After winning consecutive Western State Conference-Southern Division championships and reaching the Elite Eight in the 2014 state playoffs, the Los Angeles Valley College women’s basketball team might have been due for a down season in 2014-15.
That doesn’t mean the Monarchs had to like it. Least of all Monica Hang. Last season’s 14-15 overall record (and fourth place finish in conference play) was “really difficult” for The Monarchs’ head coach.
“I do like to win,” she said. “But I had to be patient.”
Hang eventually realized last season required one important necessity from her and assistants Rafael Camacho and Sandy Perry to get their young team back into contention.
“That’s really my job. And I’ve seen [the players] grow from the first day they got here,” Hang said.
Ultimately, wins and losses became negligible in the grand scheme of things. Last season the Monarchs, as a group, were collectively greener than their team colors. It showed constantly on the court as the team struggled to gel.
“We were getting better toward the end of the season,” Hang said. “They just needed more experience.”
Hang, understandably, expects better things for 2015-16. She said the majority of the roster is athletic, and in some ways reminds her of the 2013 conference champions. “We’re fast. We can get up and down the court very quickly. I just need to keep teaching them smart basketball. But they work very hard. I’m really excited. We have goals this year.”
They include winning the Southern Division again, qualifying for the state playoffs again, and having a shot at winning it all. The season starts Nov. 19, with LAVC playing in the Orange Coast Crossover Tournament in Costa Mesa.
There are seven returning players; three who shoulder the heaviest expectations are sophomores Diana Flores, Sydney Hua, and Adaora Obi.
All three are captains. They could also be defined as the brains, the skills and the heart of Monarchs basketball.
Hua, the point guard, runs the offense and keeps the others involved. Obi, a forward, was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder a year ago and has received a few offers from Division I teams. Flores is a quintessential type of player for Hang, one who may not have the greatest tools when she first arrived on campus, but through hard work and perseverance is a much better player when she leaves the program.
“Adaora was an all-conference player,” Hang said. “Sydney was honorable mention last year but she’s going to be one of the best point guards in the state; for her size (5-2) she can do so much. Diana has worked very hard, and she should be one of our top five players.”
The trio is happy to put 2014-15 behind them and share in Hang’s optimism.
“We expect to be more acquainted with everything,” said Hua, a 3.8 honor student who desires to become a physical therapist. She averaged 10.8 points and 5.4 assists, and also grabbed 7.5 rebounds in spite of her 5-foot-2 size.
“We know the plays, we just have to execute. Now we’re veterans of the court, so as a group we should be more disciplined. This year we’re working on being more consistent.”
Flores, a forward who measures 5-feet-8 and is interested in business, expects to surpass her averages from last year of 3.6 points and 5.5 rebounds. But it wasn’t all about physical improvement.
“I had to work on my mentality,” she said. “I’d never had a coach who was so disciplined and had high expectations. This was the most structured system I’d played in. I had to adjust to actually doing plays and the little details. I had to fix my shot., which was ‘ugly’ according to Coach Hang.
“But I finally started to feel comfortable this summer. Last year I was breaking my ‘comfort zone.’ Now I have a different level of confidence. I know I have to be one of the leaders, showing what Coach wants, so everyone else will follow and be easier for all of us.”
Obi, who is 5-feet-9 and is considering bio-chemistry, averaged 16 points and 11.1 rebounds as a freshman. She should draw more defensive attention this year from opposing coaches. But, she stressed, she won’t be the team’s lone scoring option.
“I feel I don’t have to do anything really different, that [the offense] is going to open up for the rest of my teammates,” Obi said. “ Sydney’s going to get more shots, Diana’s going to get more shots. If people double-team me, that means someone else is open. I’m confident they’ll hit the shot.”
Obi is eager to see how improved the Monarchs are. “I feel we have a lot of potential this year,” she said. “We’re athletic, we’re fast, all the sophomores are coming back, we’re experienced. I feel we’ll have a better team.”
Hua agrees. “Last year Coach was more patient with us because she knew most of us weren’t used to her coaching techniques and we had to get used to what she wants. She had to teach more than yell at us. This year she should yell because we should know what we’re doing.”
Flores, Hua and Obi can’t do it all by themselves. Hang said she is expecting contributions from newcomers like sophomore Karina Moreno, a transfer guard from Glendale College — “she brings speed and quickness, and is very tough,” Hang said — and Diamond O’Connor, a 5-8 freshman combo guard/forward from Panorama High. “She’s very athletic. I expect her to be one of the real leaders by next year,” the coach said.
Two other freshmen — Yolanda Early and Baylee Thomas — have also opened eyes at practice.
What remains to be seen is if the Monarchs can open eyes again in their conference.