Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bozzella: "We want consistency" entering third year at Seton Hall

Two 20-win seasons and an NCAA Tournament appearance have resurrected Seton Hall women's basketball, but Tony Bozzella is eager to remain consistent in delivering results. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)

Those who truly are perfectionists at what they do will stay determined to prove their worth when they get a chance. After showing their skills in a short time period, while some may be content to rest on the laurels, those who strive to be the best will find ways to improve on a hot start, concepts and ideas that will make the ascent to the top seem like a mere escalator ride compared to the work put into maintaining their status at an elite level.

Tony Bozzella falls into the latter category, and if you failed to take notice in his first year at Seton Hall following an eleven-year run at Iona; a season in which the Pirates advanced to the quarterfinals of the WNIT, you were certainly not taken by surprise several months ago when the 49-year-old guided his alma mater to a 28-6 record laced with a regular season Big East championship and subsequent NCAA Tournament berth.

But that was just the beginning of the budding women's basketball dynasty in South Orange. Now, the goals of the fully awakened giant in South Orange boil down to one word as Bozzella enters his third campaign at the helm.

"We want consistency," the perennially enthusiastic and impassioned coach proclaimed when assessing his goals for the encore to what will go down as one of, if not the, most successful of seasons in program history. "That doesn't mean we're going to go 28-6, but we just want an opportunity of being successful enough to put ourselves in the at-large consideration, which is what we got last year. We're still in the infancy stages, but we are getting more consistent with the higher level of recruits that are looking at us, and I think we're going to be a very good team again this year. I'll be disappointed if we're not a contender for a regular season title."

Last year's senior-laden group is an irreplaceable quartet, led by MBWA Player of the Year Ka-Deidre Simmons, who spent time with the Connecticut Sun during the WNBA exhibition season; as well as Daisha Simmons, the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Yet as four of the Pirate mainstays have graduated, that is not to say that the core of the team is nonexistent. In fact, four more seniors return this coming season, with the most integral being sharpshooting wing Tabatha Richardson-Smith, whose growth over the past two years is yet another enduring example of Bozzella's unmatched player development.

"This is a challenge for her," Bozzella said of the senior season for his leading scorer from a year ago, as Richardson-Smith averaged nearly 18 points per game. "I think, as an offense, we have to do a better job of making sure Tab is the No. 1 option, of getting her free, of setting her up. We really never did that in the past, because so much focus was on Didi and Daisha. Now with the focus being on Tab, we'll have to do a better job ourselves; as a staff and as players, of setting her up, and we will."

Making the transition to lead scorer easier for Richardson-Smith will be one of two transfers for the Pirates this season, point guard Aleesha Powell, who spent two years as the hub of Bozzella's offense at Iona before transferring to reunite with him, and possesses an innate knowledge of how to run the Pirates' uptempo attack.

"She's been through the wars of playing against Didi and Daisha every single day in practice," Bozzella said of Powell in addition to her experience against powerhouse programs the likes of Marist while at Iona. "She held her own against some of the best guards in the country, and I think that's going to help. She understands what we want from her. Anytime you shoot 43 percent from three, have a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, and defend the way she did, I don't care if you play in a playground, that's going to help."

Although personnel may dictate that Seton Hall will again be a contender on paper, predictions only go so far, and as Bozzella reiterated, it all boils down to consistency, which he illustrated further by using conference rival St. John's as an example.

"We want to achieve the level of success that St. John's did," he boldly stated. "Kim, (Barnes Arico) and now, Joe, (Tartamella) have done a wonderful job of resurrecting a program that was just awful into a program that is now a perennial national contender. They showed they're a consistent program. That's our goal."

"We're certainly nowhere near the success St. John's has yet," he added, "but if we could post together another good year, I think we'll have made a significant step forward on that."

No comments:

Post a Comment