I think we finally have all the pieces that we need to click. Our freshman this year, yeah, they’re freshman, but their work ethic is great. I feel like we have a good base of upperclassmen who know the system. —Tanaeya Boclair
SALT LAKE CITY — The year of wet cement.
That’s how Utah head women’s basketball coach Lynne Roberts referred to the third season of leading a program, an analogy that elicited laughs and questions as she offered it during the Pac-12 Media Day Wednesday in San Francisco.
“This is the third program I’ve taken over,” said Roberts. “Year three, I like to describe as wet cement. You’ve poured your foundation. You don’t want to step in it too soon, but I think we’ve laid the foundation, and now we’ve got to let it dry a little bit and keep building. I’m definitely more comfortable.”
In fact, the native of Northern California said returning the Bay Area for Wednesday’s media event was the first time she’d felt like a visitor in the area.
“I feel like Salt Lake is home,” she said. “I love it there. It definitely feels like my program now.”
Utah was voted No. 9 in the Pac-12's preseason poll. UCLA was voted No. 1 for the second season in a row, while Colorado, Arizona and Washington were ranked No. 10, 11 and 12.
Utah senior Emily Potter, who led the team in scoring and rebounding last year, said the transition isn’t just challenging to a new coach trying to transform a program.
“It’s been a process, and I think coach said last year, the second year is always hardest,” Potter said. “I think it was. I think we’re ready to make a jump this year.” Potter said Roberts and her coaching staff put the players at ease while trying to create their own culture at Utah, a program with a lot of success historically, but that has struggled in the Pac-12.
“I definitely have to thank coach Rob for letting us take our time during the transition,” Potter said. “I think it’s hard. They didn’t recruit us. They were given us, but they did a really good job trying to find out what we’re good at. She’s going to put me in a spot to be successful, and I’m excited to play in this new offense we have this year. I think it will really showcase our talent.”
Senior Tanaeya Boclair also represented Utah at the event and she said she thinks the Utes now have the foundation and the structure for success.
“I think we finally have all the pieces that we need to click,” she said, noting they have always lacked some key component in the past. “Our freshman this year, yeah, they’re freshman, but their work ethic is great. I feel like we have a good base of upperclassmen who know the system.”
The fact that the culture is now engrained in the older players allows them to “progress faster than we have any other season before.”
Potter said the team’s trip to Italy this summer created an atmosphere that will lead to better on-court chemistry.
“It feels like we’re mid-season team-wise,” Potter said.
Potter led the team in rebounds and points, and she’s just 10 blocks away from Utah’s all-time block record. But she also led the team in fouling out of games. That has to change this season, she said, if they want to achieve their potential.
“I think I just need to trust my abilities on defense,” Potter said. “I am bigger, obviously, than a lot of the girls. I need to trust that I can defend if I move my feet and work towards it. I know I need to stay in the game for my team.”
Roberts said that there is only one way to reduce fouls.
“I don’t know that you can practice not fouling,” she said. “You have to choose, in that moment, to be disciplined and not foul.”
Boclair said the seniors hope to leave their mark on the program this year.
“What we want to do is work hard and achieve full potential,” she said. “For me and Potter and all of us seniors, our main focus has been leaving it all on the court.”