Lady Toppers ready to set individual, team goals

Cole Claybourn

Senior forward Arnika Brown said she wants to get 30 rebounds in a game this season.

That may not be too lofty of a goal for Brown, who has the WKU record of 25 rebounds in a game.

But with plenty of depth in the post with juniors Jasmine Johnson and LaTeira Owens, as well as freshman Mimi Hill, Brown said she knows she may not be able to be as dominant on the boards as in previous seasons.

“I’m just setting my own goals and my own challenges for myself,” Brown said. “I know what I bring to the table and what I do best, and that’s jump.”

Those types of individual goals are what Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said she wants her players to be thinking about through a pair of exhibitions against Lindsey Wilson on Tuesday and Lee (Tenn.) on Nov. 7. Cowles said the players will also set goals for individual games, such as holding opponents to a certain number of rebounds or points for that particular game.

But that leaves season-long goals.

Cowles said the players haven’t set all of them yet and won’t until just prior to their first regular-season game Nov. 16 against Louisiana Tech.

“That’s more led by their charge — not necessarily our coaching staff,” Cowles said. “Once the ball is tipped, we’re not scoring points or grabbing rebounds. They’re the ones getting it done, and they have to be confident in their goals.”

But as a coach, Cowles said she has one goal in mind — to return to the NCAA tournament.

The Lady Toppers’ last appearance came in 2008 when they lost in the first round to UTEP. Postseason woes continued last season when WKU was knocked out of the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament by Illinois.

Cowles said a “team cohesiveness” will be the main ingredient to getting back to the NCAA tournament and having success.

“That and leadership have probably been missing (in previous years),” she said. “That really came together when last season ended. We have a strong group of ladies who realize how important it is to be together on and off the court.”

Cowles said the true team aspect that she’s looking for is alive and well with this year’s team. Much of that has come in the form of team bonding events that the players have planned on their own.

Cowles said the players have been getting together to celebrate birthdays, play games, and go to movies together to simply build team unity that was absent last year.

Johnson, a forward, said the main difference with this year’s team from last year’s is that the players want to be together off the court.

Cowles said she likes to see her team get together off the court, even though it’s not mandatory, because it can only help the team as a whole.

“They spend so much time together, and to have a group of ladies who simply just want to be with each other because they like being around each other — those kinds of things make a huge difference when it comes time to compete on the basketball floor,” she said.