Chilling with CSU hoops

Jan 212002

Ever see “The Big Chill”? Few that I talk to have. Greatest ensemble cast of all time. Real future stars – Tom Berenger, Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt – all coming together to produce one of the finest films of the ’80s.

With so many stars on board, you’d think the end product might have been weighed down by all those egos – all that star power aching to shine through.

As it was, the stars checked their egos at the door. Sure, they all have their starring moments in the film. But they also know when to just be. They know their role. That’s what makes a great film.

So what, you ask?

Sitting high in my perch among the “secondary” media seating at Moby Arena on Saturday, it occurred to me that such, too, is the case with the CSU women’s basketball team.

We’re talking about a bench crammed with talent, a team where any one player is capable of scoring 20 points or hauling in 10 rebounds on any given night.

Such a team can be a coach’s dream or nightmare. Oh, it’s nice to have that kind of power at your disposal, but usually that also means handling egos and complaints over playing time.

But while head coach Tom Collen might get the occasional headache, he’s also got the perfect remedy in a team where everyone knows their role and has confidence in it.

“I said going into this season that this was the deepest team in the history of the program,” Collen said following Saturday’s victory over UNLV. “I have confidence in all of them and they have confidence in each other. That’s probably more important.”

For most teams to be successful, they have to follow the “Oompa Loompa Principle,” simply explained by a quote from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:”

“Nobody ever goes in. And nobody ever comes out.”

Usually there’s one top unit that can function at a peak level – one group that can execute the game plan to perfection. Take any one piece away, the team will take a step down.

Not the case with the Rams.

It seems Collen and his staff have recruited perfect clones in nearly every position to ensure success. They’ve had their share of injuries and hardships, but they always manage to reload.

Think of it like buying in bulk at Costco – it’s a lot harder to starve if your cupboard is always full.

Case in point: When starting point guard Jasai Ferrucho was struggling to guard UNLV’s Constance Jinks, Collen inserted freshman reserve Ashley Venekamp to handle the task.

Venekamp performed like anything but a freshman, grabbing a key defensive rebound, getting fouled and subsequently hitting two clutch free throws to seal the game.

She says she was confident. Funny thing was, her teammates were too.

“It was going in,” said junior forward Ashley Augspurger ofVenekamp’s then-pending free throw. “There was no fear.”

Augspurger keyed the Rams with her six three-pointers on Saturday. But when the Rebels D was smothering the all-conference star late in the contest, sophomore Joy Jenkins did her best Augspurger impression with a slight twist, banking in what would prove to be the game winning three.

The point of it all is the Rams don’t need a certain five players on the floor to excel.

Collen and his staff can plug in any combination of five and expect not only a competitive product, but also a superior one.

At half time, Bonnie Tyler was screeching over the loud speakers: “I need a hero!”

Don’t look for Collen to be singing a similar sentiment anytime soon. He’s already got his pick.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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