Marian Washington enters 31st season as Kansas coach

Updated: October 16, 2003, 4:00 AM ET

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- For three decades at Kansas, Marion Washington has seen herself as one of the main voices in the athletic department pushing women's sports.

Now, getting ready to enter her 31st season as the Jayhawks' women's basketball coach, Washington feels she's gotten a boost from new athletic director Lew Perkins. A recent arrival from the Connecticut, Perkins hails from a school where the women's basketball team won the nation championship last season and is a contender for the Final Four every year.

"When you are in it and pushing to bring about change and trying to help people be more open and accepting, you become the target," Washington said Wednesday at her team's annual media day. "It is going to really be a relief to have other people pushing for women's sports."

Her team, however, certainly has a ways to improve to meet the expectations Perkins might have after his years with the Huskies. Washington has won 551 games in her career, but fielded an inexperienced team last season with no seniors that finished 11-18. That disappointing performance came after the 2001-2002 season, during which the Jayhawks failed to win a Big 12 game.

This season, Washington said she has several players with game experience -- including all five starters from last year's team -- and a solid recruiting class.

"I am pretty happy with all our returning players," Washington said. "For the first time we have depth and they are already bonding."

Kansas expects to be led offensively by a pair of sophomores, 6-foot-4 Tamara Ransburg and 6-2 Crystal Kemp, who both averaged 10.9 points a game last season.

"We have a really good relationship," Kemp said. "The thing about Tamara and me is we can look out for each other."

Senior point guard Leila Menguc returns as well to feed both the ball, as well as sophomore Erica Hallman, who averaged 7.8 points per game and 1.6 assists last season when running the point.

"I have a to work a lot harder," said Menguc. "I know this year having that much depth makes us a lot better."

Among those joining the team are freshman Lauren Ervin, a McDonald's All-American last season at Inglewood High School in Inglewood, Calif., where she averaged 24 points and 18 rebounds a game as a high school senior.

"She (Ervin) has a natural nose for the game," Washington said. "She is capable to be as good as she wants to be and could be another All-American at Kansas."

Washington was able to assess her team's talent in August when the Jayhawks traveled to Monterrey, Mexico, to play a series of exhibition games. Kansas went 4-0, including a 97-51 win over Multielan, which is comprised of members from the 2000 Mexican University national championship team.

"We saw what we might be able to do this year," Washington said of the trip. "It was a positive experience."

She expects more of those kinds of positive experiences now that Perkins has arrived at Kansas.

"I think (he) will know what to do because we have had success here," Washington said. "He will bring his experience, as far as what it took because (Connecticut) did not start with a packed house. I think that kind of leadership is something we are all looking forward to."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index