The Program’s Steady Rise Under Coach Adair
The rise of a program does not take place overnight. It can take months, and often years, to see marked improvement.
However, over the course of the 2015-16 season, the women’s basketball team went from a 4-27, 2-16 Big East team to a formidable 16-14 (9-9 Big East) squad. While a talented group of Hoyas suited up for the team over these two years, it has been Head Coach Natasha Adair at the forefront of the team’s return to prominence.
Before this past season’s turnaround — the third best such turnaround in the nation — the 2011-12 season was the last time the team posted a winning record. While the Hoyas only made the National Invitational Tournament last season, they have scratched the surface of so much more far earlier than anyone expected and look poised to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011-12.
When Head Coach Natasha Adair took over in 2014-15 as the team’s third coach in three years, the team was in need of stability to anchor the program and hoped to find that consistency in her leadership.
“The first thing you have to do when you take over a program is build trust. Through that first year and into that second year, you have the formula, and for me, it’s my whole support, starting with my administration, coaches and players,” Adair said.
Over her first two seasons, Adair has built the necessary trust with many of her upperclassmen and has been able to rely on them to lead the team on the court. Last season, senior forward Faith Woodard had the second-highest field goal percentage on the team with 43.4 percent, and senior guard Tyshell King had the highest three-point shooting percentage with 33.3 percent. The trust that Adair has built with her upperclassmen has helped them to guide the new players as well.
“My parting words to the freshmen would just be to buy into the system and don’t waste any time, because time does fly,” Woodard said. “Whatever the coaches say to do, just try to execute that. Buy into whatever they’re saying and just play basketball, have fun, because you never want to look back on your four years and regret anything.”
The team’s steady improvement would not have been possible without leaders like current seniors Woodard, King and guard Jade Martin, a luxury the Hoyas did not have in the 2014-15 season when there were no seniors on the roster. Having a group of seniors on the team provides the experience necessary to compete against top-tier programs and potentially make a deep run into the postseason.
In addition to those three seniors, Adair has also turned to other veteran players, including junior guards DiDi Burton and Dorothy Adomako and sophomore guard Dionna White for leadership.
“Dorothy, Dionna and DiDi, they have a big role in that because they’re on the floor,” Adair said. “I will tell you I meet with DiDi all the time about being that point guard, being that leader, being that voice. And just her maturation process from freshman year to junior year is amazing.”
Last season, White was named to the All-Big East Second Team and was an unanimous selection the the Big East All-Freshman Team. She led the team in minutes and was tied with Adomako for a team high average of 14.5 points per game.
Burton’s role on the team has been consistent and reliable, as she started 29 of 30 games last season. Finding leadership in younger players helps the team moving forward, as inconsistency has plagued the team in the past. For the Hoyas, consistency starts with the players, namely the seniors.
“They’re talking about the consistency and the process and they are the example of it. For them to have gone through this with me for two years now,” Adair said. “They are the culture of the program, and with that it’s just natural to speak my language, but it just gives the new players and underclassmen comfort to know that they’re being led and they’re being led by people who have gone through it. They trust them.”
The cultivation of strong leadership has aided in the rise of the program over the last two years. Last year, the women’s basketball team returned to the postseason for the first time since the 2011-12 season and were seeded fifth in the conference tournament. The Hoyas also outscored their opponents by an average of 3.1 points per game and outrebounded their opponents by an average of 5.3 rebounds per game.
After the program’s most successful year since 2012, the team looks to carry the momentum and to continue to build the program. Many of the players have high hopes for this season.
“Personal goals on the court would be a Big East championship and to go far in the NCAA tournament and play cohesive, traditional Georgetown basketball,” Martin said.
Over the last several seasons, there has been a change in the mentality of the team. The Hoyas aim to approach the season one day at a time, buying into the culture of the program.
“We talk in practice — we have to win the day, and we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves. It’s just today. Whatever today’s focus is, we want to win the day. And we are winning more days, so I’m excited because I don’t have to coach the little things,” Adair said.
With a winning culture and mentality in place, the program has not just turned around, but reached stability. Next up for Adair: national recognition.
“This is a team that wants to win the Big East. This is a team that wants to be recognized defensively in the country in national statistical categories,” Adair said. “Every day when we talk about who we are, one of our mottos this year is, ‘94 for 40.’ We want to go the full 94 feet of the basketball court, and we want to play for 40 minutes.”
For a women’s basketball team that has been beleaguered and rebuilt from the ground up, only the seasons themselves remain a challenge.
(Cover photo: Isabel Binamira/The Hoya)