2001-02 season provided bits of the expected and the unexpected for BonnerBy Tim Stried, SID
February 28, 2002
In any athletic season, the final won-lost record doesn't always tell the whole story of what took place on the court of competition, and the 2001-02 women's basketball season at Bluffton College is no exception.
BC finished 0-25 overall and 0-14 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference after seeing their entire starting lineup depart from last season's squad, which finished in the upper half of the conference for the third straight season.
New head coach Cathy Bonner, who was an assistant at BC last season, knew right away what her first job would be when she took over the role of head coach in June.
"My one goal that I had this year from the very beginning was to unify this team," said Bonner. "It wasn't about wins and it wasn't about losses, it was about unifying this team."
Bonner fully expected that this season would be the start of a rebuilding process at Bluffton.
"It would have been real easy for me this year, with the hand I was dealt, to tell these kids how little talent they really had," said Bonner, "but instead, I focused on what they were capable of and tried to build little successes. It would have been easy to tell them they weren't very good, but they don't need to hear that because they already know they have difficulties in trying to pull things together."
Bonner was willing to take on the task of rebuilding, however, and work hard to make the most of it.
"The team I inherited is, of course, ideally not the team every coach wants to walk into their first year," she said. "You don't want to go into the problems of people who are upset because the former coach left and they don't want to play for you. Unfortunately, that is the way it is, so we better try to make the most out of it."
"I told them we would not make a turn until sometime after February first," continued Bonner, "and we did. We had a good strong run against Thomas More [on Feb. 16], but as of yet we just don't have the go-to players to build a team around. And there's nothing wrong with that. There are a lot of teams in Division One right now that are sitting in the same market we are, with scholarship athletes. But, I feel like we did accomplish that goal, of unifying this team."
Among the unexpected punches that the season threw, however, was the loss of additional players.
"Now, on the flip side of that, we had players quit," said Bonner, making reference to the seven players that left the team during the season. "But through all of that I still had players that persevered and hung in there through the thick and thin, mostly thin, of this season and didn't give up even through the last game. So, that's what I am very proud of, and that is the success story for this year."
And speaking of success stories, Bonner named several players that accomplished great things during the season.
"I'm especially proud of Lyndsey Robinson," said Bonner speaking of her junior center that led the team in scoring (11.8 ppg) and rebounding (8.1 rpg). "She's never had the playing time that she did this year and I thought that she did incredibly well. I cannot say enough about the growth I've seen in her, not only as a player, but also as an individual. To see how far she's come, and her getting conference player of the week, I think that's incredible for her and I'm glad for her."
"Melissa James has been mostly a defensive player in her career here and look what she's done point wise now," said Bonner noting one of her captains on this year's squad. "And you have players like Kara Young, that are freshman but that got some really good playing time."
"You're in a season where you're having to play kids that have never played much unless their team was 30 points ahead or 30 points behind," said Bonner, "and they've never started a varsity game. But those three players make a great combination to try to build some things around. Kristen Siller, she may not have the size, but the heart that she has is unbelievable. I could stay stuff about every one of them, and the main thing is they didn't quit."
Bonner's positive outlook transcends the basketball court.
"I'm a very positive person and I believe there's a whole lot to be said when somebody can tell somebody that they are doing something good throughout the day."
And that positive outlook has already turned its focus to the 2002-03 season.
"The team that comes back, whoever comes back and I don't know who's coming back for sure right now, they need to realize that wins and losses don't make you who you are, and I've told them that from the very beginning. You are who you are because of what you have accomplished and stuck to."
As far as immediate needs, however, Bonner mentioned two in particular.
"We need a point guard, we all know that, and not only that but we need some post players, because we're graduating all our post players with the exception of Kara Young after next year. We need good strong people inside that we can count on for rebounds and to score."
But no matter who is on the court next season for Bonner, her philosophy will remain the same.
"It's not about the score at the end of the game. Basketball is a tool to help you become who you are supposed to be, and that's all it is. And especially at Division III where there are no WNBA scouts in the crowd. It's about getting your education, deciding on a career path, and taking the things that you've learned in basketball, as far as the determination and the drive, the work ethic, and putting it into your life."
"If we win some games, great. If we lose some games, great. But we're going to only learn from both sides."