Texas Tech women’s basketball coach Candi Whitaker has had a crazy week.
On Sept. 23, Whitaker gave birth to her son and Wednesday morning Lady Raider basketball had its first official practice.
“I’m very blessed to have the opportunity here at Tech to come back and be a part of this program and lead this program,” Whitaker said. “There’s nothing better than bringing a child into this world. When you’re a coach, it’s a lifestyle. It’s not really a job. He’ll be with us quite a bit.”
During the first official practice of the season, it was obvious that Whitaker and company will be without senior forward Kelsi Baker for the foreseeable future and possibly the entire season.
“I don’t think I’ll be playing this year,” Baker said. “I ruptured my Achilles during conditioning in the summer.”
Baker started 30 games during a 21-10 season, averaging 10.6 points and 5.6 rebounds.
With her foot in a boot, Baker helped the coaches during drills, answered questions from her teammates and rode a stationary bike.
Texas Tech will seek a medical redshirt for Baker.
“We’ll have her back for next year if she’s unable to come back this year,” Whitaker said of Baker. “(I’m) excited for the opportunity to have her around our program for the next two years if that’s the outcome.”
Ivonne Cook-Taylor and Minta Spears, both redshirt freshmen guards, know what it’s like to sit out for a season. They return this year after sustaining anterior cruciate ligament injuries in 2012.
“There’s nothing like having to sit on the end of the bench and watch your team play,” Spears said. “You can cheer them on and stuff, but you can’t go out and play. I’m really excited about that and I just want to take that feeling with me this year and take advantage of every situation that I can.”
Baker has always been a source of encouragement for her team but realizes that role will be important this year, especially with five newcomers.
“That was my job before I got hurt so I’m going to take that even more serious now,” Baker said. “It’s my job to see the things that they can’t see and help them in every aspect that I can.”
Without Baker’s presence down low, the Lady Raiders will rely on three players, seniors Shauntal Nobles (2.5 points per game, 3.5 rpg) and Haley Schneider (1.1 ppg, 0.7 rpg) and sophomore Kellyn Schneider (1.6 ppg, 1..3 rpg).
Junior college transfer Audrisa Harrison worked out with the forwards during the first practice of the season as well.
Of the eight guards listed on the roster, half of them are freshmen.
Every player lost to graduation was a guard.
That leaves players like junior Amber Battle (3.0 ppg) in a transition from coming off the bench to playing a significant role.
“My role has changed a lot coming from the bench to now being one of the most important players,” Battle said. “(I need to) just be a leader, talk more to my teammates, be more aggressive and score.”
At the end of the first official practice, Whitaker gathered the team at half court and presented Battle with a stuffed Raider Red.
“It’s just our practice player of the day,” Whitaker said. “It’ll be peer related from here on out unless I need to help them with that decision. I think it’s a great way to recognize someone who practices hard and works extremely well. I think we have to emphasize that, someone who shows up every day and gets to work.”
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