The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

Success in year 1 leaves fans with high expectations

Entering the season, first-year head coach Missy Bilderback set out to make an impact as soon as possible. 

The cast of characters that joined the ULM women’s basketball program via the transfer portal turned heads with their resumes. They weren’t all up-and-comers. Players such as Daisha Bradford, Lauren Gross and Jakayla Johnson earned multiple starts at their previous universities. In the case of Bradford and Johnson, their experience came in Power Five conferences. 

Bilderback’s impact through the transfer portal showed she was a respectable, influential coach well before the first team practice. But with her success in the portal, which created results in year one, the expectations are up too. 

A loss in the quarterfinals of the conference championship isn’t what anyone sets out for, but it would be disrespectful not to give Bilderback and her team their flowers for this season. 

Having a respectable team for once in a program (and athletics department) that doesn’t see many bright moments is a big accomplishment, especially for a first-year coach. With a 10-8 record in the Sun Belt Conference, we’ve witnessed as many conference wins this year as the program accumulated in the past six seasons combined.

Bilderback showed she can bring talent to Monroe and create success. Now, the attention shifts toward maintaining success so that the 2023-24 season isn’t an anomaly in the record books. 

Every coach understands that the transfer portal giveth and the transfer portal taketh away. When working with a near-total rebuild, that’s an afterthought. At this point of the year, the name of the game is maintenance and improvement. 

Bilderback recruited five players who were on her team at Jones College to join this year’s squad.

Arguably Bradford is the most difficult player to replace. As a Second Team All-Conference selection with leadership and experience at the highest level of Division I basketball, Bradford set the standard high for the guards on next season’s squad. 

But the greatest concern is not with Bradford and the other players out of eligibility. It’s those with eligibility left that might want to weigh their options. 

Much of next season will be defined in the weeks following March Madness, where we witness which players decide to opt for staying on the bayou and which opt for a change of scenery and join the fray through the portal. 

Bilderback and ULM have the potential to reload and ready up for another run amongst the top teams in the Sun Belt, but missed chances in the portal might load a blank in the chamber when the team aims high next season.

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