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Lady Bears coach seespromise in youthful squad

Nov. 12, 1999

By CHEYCARA LATIMER

Contributor

With an 11-member squad, four upperclassmen and seven returners, the Lady Bears basketball team is looking forward to a winning season.

'We may be young and short in numbers, but that is coming together,' head Coach Sonja Hogg said

Hogg began her collegiate coaching career at Louisiana Tech University in 1974. She led the Techsters to six consecutive Final Four appearances and two national championships. Like any other collegiate coach, one of her goals is to take the Lady Bears to the NCAA tournament.

Before Hogg arrived, barely 625 people attended games, but since she's been here, the announced crowd averages between 2,500 and 3,100 fans per game. In her fourth season, more than 10,000 witnessed the 1998 Women's National Invitational Tournament championship game against Penn State of the Ferrell Special Events Center.

'If it wasn't for her, we wouldn't have as many fans at the stadium,' redshirt freshman Hilary Akromis said.

Going into her sixth season, Hogg has a 76-71 record and has won 383 games, including her time at Louisiana Tech. She admits wins will be hard to come by with her new team, but added the group has a lot if can build on. And, the building blocks are the three returning players.

* Nicole Collins, a sophomore guard, will run the offense this season. She toured with the Big 12 All-Star team this summer and competed in Europe. She led that team in assists and steals

'She came out with lots of experience,' Hogg said. 'She has also stepped up her game.'

* Danielle Crockrom, a sophomore forward, made her debut last season as a true freshman. She finished the season shooting 52 percent from the field and 65 percent from the free-throw line. Even though she contributed to the team last season, Hogg said she has seen even more improvement in Crockrom's game.

'If she wants to get better she has to stay focused,' Hogg said. 'But the sky is the limit.'

* Mandy Hayworth, a senior guard, is one of the upperclassmen on the team. The only other senior is Nichelle Boutte. Hogg said Hayworth had her best game last season against the University of Nebraska.

'We would not have beaten Nebraska without her,' Hogg said. 'It was her most outstanding game.'

Two freshmen and a junior college transfer are the newcomers for the Lady Bears, and Hogg said their youthful tenacity will add to the squad.

* Michelle Neely, a junior post from Grayson County Community College, went to Plano High School in the Dallas area.

* Stasha Richards, a freshman forward from Houston, also has ability, Hogg said.

'This is a great group, on and off the court,' Hogg said. 'They want to win and we'll take our lumps, but the chemistry is there and we'll be fine.'

Like Hogg, the players have said they make an effort to be good friends after game time.

'That's the reason I came to Baylor,' Akromis said. 'I was looking for a family team like this one. They're sincere.'