In her first season at Boston College, new head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee coached the BC women’s basketball team to their best record since 2015, and helped the team to double their winning total from last season. We talked to Coach McNamee about her first season at BC and what she sees for the future of the team.
When she joined the team last summer, Coach McNamee was “surprised they weren’t in better shape” and knew she had her work cut out for her as she set to work building the women’s basketball program back up.
Over the past year, Coach McNamee notes that not only have the players gotten stronger and faster, but that they have grown to understand “how important it is to put time in on their own and to go above and beyond to do more.” She credits team leaders like Taylor Ortlepp and Emma Guy, who are “tired of losing and want to absorb everything the coaching staff has to offer,” with helping to change the team culture by example.
“They’ve been in the gym on their own,” said McNamee, “and they understand that we won’t become great unless we put in the time.”
This extra time in the gym has already helped BC’s consistency, and Coach McNamee expects that improvement to continue next season, with hopes that they players will get better at responding when games get tough.
Coach McNamee also sees this squad continuing to improve because of the closeness that the players have.
“I think they were surprised by how much they really liked each other,” McNamee observed, “we want them to be a family off the court so they’ll do anything for their sisters on the court.”
McNamee acknowledged that this season was tough, particularly at the end with BC going 2-14 in conference play.
“I couldn’t have gotten through the losing with any other group of players,” she told BC Interruption, “the hope stayed alive all year because they believe in each other.”
In addition to Guy and Ortlepp, McNamee thinks fans should watch out for Taylor Soule (“a strong natural athlete who just needs to mature”) and Makayla Dickens (“she’ll show a big jump in skill as her mental focus continues to improve”). In terms of new players, McNamee expects transfer Cameron Swartz (“a dynamic player”) and freshmen Akunna Konkwo (“an inside force that will help to take pressure off of Guy”) and Jaelyn Batts (“a little raw but very athletic”) to step up next season.
As for Boston College itself? While the job of turning this team around is a tough one, Coach McNamee loves her new home.
“I really like the closeness of the athletic department - all the students athletes support each other and are friends. It allows kids to broaden their circles because they all go to each others games, and they’re impressed with each other.”