 points per game, good for fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference, they gave up 75 points per game, ranking last in the Valley.

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“Our goal is to climb that defensive ladder,” Bond-White said.

Junior forward Seairra Hughes stressed how important defense was going to be to the play style of the team.

“I think more people are understanding more what Coach wants and what we want to do this season, and the style of play that we want to play in. Just defense, defense, defense, defense,” Hughes said.

Hughes also thinks that there will be more consistency on defense this season.

“I think progress is being made everyday,” she said. “I think that we still have a ways to go, but compared to last year… it’s miles ahead.”

Both Bond-White and the players believe that the defense, and the team as a whole, can improve due to the continuity that now exists within the program.

Senior guard Sydney Prochaska said, “Last year, it was a little bit harder for us just because we had a brand new coaching staff, brand new team… we didn’t quite understand every single thing that was being asked of us… This year, we have a lot of returners who know exactly what the coaches are asking of us. We know exactly the style of what they’re wanting.”

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With continuity comes a more seasoned roster. There are a number of players who played a lot of minutes last season that can carry more confidence and experience into this season.

Bond-White said, “Last year was a time of instilling confidence and trust… now you have people that have been through the storm, and so they’re getting a little bit more comfortable, because they know what the challenge looks like.”

Sophomore guard Jaidynn Mason also thinks there’s a big change from the previous season.

“I think this team has a lot more trust than last year… it took us a minute to merge together,” Mason said.

Mason also thinks that a lot of confidence in teammates was built off the court.

“We do a lot of activities together outside of basketball. We’re more comfortable with each other,” she said.

According to Prochaska, these activities have helped to increase the chemistry of the team, which Bond-White “didn’t think we spent enough time on [last year].”

Prochaska said, “[the chemistry] has been so, so good. We are bonding like crazy, doing a lot of fun activities and stuff. It’s showing off the court and on the court.”

This increase in chemistry has played a big role in building the long-term culture of the team, helping to forge its identity.

“I think this year, our culture is just so amazing. Each one of us trusts each other so much, and we know that at the end of the day, we’re gonna go tooth and nail for each other and we’re going to do whatever it takes,” Prochaska said.

Winning consistently is one final part of the culture that has yet to be cemented. Pundits are picking the Dawgs to finish eighth in the Valley, but Bond-White is unfazed by the ranking.

“I told our players yesterday, don’t let anybody else hold your pen, don’t let anybody else hold your paintbrush. You get to create your story,” Bond-White said. “We know how much talent we have. We know what we’re capable of.”

Williams echoes the idea that players write their own destiny.

“I think we are the deciders of that. We get to choose how we play, we get to choose the energy and the effort we come out with… Attitude and effort are the things that we can control. These are our intangibles, so as long as we bring that every day, we’ll be fine with the outcome,” Williams said.

Prochaska, also unbothered by the ranking, adds that some teams may be in for a surprise when they face the Salukis.

“There’s just a lot of awesome components in this team. Each one of us has something special to share and you’ll see it when you watch us play,” Prochaska said.

While all of the components are coming together, Bond-White is still unsure of what lineups will look like.

“It’s October, baby, I don’t have to know just yet,” Bond-White said. “But what I do know is I am getting some consistency from some of my returners, and so it is starting to forge a little bit.”

Bond-White also stressed the importance of finding more than just starters.

She said, “It’s more about the finishers, and in between that is the rotation. What we’re spending more time on in our closed scrimmage was really looking at some rotations… we wanted to see who could do certain things with who on the floor and who was showing that they had a trust regardless of who was out there with them.”

Regardless of who is on the court, Bond-White is eager to enter the season and the challenge that comes with it.

“I like the climb. I like being the hunter… It doesn’t matter where we are in the standings, people want to beat you because you’re a Saluki. But we’re going into the mindset of we’re hunting. We’re heading into the forest to do some hunting this season,” Bond-White said.

Sports reporter Ryan Grieser can be reached at [email protected]. To stay up to date on all of your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter @dailyegyptian.

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