A familiar face popped in for Washington basketball practice this week — former post Heidi McNeill. The native of Oak Harbor is on a three-week holiday break from play in Austria.
A 6-foot-3 forward, McNeill (pictured far left by the Associated Press) has suited up with the “white” squad to help her former teammates prepare for this week’s Pac-10 opener at Oregon and Oregon State. The Huskies have been on the road since Dec. 4, so McNeill is hopeful to see them play against No. 19 Arizona State at Hec Ed on Jan. 7 before returning to Austria the following day.
“I’m an extra body for them to beat up,” said McNeill, who started 27 games for Washington in her four-year career. “It’s been fun. I miss the girls a lot and it’s great to be back to relive the old glory days.”
McNeill’s overseas contract expires in March. She’s currently talking with a team in Australia, but hasn’t made any future plans. For now, it’s helping the Huskies improve
“They’re definitely a more physical team than last year and they’re in better shape,” McNeill said.
Conditioning will be a factor against the Ducks, which rank third in the nation in scoring (86.6). Coach Paul Westhead’s signature run-and-gun style has won championships on the WNBA and NBA levels, he’ll try to do the same in his first season with women’s college basketball.
“We’re going to try to slow them down,” said UW senior wing Sami Whitcomb (pictured center). “We want to make sure we’re still run our game. We don’t want to get caught up in there running and their fast pace. In transition, we can, but don’t push the tempo just because they are.”
SURGERY SET: Washington sophomore F Liz Lay has scheduled her knee surgery for Jan. 6. She’ll seek a medical redshirt at the end of the season.
Teammate Sara Mosiman is at practice, but still on crutches with her right leg in a boot after shin surgery. UW coach Tia Jackson said sophomore G Kristi Kingma (ankle) is close to 100 percent, resting during the holiday break.
Senior F Lydia Young remains in Detroit and freshman walk-on Amanda Johnson is in Manhattan Beach, Calif. visiting family. They’ll return when school is back in session on Jan. 4, out for the season due to knee surgeries.
SHY ONE: The Huskies were completely clueless about teammate Sami Whitcomb being named the Pac-10 Player of the Week. She was told by the school’s spokesman, but opted not to tell anyone.
“She never takes credit herself,” said junior PG Sarah Morton (pictured right). “It’s always someone else that helped her do this.”
STANFORD WINS: In the midst of endless game-film viewing for the upcoming schedule, Jackson did take a moment to watch the classic tussle between undefeated Connecticut and No. 2 Stanford last week.
“I wanted Stanford to win in the worst way,” said Jackson, a former Cardinal assistant coach. “It’s unfortunate. I definitely think if the game were reversed and played in Palo Alto — even if it’s not at Stanford’s home — it would be a different outcome.”
TV TIME: You can catch Jackson on the radio with play-by-play analyst Steve Sandmeyer at 7 tonight on KJR (950 AM). They’ll broadcast live from Anthony’s on Shilshole Bay, which I’m told is a good time.
But you can catch this afternoon’s complete press conference with Jackson on the new UWTV, which makes its debut at 6:30 p.m.