The UTEP women’s basketball team was picked second in the 2012-13 Conference USA Preseason Poll, as voted upon the league’s 12 head coaches. Additionally, junior forward Kayla Thornton was tabbed to the all conference preseason team.
“Preseason polls are great for the fans but at the end of the day they don’t mean anything,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “We have a lot of work to do in order to be ready for the season. I have a lot of respect for everyone in Conference USA, and we will have to be ready to play every time out.
“It is a great honor for Kayla. It reflects what she did for us last year. We need her to be a leader for us this year, along with the rest of the returnees.”
UTEP will prep for its 39th season of basketball when it challenges St. Mary’s (TX) in an exhibition game Nov. 3. The Miners will then tip it off in earnest when they play host to Loyola Marymount Nov. 10.
Senior F Anete Steinberga (5.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.8 apg) junior F Kayla Thornton (9.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 0.9 apg, 1.1 spg) & junior G Kelli Willingham (7.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg & 2.7 apg) return as starters from last year's C-USA regular season & tournament championship team (29-4, 15-1, C-USA).
Including the three starters, there are seven returning letterwinners. Sophomore guards Syerra Davis (1.1 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 0.1 apg) Jenzel Nash (5.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg & 0.9 apg) & Chrishauna Parker (5.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.1 apg) & senior F Kristine Vitola (5.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg) return from last year. Also back is sophomore walk-on G Marissa Rodriguez.
Six of the top seven scorers & four of the top-five rebounders from a year ago are back in the fold. Seven newcomers are on board (five true freshmen & two transfers)
UTEP did lose seven seniors to graduation, which was the largest class in program history. Headlining that group was 2012 C-USA Tournament MVP & second-team all C-USA honoree Gloria Brown, who paced the Miners in blocked shots (97), free throws made (102), attempted (125), percentage (.816), field-goal percentage (.527), points per game (12.1) and rebounds per contest (8.8).She did her work of the bench, and repeated as the C-USA 6th Player of the Year.
Kim Smith (2.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.8 apg) & Erika Warren (5.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.2 apg) both started for the Miners last year while Baiba Eglite (1.6 ppg, 0.3 rpg, 0.4 apg), Briana Green (2.9 ppg, 1.1 rpg & 1.1 apg), Whitney Houston (1.4 ppg, 0.1 rpg, 0.5 apg) & Melisa Mendes (4.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.7 apg) joined Brown in doing their work after entering from the pine.
Tulane was selected as the favorite to win the league while Rice’s Jessica Kuster was chosen as the preseason player of the year.