Weber State women's basketball: Wildcats near mark for futility
Ogden • There's no sugarcoating this.
The Weber State women's basketball team has lost 41 consecutive games.
The Wildcats have not won since Dec. 10, 2011. And with a three-game road trip against some of the better teams in the Big Sky Conference including league leader Montana staring them in the face, the odds are that Feb. 28 will become an important date.
That's when Sacramento State, the BSC record holder for women's basketball futility, visits the Dee Events Center. Between 2000 and 2003, the Hornets dropped 44 straight.
"You've got to remember, in the grand scheme of things, as bad as you have it, there has to be somebody worse," said WSU's second-year coach Bethann Ord. "I can't make myself sick over it, though there are times when I look like it."
The Wildcats (0-21) are far removed from conference MVP Julie Gjertsen and back-to-back titles a decade ago, with a 2-27 mark in 2012, Ord's first season.
Yet, unbelievably, there remains an air of optimism surrounding the Wildcats. It's as though they can see the future.
You see, there are nine freshmen on the team's roster. WSU's top four scorers are freshmen. It is as if they are too young to know they should be depressed and ready to quit.
"Every day I walk into the gym thinking, 'We're going to win today,' whether it's a drill or anything," said freshman forward Jalen Carpenter, WSU's leading scorer at nine points a game. "I have faith in the team."
Forty-one straight losses just don't happen. It's as if the program was rocked by a perfect storm of events, including a downturn that began long before athletic director Jerry Bovee hired Ord away from her assistant coaching job with Louisville.
Carla Taylor coached the WSU program for 23 years and did enjoy some success. But the Wildcats' talent level had dropped and they managed only a 26-60 record during Taylor's last three seasons, 164-219 overall.
Ord cleaned house and brought in a bunch of new players. This season, injury became another ingredient in this recipe for disaster.
"At our level, you have to build a good base," said Bovee, who points to his successful men's coach, Randy Rahe, as an example of creating a solid program from the ground up. "She's trying to build it with freshmen and not a bunch of junior college transfers. In the long run, you need to do it with freshmen."
It's not as if Ord, who has a reputation for being a successful recruiter, didn't bring talent to Weber State.
Carpenter averaged 20 points and 14 rebounds at Bremerton (Wa.) High. Forward Kalie Matthews was a three-time All-State performer at Sandra Day O'Connor High School in Glendale, Ariz. Guard Regina Okoye was selected as the New Mexico Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012.
Desiree Ramos was a three-time All-State performer for West Valley City's Hunter High.
"We beat each other up in practice," Ramos said. "It's got to pay off some time.
"We're not quitting. We're young, but we all want to win."
One problem with all this youth: Who do they look to for court leadership? Successful teams have at least one go-to player.
Weber State's best option in that area won't take the court until next season. Zakiyyah Shahid-Martin, a 6-foot-2 junior transfer from St. John's, can only be a vocal leader.
Martin, a Kentucky product Ord tried to recruit for Louisville, could not crack St. John's rotation.
"I was not fitting in," Martin said of her experience at St. John's. "Not playing is difficult, but I feel like we're young and we're rebuilding. So, it's just a year of trying to get better and learn.
"We don't have a court leader, and it's an issue. But being positive, as a whole, is important to the young players."
In practice, Ord and her assistants remain taskmasters. Yet they also attempt to finish with something positive.
Certainly, the players understood what they were getting into.
"These freshmen, I don't think there's another school in the country where they would get these minutes," Ord said. "That's what we're building. It's not done overnight. I wish it was."
For now, it's tough times with a record no one wants looming ahead.
"Nothing's easy," Carpenter said. "I came here because I believe in the program and I can help make it better."
The Weber State women's basketball team has lost 41 consecutive games, four losses away from setting a Big Sky Conference record. Nine freshmen are part of Weber State's roster, including the team's top four scorers:
2013 • 0-21
2012 • 2-27
2011 • 7-21
2010 • 9-20
2009 • 10-19
2008 • 12-16
2007 • 17-14
2006 • 15-15
2005 • 21-8
2004 • 17-11
2003 • 21-9* *Won BSC