Mike Bradbury always has the best seat in the house for University of New Mexico women’s basketball games.
That doesn’t mean he always enjoys the show.
Bradbury is preparing for his second season as the Lobos’ head coach and he fully expects the sequel to outperform the original. UNM finished 15-15 in an injury riddled 2016-17 campaign, and a depleted roster forced Bradbury’s team to abandon his preferred up-tempo style.
“Let’s be honest,” Bradbury said during a news conference at the Pit on Monday, “last season was about as boring as you can get. We had to slow it down, play a lot of zone defenses and use every trick in the book just to compete. This season won’t be like that.”
With improved depth and a roster better suited to up-tempo basketball, Bradbury is optimistic about 2017-18. UNM will have a slew of new faces with two transfers (Tesha Buck and Erica Moore) eligible and five incoming freshmen (Antonia Anderson, Madison Washington, N’dea Flye, Jaedyn De La Cerda and Jasmine Smith).
All-Mountain West guard Cherise Beynon also returns, and all three players who suffered season-ending ACL injuries (Emily Lines, Jaisa Nunn and Mykiel Burleson) are expected to be ready to start the season.
“I think we’ll have a product fans will like,” Bradbury said. “Talent won’t be a problem, we’ll be able to use 10-12 players every game and we’ll be fast. It should be fun.”
Bradbury’s state-of-the-program update coincided with a season-ticket drive for next season. Renewal information was mailed out to fans last week.
The Lobos will play 21 home games this season with marquee non-conference matchups against Marquette, Illinois, Texas Tech and New Mexico State. Fans renewing tickets by Aug. 11 will receive a rewards package that includes Lobo gear, Bradbury said.
UNM averaged 4,719 fans per home game last season, ranking first by far among Mountain West schools (Wyoming was second at 2,381 per game) and 17th nationally. Attendance was down from 2015-16, however, when UNM averaged 5,511 fans per home game to rank 11th nationally.
INJURY PREVENTION: After Lines, Nunn and Burleson went down with ACL injuries last season, Bradbury said he planned to address his team’s offseason conditioning program. He and Carla Garrett have since done that, adopting a number of exercises aimed at preventing knee injuries.
“Last season was a bitter pill for me to swallow,” said Garrett, UNM’s assistant director for athletic performance. “In seven years at Arizona and eight years of working high school, I had two ACL tears combined. Having three in one season was very shocking. Coach Bradbury knew we had to make some changes.”
Garrett said she researched “1,001” exercise regimens designed to help strengthen knees and prevent ACL injuries. She’s incorporated several.
“We’ve added some single-leg balancing exercises, single-leg jumping routines,” Garrett said, “and the returning players have adapted to them. So far, so good.”