The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
Michelle Warner seems to have good reason to be upbeat about College of San Mateo’s depth.
Entering her 15th year at the helm of CSM women’s basketball, Warner showcased said depth in Saturday’s 73-51 victory over Hartnell in the Bulldogs’ season opener. Ten different players scored in the game with the sophomore tandem of McKenna Hilton (Half Moon Bay) and Julianne Llacer (El Camino) each tabbing double-figures.
“At least half of [our players] can average double-figures. They have that potential,” Warner said.
Hilton scored a team-high 17 points while Llacer scored 13. Hartnell center Denay Sells scored a game-high 25 points.
After losing seven of their last eight games in 2013-14 en route to finishing 12-14 overall and 4-8 in Coat Conference North play, the Bulldogs retain a mostly sophomore starting five, with center Natalie Harden (Sequoia) and guard Sydney Albin (Sequoia) rounding out Saturday’s returning starters. The lone freshman starter was 5-3 point guard Megan Pham (Aragon).
“I feel like we’re very versatile and have a lot of depth,” Warner said. “I’m honestly still playing around with the starting lineup. It’s going to depend on what we’re running and who’s playing well.”
Pham — who tabbed seven points and two assists — is an academic sophomore who didn’t play basketball last season. It isn’t that she didn’t want to. She simply thought she wouldn’t be good enough to make the cut.
“I didn’t think I would make the team so I didn’t even try out,” Pham said.
Instead, Pham signed up for a basketball class on the physical education curriculum at CSM. The instructor of the class was Bulldogs football assistant head coach Larry Owens — or, as Warner refers to him, one of CSM basketball’s top talent scouts.
After getting a line on the virtual unknown from Owens, Warner began recruiting Pham. She’s turned out to be one of the best three-point threats entering into her freshman season.
During a scrimmage last month at West Hills College, Pham shot approximately 70 percent from beyond the arc. Soon thereafter she suffered a minor knee injury which kept her out of action until Saturday. Against Hartnell, she was 1-of-5 on three-point attempts. Hilton paced the team with three treys.
Warner is still mixing and matching her starting lineup though. In the final scrimmage tournament of the preseason during the last week of October, Warner utilized four different starting lineups in four games.
“I adapt to the personnel,” Warner said. “I have to because you never know what you’re going to get or who’s going to stick through. … I’ve learned to try to be flexible and run whatever style we have. I think with the numbers we have, we definitely want to put the pressure on and go full-court as much as well can, but within control.”
Enter freshmen guards Tamarra Lee and Taylor Cormier. The two rotated in from the bench Saturday and saw decent minutes. Lee scored four points while Cormier scored six while dishing out five assists.
What’s interesting in the two have flip-flopped the roles in which they excelled in high school. Lee was a point guard at San Leandro High School. Cormier ran a run-and-gun scheme as an off-guard at Mills. Now, it will be Cormier who sees a majority of minutes at the point, according to Warner.
“[Lee] can handle the ball well too, but from the games I watched, [Cormier] could push the ball really well and was used to kicking it ahead,” Warner said.
Meanwhile, Lee’s strength is her defense, Warner said.
“[Lee] is very versatile and a really good defender,” Warner said. “She can play the 1, 2 or 3. I keep wanting to put her in all positions, but I don’t want to overwhelm her too much with the offense and the plays. But I assume by next year she can be playing all three positions.”
At the post, the Bulldogs have plenty of experience. Sophomore center Liane Whipple came off the bench Saturday to score seven points. Harden scored eight. The two both served as backups last year but will be relied upon for big minutes in 2014-15.
Next up, CSM hosts Gavilan Friday at 6 p.m.