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  Sports 09/04/03
'We're ready to sweat,' new USU women's basketball coach vows

By Earl Scott

As a player Utah State women's basketball coach Raegan Scott-Pebley wasn't blessed with tremendous athleticism; she relied on intelligence and hard work to become a starter with the WNBA's Utah Starzz.

Scott-Pebley coaches her team with the same exuberance that animated her play.

"I'm a high-energy, enthusiastic coach. I'm blunt and to the point with my players," Scott-Pebley said. "It takes maturity on the player's part to understand what we are trying to coach and instill in them."

She wants players who can grasp her "up-tempo, push-the-ball-up-the-court style." But she doesn't want to race just for the sake of racing.

"We don't want to run just to run the ball up the court, we want to do it intelligently," Scott-Pebley said. "I want the team to anticipate where the ball will be on offense and defense."



Raegan Scott-Pebley on her two favorite NBA players:

"I respect how hard they work in the off season. They're always ready to play. Karl Malone is hard-nosed and Reggie Miller hustles like a 20-year-old. I like that type of player."

Legendary coach John Wooden, who won 10 NCAA men's basketball titles while coaching at UCLA, described the women's game as "the only true basketball left," Scott-Pebley said. Fans who enjoy a gritty, hustling, hard-nosed style of basketball will enjoy watching the Aggie women play, she said.

"Fans shouldn't compare women's basketball to men's basketball," Scott-Pebley said. "They are two different types. . . . Women's basketball should be enjoyed for what it is: a hustling, pure form of the game." Women's basketball relies more on set plays, ball movement and anticipation, she said, while the men's game typically is more physical and unscripted.

Coach Scott-Pebley has recruited half her team from Utah. She plans to continue recruiting players from within the state hopes to sign some Idaho players as well next year. Utah and Idaho high school girls play a very high level of ball, Scott-Pebley said.

Ali Aird (Bountiful), Jessica Freeman (St. George), Stephanie Grant (Orem), Tracee Kennington (Salt Lake City), Tiffany Peterson (Orem) and Brittany Tressler (Orem) are the homegrown players on this year's roster hard at work preparing for the upcoming season -- the first for women at USU in nearly 16 years.

The players from out of state are just as motivated.

"It has been my dream to play Division I basketball my whole life," said Christina Zdenek, a 5-foot-8 freshman guard from West Hills, Calif. "I can't wait for the season to start."

Scott-Pebley has not set goals for the team this year. "We want to meet as a staff and team to create a vision for the season together," she said. "If the team sets their own goals, it's easier to get them to buy into working together to achieve those goals."

This year's team averages 5 feet, 10 inches, which is good-sized for Division I women's basketball. Scott-Pebley is 6-foot-4, which is "on the tall side" for a female basketball player, she said.

And in response to the obvious question, she replied, "No, I can't dunk a basketball."

"When I was playing I could touch the rim, but I can't now. I just had a baby." Smiling, she added that maybe she still could.

Scott-Pebley is proud of the 3.2 GPA the team averaged last year in college and high school classrooms. "We will maintain a high degree of academic success," she said.

USU's incoming freshmen athletes have an 80 percent graduation rate, ranking the university in the top 10 nationwide, according to USA Today. Scott-Pebley said and she will do her best to maintain that record.

"Academics are very important; neither the coaches nor myself tell the players what degree program to enter," Scott-Pebley said. "It's our job to coach, not to decide their future for them. As a staff, the USU women's basketball coaches are going to stress academics as a priority with the players; that's really why they are here," she said.

Scott-Pebley and the team plan to be active members in the community. Last week, her team participated in a game with Special Olympics athletes.

"It's important to give something back," she said. "I have a family member with Down's syndrome, so I understand why it's important for the team to be involved with programs like the Special Olympics."

Coach Scott-Pebley invites everyone who enjoys entertaining, hustling, hard-nosed basketball to come to the Spectrum and support the team in its season opener against Southern Utah at 8 p.m. Nov.21. "We're ready to sweat," she said.