Baylor a 'new team' looking to gel

Updated: November 11, 2005, 8:21 PM ET
Associated Press

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson doesn't see No. 6 Baylor as a target for opponents because of its national championship.

She sees a team trying to meld the talents of five newcomers with three returning starters, including Sophia Young, a pre-season All-America and last year's Final Four MVP. Guard Chameka Scott and forward Abiola Wabara also return from Baylor's 33-3 team.

"We understand we are not the same team," Mulkey-Robertson said. "We look at it as a new team finding an identity."

The Lady Bears open the State Farm Tip-Off Classic against No. 8 Georgia on Sunday. No. 13 Texas Tech takes on No. 3 LSU and pre-season All-American Seimone Augustus in the second game of the one-day event.

Baylor also will be without Emily Niemann, who scored 19 points and made five 3-pointers in an 84-62 victory against Michigan State in the national title game. She transferred to UC Santa Barbara over the summer. Also missing will be Young's dynamic frontcourt sidekick, Steffanie Blackmon, who graduated.

The Lady Bulldogs, who opened the 2000 season against defending national champion Connecticut, should go a long way with 6-3 Tasha Humphrey in the middle.

"We're an experienced basketball team," said coach Andy Landers. "Night in, night out, Tasha Humphrey is as good as it gets."

Humphrey underwent surgery after last season's 24-10 finish to remove scar tissue on tendons in her feet.

"Her treatment this summer seems to have worked," Landers said. "She gets better day by day."

In the tournament's second game, the Lady Raiders will face an LSU team that has reached the last two Final Fours behind Augustus, last year's national player of the year. She averaged 20.1 points last season.

She's known for her fluid moves off the dribble and her accurate pull-up jumper. And she's been busy working on other dimensions of her game, including 3-point shooting.

Tech, which finished 24-8 last season, has three returning starters, including preseason all-Big 12 choice Erin Grant. This summer Grant played with Augustus on the USA Basketball Women's World University Games team.

LSU coach Pokey Chatman, whose team went 33-3 last season, coached the guards on the team and knows Grant's talent. During workouts, Chapman said, she kiddingly told Grant, "I can't teach you too much," knowing that the two teams were matched up for Sunday's event.

"They're obviously key people on their team," Chapman said. "Their personality and how they affect their team, it's an easy parallel to draw."

Tech will start freshman LaVonda Henderson in place of senior guard Chesley Dabbs, who was lost for the season this week with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial meniscus in her left knee.

Grant was the last Tech freshman to start a season opener, and it was at the Tip-Off Classic in 2002 at Knoxville, Tenn., when the Lady Raiders lost 85-76 to Louisiana Tech.

"It'll be a great opportunity for us to play a great basketball team," Tech coach Marsha Sharp said. "I think from our perspective, we've got to be hitting on all cylinders."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press