C-USA: Hurricane Warning: Tulsa's Back For More

By Jean Neuberger - October 12, 2006

Last year, at Media Day, Tulsa was picked to finish fifth in Conference USA. However, with Jillian Robbins becoming a dominant force last year, the Golden Hurricane cruised to a 26-6 mark and a Conference USA title. With a veteran squad in tow this season, TU is excited about their chances to repeat.

"We're excited to start the season here in Tulsa, excited that the Conference USA Tournament will be here, and excited about playing basketball again," said Tulsa Head Coach Charlene Thomas-Swinson. "We're ranked nationally in a lot of areas, and we've got a lot to prove this year."

Although Tulsa brings back All-Conference star Jillian Robbins, 6-4 center Dana Idlet, and 5-11 forward Chivis Merriweather, Thomas-Swinson will rely on the help of five new freshmen to balance the Golden Hurricane attack.

"The freshmen, they'll be thrown in the fire early," said Thomas-Swinson. "The plan is for the freshmen to get leadership early from players like Robbins, and then get a lot of attention. There are teams that will double or triple team Jillian, so we have to get our freshmen to relieve the pressure off of her."

One of the freshman that Thomas-Swinson hopes will step up is 5-10 guard Valerie Siemens.

"Valerie's a gym rat," Thomas-Swinson said. "Her parents were both coaches in Kansas. She brings a much broader focus to the game. We love her work ethic, and hope that she can alleviate the pressure of Jillian right away."

Thomas-Swinson credits the success of last year to playing tough competition in Conference USA.

"We would not have won that first round game (a 71-61 win over N.C. State) had it not been the tough competition we played in the conference," said Thomas-Swinson. "We came into the game prepared. Afterwards, the support we got from the other coaches in the conference, that was great."

Tulsa's key to success this year?

"One game at a time," Thomas-Swinson said. "We'll surround Jillian with talent, get the pressure off of her, and take things one game at a time."

And if they can succeed with their plans, there could be no stopping the Golden Hurricane this year.

Posted by Jean Neuberger at 10:13 PM on October 12, 2006

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