Lindsey Thall hasn’t finished her first season of collegiate basketball at Kent State, but already feels she has found a balance between the pressures of college classes and the pressures of college basketball.
“It’s been a lot different,” Thall said. “It’s a lot more intense with the academics, and the amount of traveling and practice we have, but once you get into a flow it’s not too bad.”
When it comes to making the adjustment from high school to college basketball, Thall isn’t alone. The Kent State women’s basketball team currently has five freshmen, making them a comparatively young team in the Mid-American Conference. Akron, for example, only has three freshmen on the roster.
Adjusting to college basketball also means adjusting to college, something freshman guard Asiah Dingle has had to adjust to.
“It’s very different, college life,” Dingle said. “I have to fend for myself.”
Despite all of this change swirling around the freshmen, the upperclassmen have been impressed by how well they've adjusted to the college game.
“I never step on the floor and feel like I’m playing with a bunch of freshmen,” junior guard Ali Poole said. “I step on the floor and feel like I’m playing with a bunch of veterans.”
The freshmen also have high praise for the upperclassmen, all of them mentioning how helpful it has been to have them to look up to.
“Our older girls have a lot of experience under their belt,” Thall said. “I'm able to learn a lot from them every day, whether it's how to deal with school and basketball or what we're actually doing on the court.”
Based on the number of points the freshmen are putting up, the advice seems to be working.
Going into the weekend of Feb. 16, 44 percent of the 1466 points the Flashes have scored were scored by freshmen, a fact head coach Todd Starkey hasn’t missed.
“We talk about the youth and the freshmen, but it's true,” Starkey said. “We're having freshmen contribute major minutes.”
Those “major minutes” have helped contribute to the 14 wins the Flashes have racked up this season. Despite this, the Flashes still feel there's room for improvement.
“I think our highs are really good. When we’re playing well and clicking on all cylinders, we can be pretty good,” assistant coach Mike McKee said. “And then there’s times, because we do play a lot of freshmen, that we look a little disjointed out there. It’s a process, we just want to trend upwards the whole season.”
The Flashes have won three of their last four games, with freshmen making big contributions in seemingly every game. In their 77-73 win over Bowling Green on Saturday, 37 of their points came from first year players. Dingle finished with 21 points while Thall scored 12.
It might appear that Kent State is “trending upward,” but they're not satisfied yet. The freshmen aren’t either.
“I honestly don't think we’ve put together our best overall game yet,” Thall said. “I think that helps just getting us closer, because we're striving for that, and everybody has the same goal in mind.”
Gina Butkovich is a sports reporter. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.