NEW BRITAIN - Coming off of a four-win season was a glaring sign that changes needed to be made for the CCSU women’s basketball team to find more success in its 2020-21 campaign.
After committing to a slower, more low-scoring style of play last year, interim head coach Kerri Reaves instituted a complete overhaul of the Blue Devils system. Envisioning a system that works better for her roster, Reaves has her team looking to run at all times with a much faster style of play that emphasizes hustle plays and quick passing.
“We were a pretty low scoring team last year, we scored in the low 50’s, mid-50’s,” Reaves said. “We were a little more hesitant and I just think giving the kids some freedom this year to just play and have fun. We play with not a lot of rules, there’s a lot of freedom. They’re very, very smart kids and they love to play basketball and we don’t need a lot of rules to score points the way that we do.”
The season might only be three-games old for the Blue Devils, who are 1-2 with a pair of one-possession loses, but the enhanced pace of play is making noticeable changes to their performance as they are currently outscoring last year’s team by 15.5 points per game. With nearly three weeks off after Sunday’s rematch against Fairleigh-Dickinson, CCSU can make up for the time they lost in the preseason to further learn its new schemes as they enter the heart of its schedule in January and February.
“We have high basketball IQ kids and I think they’re having more fun just running and playing and not thinking,” Reaves said. “We told them over the summer ‘we’re taking all of the thinking out of it for you, you don’t have to think, all you have to do is run and shoot the basketball,’ and a lot of them have really taken to that and hopefully more of them will moving forward.”
The decision to implement an entirely new system during this specific season made shifting styles of play even more difficult for the players as they did not have the traditional preseason and offseason work they are used to. CCSU’s already limited practice time was shortened even more because of a positive covid-19 test within the program, but the team is united in making the most of this season.
“Not having the summer session that we usually have made it really hard, but I think we’ve done a really good job,” senior guard Emma McCamus said. “We changed our culture too, we’ve changed our style of play as well. It’s just a learning experience and we’re moving in the right direction.”
The Blue Devils are starting to show glimpses of how effective their new offense can be after an 87-72 win over St. Francis Brooklyn in their season opener, highlighted by 30 points from McCamus, and early in their tightly contested game against Fairleigh-Dickinson. CCSU was vibing early in the matchup and took an 11-point lead in the second quarter anchored by strong defense and good decision making.
“When things are clicking, it goes pretty smoothly,” Reaves said. “We have a lot of people who can score in a lot of different ways. Getting fresh bodies in there a lot helps us play our up-tempo style, which I think you saw was something that we did a really, really good job of. We just have to get back to that. It’s a brand new way of playing for our team, there’s some ups and downs and we just have to make sure we stick to who we are, which is getting up and down the floor.”
In a year that has been all about adapting, the Blue Devils are fully committed to finding success in their new system. Weathering the growing pains at every turn, they are confident in their ability to continuously grow throughout the year.
“We’re a completely different team than we were last year, could not be any more different and they’ve handled everything great from beginning to end,” Reaves said. “We’re trying to build a new culture and a new style of play with basically the same team. They’ve stepped up every moment, everything we’ve asked them to do they’ve done with a smile on their face. We’re very fortunate to have the group that we have.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com