Canadian pipeline keeps paying off for Utah women’s basketball team

Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah Utes forward Emily Potter (12) turns to shoot during second half play. Utah beat Cal 63-57, Sunday, January 15, 2017.

San Francisco • The true freshman has been teaching the senior.

The classroom topic? French lessons.

Utah’s 6-foot-5 freshman Maurane Corbin from Quebec, Canada, is adapting to being coached in a different language, learning the intricacies of Basketball 101 in English. But she also is teaching senior Tanaeya Boclair how to communicate when the language barrier breaks down.

Corbin is the latest product in a Canadian pipeline Utah women’s basketball established.

Utah has had 14 Canadian-born women’s basketball players since 1997, including school legends and future Olympians Kim Smith and Shona Thorburn. Corbin is continuing that tradition. Utah’s leading scorer and rebounder from a year ago, Emily Potter, is back and hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Utah coach Lynne Roberts spoke glowingly about the freshman, saying she expects to see significant minutes in Year 1 with the Utes.

“She’s going to be an impact player for us,” Roberts said. “She’s a freshman, but she just plays so dang hard. She’s still learning, and there’s the language barrier where she might not even know turn left, turn right, but she has a nose for the ball and plays her tail off. So she’s going to make plays, regardless.”

A keen eye on The Key

The home of the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament seems headed for a pricey, lengthy makeover. The Key Arena in downtown Seattle will undergo a renovation sometime within the next two years, according to multiple reports out of Seattle, which might leave the future of the Pac-12 women’s tournament in the air.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said at Pac-12 women’s media day Wednesday in San Francisco that the impending construction won’t affect the 2018 championship tournament (March 1 through 4).

“There could possibly be an impact for 2019, so we’re staying in close touch with them and starting to explore what our alternatives would be in any years that we could not compete at Key,” Scott said. “But we don’t have any specific plans in place at the moment.”

Key Arena has hosted the last five Pac-12 women’s basketball tournaments.

Final Four in the future?

It’s been nearly 20 years since an NCAA women’s Final Four was featured on the West Coast. And Scott said finding a way to snap that lengthening streak is a priority for himself and the conference. While the men’s Final Four was in Phoenix this spring, the last time a women’s Final Four was in the Pacific time zone was 1999 in San Jose, Calif. Denver hosted a women’s Final Four in 2012.

“We, as a conference, have gotten much more on the front foot in terms of supporting these bids,” Scott said. “We certainly see the benefit in having postseason men’s and women’s basketball tournament at different stages out here. So I’m not sure exactly where we are in the process, but it’s something we’re keenly interested in.”

Preseason coaches’ poll

The Bruins once again are considered the class of the conference.

UCLA was voted first overall in the annual Pac-12 preseason coaches’ poll for the second straight year. Stanford and Oregon tied for second place in votes. The Cardinal, which won last year’s Pac-12 tournament, received two first-place votes and return several key players from last year’s NCAA Final Four appearance, the program’s 13th overall.

Utah was voted ninth overall, receiving 40 voting points.

2017-18 PAC-12 WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACHES’ POLL <br>Team (First-place votes) • Points <br>1. UCLA (7) • 115 <br>t-2. Oregon (3) • 108 <br>t-2. Stanford (2) • 108 <br>4. Oregon State • 85 <br>5. California • 83 <br>6. Arizona State • 74 <br>7. Washington State • 61 <br>8. USC • 47 <br>9. Utah • 40 <br>10. Colorado • 38 <br>11. Arizona • 20 <br>12. Washington • 13