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Oct. 29, 2002

New Leadership
The Ohio State Buckeyes have new leadership for the 2002-03 season as Jim Foster takes over at the helm of the program. Foster, the seventh head basketball coach at the Ohio State University, has 24 years of experience in women’s basketball at both St. Joseph’s (Pa.) University and Vanderbilt University. Throughout his coaching career, the Abington, Pa., native has posted a 504-225 record and has made 17 postseason appearances, including one Final Four, four Elite Eight and three Sweet Sixteen trips.

Foster was most recently at Vanderbilt, where he was the head coach for 11 years and posted a 256-99 record (.721), captured three postseason SEC tournament crowns, earned his 500th career victory last season and made back-to-back NCAA Elite Eight appearances in 2001 and 2002. Foster’s entire Commodore coaching staff – Pete Gaudet, Kelley Meury and Chavonne Hammond – also will be new to the Ohio State program this year.

“With the move, each of the three coaches had their own set of circumstances that they had to resolve and work through,” Foster remarked. “We are fortunate that the opportunity for all of them to be here was viable. I did not hesitate to keep this staff together.”

Pete Gaudet, who has more than 30 years experience in the coaching profession, is in his fourth year under Foster. Gaudet began his career as a men’s assistant coach for Bentley College and worked for numerous programs, including Army, Duke and the men’s Vanderbilt squad before making the switch to women’s basketball as an assistant for Foster at Vanderbilt in 1999.

“(Gaudet) is a veteran coach with a lot of experience,” Foster stated. “He has been allowed to develop a philosophy about post play, but he is still willing to learn and adapt. That is how you stay in this business.”

Two of Foster’s former players round out the new OSU coaching staff. Kelley Meury played for Foster at St. Joseph’s and Chavonne Hammond competed at Vanderbilt.

“You want to do things a certain way,” Foster commented about his two former players turned coaches. “You want to do it the right way. When you have the opportunity to evaluate people very closely over a four-year period in a variety of different environments, you get to know them as people.”

According to Foster, Meury and Hammond both have successful futures ahead of them.

“Kelley has a very diverse background in sports and education, including two master’s degrees and a variety of different work experiences,” Foster said. “And Chavonne, who chose to forgo a professional career to get into the coaching ranks, easily made the transformation from player to coach because she has terrific people skills.”

European Tour
Foster wasted no time in his new position as a Buckeye. Ohio State was granted a unique opportunity to play together in five games this summer as they traveled and toured through Europe for 12 days. The team went 5-0 against French and Swiss teams and Foster saw it as a priceless opportunity for the team and coaching staff.

“The Europe tour allowed the group to experience real game situations in August,” Foster reflected. “It was an opportunity for the players to digest that experience and now walking into October, we have a frame of reference that would not have been there otherwise.”

Specifically, Foster saw the Buckeyes’ rebounding and shooting percentage as bright spots that surfaced in Europe.

“I thought we rebounded well,” Foster said. “It was better than we had anticipated and we also shot at a higher percentage from the field.”

The summer games also allowed Foster and his staff to prepare for pre-season conditioning and practice after observing the team in real-game situations.

“Obviously it gave us a wide range of things to work on and improve,” Foster stated. “Early game experiences put the players in a framework for success. Now they have an opportunity to work on creating strengths where there were possibly once weaknesses. Plus the games provided the players specific things to work on. We worked on some of those things initially, but game experiences have a way of helping players understand or see a picture that they didn’t see before.”

The Buckeyes held a 28-point scoring margin of victory while competing in Europe, averaging 74.4 points per game and holding opponents to 45.8 points per contest on their way to an undefeated record overseas. Courtney Coleman and LaToya Turner paced the Buckeyes abroad with an average of 15.6 and 14.6 points an outing, respectively. Sophomore Ashley Allen showed her versatility by running the point, dishing out assists and averaging 8.6 points per game, including a 16-point effort against Martigny (Switzerland). Allen also earned five assists, four steals and two rebounds in the Martigny victory.

Veteran Experience
Coming off a 14-15 season, the Buckeyes were 8-8 in conference play and 6-7 in non-conference games last year. For the 2002-03 campaign, the squad returns 11 players from the 2001-02 roster.

“I think we have core players that are going to allow us to be somewhat flexible in how we can play,” Foster claimed.

Notably, the team’s top two scorers and rebounders – seniors Courtney Coleman and D’wan Shackleford will bring veteran experience to the court. A 2002 Second Team All-Big Ten selection, Coleman led the Buckeyes in scoring (16.4 points per game) and rebounding (7.8 rebounds per game) last season. Shackleford was second on the team in both categories with 10.9 points an outing and 6.7 boards a game.

Senior DiDi Reynolds, the squad’s fourth leading scorer (9.9 ppg) and leading 3-point shooter (51-151/.338), also will add depth and experience to the Ohio State team.

Back in Action
Three Buckeye players return after being granted redshirts for the 2001-02 season – junior LaToya Turner, sophomore Caity Matter and freshman Brandee Gibbs. Additionally, junior Tanya McClure was granted a medical redshirt for the 2000-01 season and was inured the majority of the 2001-02 season.

Foster was pleased the European games allowed players who had not been in real-game situations recently the chance to compete again.

“The trip gave us an opportunity to get people in games who have not been in games in a long time,” Foster said. “There is great value to that. We were fortunate to put those players in game situations. That is something you cannot create in practice.”

A key component to the Buckeye squad is former Big Ten Freshman of the Year LaToya Turner, a junior who averaged 17.8 points per game in 2000-01 before an injury Jan. 4, 2001, against Michigan State resulted in Turner missing the remainder of her sophomore season.

In addition to Turner, sophomore Caity Matter returns to the Buckeye squad. Matter averaged 10 points an outing, including a 24-point effort in the final game, as a member of the 2002 Big Ten Foreign Tour team this summer, which earned a 5-0 record against Holland and Belgium opponents. During the 2000-01 season, Matter was a starter until an injury caused her to miss a stretch of 16 games. She averaged 6.4 points per game while shooting 44 percent from the field, 37 percent from three-point range and 88 percent from the free-throw line. Also ready to compete in her first Big Ten season, redshirt freshman Brandee Gibbs, who stands 6-feet-4-inches tall, will look to contribute to the size and strength of the Buckeye team.

Other key returning players include: junior Emily Haynam (who saw action in 25 games last year) and sophomores Ashley Allen (6.5 ppg/2.3 rpg) and Beth Howe (2.1 ppg/ 1.2 rpg).

Unfortunately, sophomore Charisse Crews (4.4 ppg/3.7 rpg) had surgery in September for an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in her right knee and her status it to be determined.

Newcomers
A pair of transfers and a pair of freshmen will be a welcome addition to the Buckeye team. Senior Erika Christenson, who transferred to Ohio State after playing two seasons at Indiana, will be eligible to play in December after fulfilling the required one year in residence. In the 2000-01 season as a Hoosier, the 6-foot-4 inch center played in all 31 games, averaged 13 minutes a contest, 4.0 points per game and ranked second on the team with a .522 shooting percentage from the field (47-90). She also tallied 103 rebounds and 21 blocks.

Another OSU transfer, Michelle Mu±oz, will be eligible to compete in the 2003-04 season. Mu±oz, the 2000 and 2001 Ohio Miss Basketball Award recipient, averaged 3.7 points in an average of 9.6 minutes of action per game for Tennessee. She was a member of Tennessee’s 2002 Final Four team that posted a 29-5 record and captured the 2002 SEC regular-season conference championship.

Rounding out the Buckeye roster are two incoming freshmen. Candace Dark, a 5-9 guard from Kingman, Ind., was a member of the 2002 Indianapolis Star All-Star team. As a senior, the two-year captain, averaged 21.1 points with her best game performance of 34 points coming against state champion North Vermillion. Kim Wilburn, a 5-6 guard from Southfield, Mich., was a Miss Basketball 2001 finalist (by the Detroit Free Press). During her tenure at Detroit Country Day, her team made four Class B finals appearances and captured two state titles. Wilburn averaged 13.5 points, 7.0 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 6.3 steals as a senior captain.

Challenging Schedule
The Buckeyes’ schedule promises to be a challenging 28-game stint, not including postseason play. Besides the always difficult Big Ten conference games, the Buckeyes will be facing 16 teams that participated in postseason play last season. Last year, the Big Ten hailed six NCAA and three WNIT qualifiers.

“I think the non-conference schedule will provide us with a broad-based look at different regions of the country,” Foster said. “Playing some significant teams from power conferences helps prepare you for postseason opportunities.”

After an exhibition game, the OSU squad will travel to Pittsburgh, Pa., to take on Duquesne Nov. 22 in the season-opener before returning home to play host to Wayne State (Detroit, Mich.) in Value City Arena at 7 p.m. Nov. 26.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, the Buckeyes will participate in the 16th Annual Coors Classic tournament (Colorado, Villanova and Hartford) at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo. Villanova will be OSU’s first challenger in the two-day tournament and Foster is looking forward to taking on a successful team.

“I think Villanova is a very difficult team to play anywhere at anytime,” Foster said. “They have a unique style of play and it will be a great early test for us.”

The Buckeyes will then travel to Wisconsin-Green Bay and Ohio University before beginning a seven-game home streak. In December, OSU plays host to Arizona, Virginia, Youngstown State and Austin Peay, plus a New Year’s Eve contest against the Wildcats of Northwestern, which will commence Big Ten conference competition. Eight conference games will be played in Columbus and eight competitions will take place on the road this season.

Post-season play will begin with the annual Big Ten tournament, which takes place March 6-10 in Indianapolis, Ind. The 2003 NCAA Final Four is April 6 and 8 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

Back to Their Roots
Two home games will be held in St. John Arena (the former home of Buckeye basketball for 23 years) this season. The first of the two contests is the Big Ten/Big XII Challenge against Texas (a 2002 Sweet Sixteen team) Jan. 5. The Buckeyes’ final regular-season game against Michigan Feb. 27 will commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the Ohio State 1993 Final Four team.

TV Time
To date, four Buckeye games will be nationally televised. The Jan. 5 Big Ten/Big XII Challenge contest against the Longhorns of Texas, which will take place in historic St. John Arena, will be televised on ESPN2. Two road games, the Jan. 16 and Jan. 19 games against Wisconsin and Northwestern, respectively, will both be broadcast on Fox Sports Net. The final home game of the season in Value City Arena against Purdue Feb. 23 will also be televised on Fox Sports Net.

In addition to national games, eight games will be broadcast locally on ONN throughout the season. These games are still to be determined and the information will be available on www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com when they are finalized.