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The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

Bilderback’s takeaways from first year at helm

Courtesy ULM Athletics

Question: What does this season mean to you?

Answer: It’s been really a historic season in a lot of ways. It’s our first year as a staff, and we had a lot of new faces at ULM. More than anything, [I have] a lot of gratitude to the community, our players, for the time and effort put into the season that we had. We had great support all year. Our players really worked hard all season. I’m just really thankful that they were able to see some success.

Q: What did the buy-in from the community do for the team?

A: Women’s basketball is definitely on the rise in general. I think we had one game where we had over 3,000 people here, the Troy game. To have that support here at ULM was really special.

Q: What goals did the team meet and what goals did the team not meet?

A: I think the biggest ones that we met were: one, we wanted to have a winning season. We wanted to have an opportunity to compete for a Sun Belt championship. We were very close. We fell a little bit short. I thought we were right there, maybe two to five possessions away. 

Obviously, beating Louisiana Tech for the first time in a really long time. We had a top five finish in the Sun Belt. We were picked 11th preseason. Overall, just a lot of really cool accomplishments.

Q: How did you and the team overcome the expectation of failure?

A: I think a big part of it was just our players had their own individual mind of what they expected for the season. They didn’t want anything that has happened in the past to affect what could happen for us in the present, right? And so they believed in themselves and believed that we were better than maybe what was predicted. 

And we still have an opportunity, I think there’s a really good chance we may get a post-season bid, which will be the first time in 30 years ULM women’s basketball has had a chance to play in the post-season, so we should hear on that Sunday. That’s something that we’re hoping for to maybe play a few more games with this bunch.

Q: Who were some impact players this season, and how did they impact the team?

A: Nunu led us in most statistical categories, but she was fantastic all year. Her leadership and her ability to just carry our team in some situations was fantastic. Katelyn Manuel, Jakayla Johnson, Sania Wells, Lauren Gross, Bri Harris— they were all really, really good as well offensively. I think that balance made us really dangerous because different people could step up at any time. I’m just really proud of that overall effort from everyone.

Q: The team excelled in the turnover stat. Does that result come from discipline or talent?

A: I think so much of that, it speaks to the talent of the players that we have. Sania Wells was our point guard for most of the year. Nunu and her split that at times. Sania Wells does a really good job of getting others involved and doesn’t turn the ball over a whole lot. Experience level and also talent level made our job easy as far as being able to protect the basketball and not giving people easy opportunities for sure.

Q: Where does the team look from here?

A: We’ll lose great players. We’ll lose five seniors, so we’ll have to replace them. Having Jakayla Johnson and Katelyn Manuel back is a great start. They were two kids who were really good this year. And we’ve already gotten a transfer, Meloney Thames, from Mississippi State. That’s a really nice player that will be with us as well. 

We’ve had a chance to establish a culture and what we want to do as a program and set that tone in year one. I’ll forever be grateful for those seniors and their impact they had in just one season. But I am excited about the future and what can be built here for sure.

Q: Who do you want to be for the seniors leaving ULM?

A: I hope that I’m always someone they can look back. One, [I hope they] have enjoyed their experience at ULM. Two, I feel like with these players, I’ll always be in their life. There are really strong relationships and bonds there, and they know I’ll always be a phone call away. We hope to keep them in our program as alumni. These kids are family, and we’re all very appreciative of them choosing ULM. For that, we’ll always be there for them.

Q: Where do priorities shift at this point in time?

A: We have to catch up. We were on the road; our schedule was brutal. We were on the road for four of the last five weeks of the season. So right now, we’re hoping for a WNIT bid, a post-season bid. And if we have an opportunity to do that, I feel like we’ll take it and just to have an opportunity to continue to play together. We love our team so much. 

We’ve given them off pretty much this whole week to regroup and catch up. We want everyone to finish strong and graduate. For those that are moving on, graduating and moving onto the next phase of their life, and for those that are returning, making sure they stay on track and stay, they’re learning, doing the things that they need to do to complete their major.

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