Women’s basketball will kick off season tonight in exhibition

If you go to an Alabama women’s basketball game this year, you may not recognize the team in crimson.

The Crimson Tide returns to action in its first exhibition game tonight at 6:30 p.m. against Stillman.

The team is anxious to get started and prove they are better than the team that finished with a 12-19 record and fell to South Carolina in the first round of the SEC Tournament last year.

Senior Celiscia Farmer said the team could not be more excited.

“We’re just going to go out there and do what we know we can do – the things we didn’t have the opportunity to do last year due to injury,” Farmer said. “We’re ready.”

To ensure improvement this season, the Tide has taken on a few additions to the coaching staff, as well as the roster.

In the offseason, the Tide announced the addition of former Palm Beach Atlantic University head coach, Clarisse Garcia, acting as the new assistant coach. Just a few weeks later, there was another announcement of an additional three coaches; Tim Miller, Donnie Quinn and former Tide standout, Ericka Russell, as director of player development.

Miller joins the Tide after serving as the women’s head coach at Bob Jones High School in Madison, Ala. and Quinn, from just down the road at Hoover High School in Hoover, Ala.

On the court, the Tide has brought in three freshmen to liven things up: Nikki Hegstetter, Emily Davis and Jasmine Steele.

Head coach Wendell Hudson is very pleased with the fresh faces.

“Of the three freshmen coming in, Nikki, of course, is playing well for us,” Hudson said. “She’ll give us some help in the posts. Emily is really a unique player; she can shoot the basketball at her size and get a really good shot off. Then, there’s Jas, the little point guard, and now she’s excited.”

After transferring from Samford and walking on to the team, Brittany Jack adds another forward to the roster.

This season also marks the end of a redshirt season after transferring from Rutgers for point guard Daisha Simmons and forward Bree Hutchen.

Hutchen, a captain, was a bit unhappy with the preseason polls that landed the Tide very last in the SEC.

“It was just kind of funny. It was like a slap in the face, but we took it in a positive way, and we know that we’re not going to be dead last, and we accept the challenge,” Hutchen said. “We can’t wait to prove ourselves right and show that all the hard work we did over the summer is going to pay off.”

Hutchen is not the only one who feels secure in the team’s ability. Hudson said the depth in this year’s squad is something he has not had in quite some time.

Another huge issue surrounding last year’s squad was injury, but as this season quickly approaches, everyone remains healthy, including Kaneisha Horn, who was forced to sit out last year after having surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

“I think the biggest thing about this season is that we have enough players to compete in the SEC,” Hudson said. “We have enough players to compete. Last year, we got down to – health-wise – eight players. Seven players, really. But we have 14 now, and all are competing.”

The team has set aside three main goals for the season: to remain undefeated in nonconference play, to finish in the top five of the SEC and, finally, to make it to the NCAA tournament.

“This is my fifth year being the head coach at Alabama,” Hudson said, “I told Coach Moore when I took over this program, it was going to take us five years to get to where we wanted to be and to have enough SEC players to be competitive. The first three years, we got better every year; last year, with injuries, that was another story. But we’re doing it the right way with everything, and we’re headed in the right direction.”