By now, the Gonzaga women basketball players must be asking themselves a tough question:
Can the upcoming season possibly be tougher than practice?
“We definitely have some talent in a lot of different places, which makes for some tough and competitive practices,” senior guard Elle Tinkle said after a recent session at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“That’s really good to see about this group: There’s a depth there that brings out the best in everyone.”
The Bulldogs hope to carry the positives forward Friday night at McCarthey, when they play Corban, an NAIA school from Salem, Oregon.
The biggest plus appears to be a surplus of talent and depth in the backcourt, where Tinkle is joined by returnees Laura Stockton, Emma Stach and Zhané Templeton along with newcomers Makenlee Williams, Chandler Smith and Jesse Loera.
That doesn’t mean it will be backcourt by committee, but third-year coach Lisa Fortier appreciates the opportunity to push the pace on the floor without pushing her players too far.
“We don’t need players playing 35 minutes a game and we don’t want that,” Fortier said.
The competition has made it tougher on Fortier and her staff, who haven’t settled on a rotation.
“We’re pretty close,” Fortier said Wednesday. “I think we know what we’re going to do as far as starters, but after that it gets a little muddled.
“There’s not a lot of clear separation in some positions.”
Stockton takes reins
One thing is clear: Laura Stockton will start at point guard against Corban. Fortier confirmed that much on Wednesday, adding that Stockton made big strides last year while playing behind Georgia Stirton, who graduated.
“She’s one of those people who have a natural leadership ability, and I think she knew she had plenty to learn from Georgia and out staff,” Fortier said.
Stockton, a 5-foot-8 sophomore from Gonzaga Prep, played 18 minutes a game last year and averaged 6.7 points and almost three assists.
“She’s got a different mentality,” said Fortier, who said that last season, Stockton was sometimes “conflicted” between her roles as scorer and facilitator.
“Her natural game is getting the ball the right people and the exact right time,” Fortier said.
The GU women will play on television at least seven times this season. SWX will broadcast five home games, available locally. The schedule begins on Dec. 8 as Gonzaga hosts Washington State. The home game against Northwestern on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. will be live as well.
The lineup will finish with three West Coast Conference home games, including San Francisco on Jan. 5, Santa Clara on Jan. 19, and Saint Mary’s on Feb. 11.
The television package may expand as other games are under consideration by broadcast partners.
The road trip to Stanford on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. will be available regionally on the Pac-12 Network.
GU’s final regular-season game at BYU on February 25 will be available regionally on BYUtv.
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