By Craig Pearson
TERRE HAUTE — If you’re only counting players, Indiana State’s women’s basketball program has just one newcomer, freshman post Kelsie Cooley.
But the three new assistant coaches on staff are as excited as the players about getting started Sunday with an exhibition game against Bellarmine.
New recruiting coordinator Clint Weddle was able to take part in most of the first week of practice last week on the court where he played his high school basketball. Weddle was a key piece of Terre Haute North’s teams that won sectional and regional championships in 1996 and 1999.
“It’s nice to come home. To come in here and practice. It’s great to have the opportunity to come in here when we don’t have access to Hulman Center,” Weddle said. “I was telling [North] coach [Jim] Jones, the gym looks great.”
Weddle, along with Sarah Shackle and Amy Siegel have hit the ground running since joining coach Jim Wiedie’s staff in early summer. The first priority was to pick up recruiting, which also presented itself as a time for the staff to get re-acquainted with one another.
“The thing that coach Weddle has done a great job of [is] when the old staff left, it was really important that the new [recruiting] coordinator came in to make contact with all those kids that we had an interest in and maintain those relationships,” Wiedie said.
ISU scored Bianca Jarrett, a talented, confident point guard out of Waukegan, Ill., just north of Chicago as well as one of the state of Indiana’s top scorers, Deja Mattox of Maconaquah. Amanda Pedro of a strong program at Fort Wayne Luers program and 6-foot-3 Shannon Thomas of suburban Dayton, Ohio, has also committed.
“[Weddle] did a phenomenal job getting those kids excited about Indiana State and getting them on campus. We’ve been fortunate to close the deal on some kids.”
But recruiting is a job for the entire staff. All three new coaches spent hours evaluating film of past ISU teams against Missouri Valley Conference competition to get a full understanding of the type of player the Sycamores need, Wiedie said.
Said Weddle: “July was a very good month for us to get acquainted with one another and get out and evaluate players together.”
Recruiting is a year-long process, and the Sycamores received a fifth verbal commitment late last week for the 2008 freshman class as 5-foot-6 guard Brittany Schoen was wooed to Terre Haute late in her decision-making process.
“I thoroughly enjoy the way we play off eachother as far as recruiting,” Wiedie said.
Many of ISU’s current players were on campus throughout the summer, becoming versed with the new personalities on the coaching staff.
“I was worried about that,” Wiedie said. “You develop relationships [with past coaches], especially if you’ve been around for a few years. Our kids went out of their way to call the coaches, e-mail the coaches and to stop by and see them.”
Senior post Laura Rudolphi admitted Friday she was a hesitant at first about how smooth the transition would be.
“At first I was a little worried about having a whole new staff besides coach Wiedie, being my senior year, but they’ve just been great to work with in practice,” said Rudolphi, who has enjoyed Shackle’s intensity in working with the posts.
“I think my role as an assistant is to be enthusiastic,” Shackle said. “I keep them enthusiastic, concentrating on the posts and all the players on rebounding.”
Shackle has been impressed with the approach of ISU’s experienced team.
“It’s been fun, the pace these girls have ... ,” Shackle said. “The first week of practice has been great, it’s been an unbelievable pace that these girls go at. I’ve never been around a team that goes this hard.”
Weddle said the transition has been easy.
“The biggest thing is some of us are trying to figure out what to do with all these managers and the male practice players. Those are luxuries we’re not used to,” Weddle said. “We’re extremely excited. I think everyone is very appreciative of coach Wiedie’s leadership and what he does to motivate us as a staff.”
Also aiding the transition is the staff’s familiarity with one another. Weddle and Shackle worked together at the University of Indianapolis and the two coached against Great Lakes Valley Conference rival St. Joseph’s College at Rensselaer, where Siegel spent two seasons as head coach.
Siegel’s team came to Hulman Center last season for an exhibition game, but she knows Wiedie from when she was receiving recruiting offers.
Wiedie got his start in college coaching at a GLVC school, Northern Kentucky, and recruited Siegel to play there. Siegel opted for Bellarmine University in her hometown of Louisville, Ky, which happens to be ISU’s opponent Sunday.
Siegel said the opportunity to coach against the Sycamores was valuable.
“I know we’ve had a great offensive team,” Siegel said of ISU. “Defensively they get after it too. But offensively, I’ve always been interested in [Wiedie’s] style of play. All of the screen on the ball. We tried to employ [at St. Joseph’s] but didn’t have quite the athletes.”
Siegel has been impressed with the approach of the ISU players from the beginning of preseason workouts and it helped her adjust to a new program.
“The experience this team has, jumping right into workouts, I could kind of learn from them,” she said. “It was a learning process from player to coach.”
Weddle echoed those sentiments.
“We’re all one cohesive unit [as a staff],” Weddle said. “A lot of that comes from how much a family these young ladies are.”
Wiedie couldn’t be more thrilled with his staff. Weddle’s experience as a head coach at Oakland City and Siegel’s experience as a head coach at St. Joseph’s combined with Shackle’s four years of experience at Indianapolis make for the most experienced staff Wiedie has had.
“When the opportunity presented itself, having the chance to hire those three individuals, I jumped on it,” Wiedie said. “And the personalities, we’ve just hit it off from day one. The kids sense the change in atmosphere. It’s just been a great environment all through the preseason and through the first week of practice.”
Instead of coaching post players in daily drills as he has in the past, Wiedie can get back to delegating responsibility to his staff, he said.
A fresh start and a new staff may be just what Wiedie needed.
“To be honest with you, it’s been invigorating and I’ve been reenergized,” Wiedie said. “If you’ve had the same staff for a period of time, eventually it’s going to run its course and you need a change on both sides I think. A freshness, some new ideas to stimulate you as a coach.”
• • •
• Exciting time for Thatcher — ISU senior Anne Thatcher has had an enjoyable fall watching her older brother Joe Thatcher in the National League pennant race.
Thatcher, a left-handed relief specialist, was in line for the pitching win in the San Diego Padres’ one-game playoff against the Colorado Rockies until closer Trevor Hoffman blew the game that has helped propel the Rockies to the World Series.
Anne was able to watch her brother pitch in games at Cincinnati and Milwaukee in the season’s final week.
“It was an amazing fall. It was like you didn’t even realize it was him,” Anne said.
n Senorita Boeglin — Melanie Boeglin began games recently for her professional team in Spain.
Boeglin got off to a tough start with three points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in the opener. But she had 18 points, four rebounds and two assists in the second game, both games victories.
Boeglin added that Spanish classes are going well.
Craig Pearson can be reached by phone at (812) 231-4357 or by e-mail at email@example.com.