Hard at Work: Practice Makes Perfect for Women’s Hoops

November 6, 2015

Freddy Rosas

Wander into McDonough Arena on a weekday afternoon and you’ll hear sneakers squeaking on hardwood, hands clapping together, and booming voices echoing across an otherwise empty gymnasium. Move further inside and you’ll find a group of women quickly zigging and zagging across the floor and spiraling basketballs piercing through white, nylon nets.

At this point, you would probably jump to the conclusion that the phenomenal display of skill you are observing is a Georgetown women’s basketball practice, and you would have no reason to believe otherwise—that is, you would have no reason to believe otherwise until 15 minutes later when second-year head coach Natasha Adair walks into the arena.

That’s when you realize you weren’t watching practice; practice is only just about to start. You were watching what team members do every single day before practice.

“They just want it,” said Coach Adair at the team media day last week. “As a coach, you come in and they’re already there. They’re on the baseline, and they’ve been there for 15 or 20 minutes getting shots up.”

Amazed by what you’re seeing on the floor, you stick around to see what the Hoyas do during their official practice. The team starts drills, and you see one concept being stressed: defense. Over half the practice is dedicated to it, and that very word, “defense” is on everyone’s lips. From the head coach to coaching staff to the star players, all the way to the last player on the bench, the defensive mantra does not rest.  

The team runs through defensive schemes, some of which are similar to last year’s and some of which are drawn up by newly added assistant coach James Howard. Their rotations are sharp and their communication is on-point.

Then you see a small lapse—nothing big but a half-step too slow here, or a half-second too slow there. Immediately, senior forward Ki-Ke Rafiu, runs over to coach Adair. They have a quick exchange, nod, and Rafiu huddles the team up.

“Ki-Ke has a great basketball mind, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one day she was a coach,” said Coach Adair. “Because she just has the right mannerisms, she knows how to talk to each player.”

Rafiu talks in the huddle for a moment, the team breaks, and they come out of the huddle even sharper and crisper than before. Still stressing defense, two players, numbers 11 and 44, stand out impressively. You glance at an online roster on your phone and you’re surprised to see that these players, Dionna White and Jodi-Marie Ramil, are only freshmen. It seems like each time you look up White is stealing the ball, as she did 11 times in one game during the Hoya’s summer exhibition trip to Italy and France this August, and Ramil provides support—both athletically and vocally—rarely seen from a freshman.

A few minutes later, the team switches over to focusing on more offensively-based drills, and you find this year’s scheme is new.

“[Our offense] is more of a motion this year,” said Adair, who will be the first head coach this season’s seniors will have for two consecutive seasons.” It’ll keep the defense on-guard, and we want to tire [our opponents] out.”

Another player who shines brightly is sophomore guard Dorothy Adomako. Last year, she used her inside ability to score a team-leading 13.1 points per game en route to earning Big East Freshman of the Year and Preseason All-Big East honors. But this season, in addition to that skillset, Adomako also sports an impressive mid-range and outside game.

“She’s shooting the ball at a very high clip,” said Coach Adair. “Where she was more of a slasher and driver, now she’s shooting the three too.”

You also take notice of senior guard Katie McCormick, sporting a very impressive jump shot. Her precision from the outside racked up a team-best 53 three-point field goals during 2014-2015.

Alongside McCormick is the teammate she’s played with since the age of 12, Logan Battle. She also can clearly deliver from the perimeter, but it seems if you look away for a split second, she’ll be playing another position equally well by the time you look back. The two combined to make a potent duo.

“Katie is the ultimate competitor… I want her to have a good senior year; she deserves it,” said Coach Adair. “[And Logan] is just that kid who can play every position, she can defend every position, and she has one of the highest basketball IQs of anyone I’ve ever been around.”

The firepower you witness from the outside is impressive, but equally so is what you see down low. senior forward Dominique Vitalis, last year’s second-highest scorer, is tough as nails on the inside, and it clearly pays dividends in the form of points.

“[Dominique] is another person I think is going to have a great year,” said Coach Adair. “She finishes around the rim.”

Practice continues, and you see juniors Faith Woodard and Jade Martin along with sophomore Yazmine Belk  ripping down rebounds and converting them into points at high rates as well.

And the impressive execution doesn’t stop there. Jasmine Jackson, a grad student who returned to Georgetown, is clearly on a mission to finish what she started. So too do juniors Tyshell King and Mykia Jones and sophomore DiDi Burton, who are looking to build off their success from last season.

“I want to play them all,” said Coach Adair. “They’ve all earned that right. They’re working.”

When you glance up at the clock you suddenly realize how much time has passed, and practice is ending. But disappointed as you are that the Hoyas ’athletic display is complete for the day, you look forward to their first game —6 p.m. on November 13 at Maryland Eastern Shore. A few days later they play their home opener at McDonough, on November 18 at 7 p.m. against Virginia Tech.

They’ll see you there.


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