As West Virginia prepares for the 2022-2023 college basketball season, they will be under the guidance of a new head coach for the first time since the 2000-2001 season. The new era of West Virginia women’s basketball has been ushered in by head coach Dawn Plitzuweit, who is already putting her stamp on the West Virginia program.
Plitzuweit, a native of West Bend, Wisconsin, comes to West Virginia after having spent the last seven seasons at South Dakota. Plitzuweit said her goal for this young team is to continue to get better everyday and see where that takes them.
“Our goals and expectations are to continue to improve daily, to really compete and to really get after it. And then see where it leaves us at the end of the season. We’re a process driven program,” Plitzuweit said. “I believe from the time that we started back in June from where we’re allowed four hours a week and into the preseason to where after three days of practice we’ve made progress up until this point and time.”
Plitzuweit knows having a new coach is hard, but she views it as an opportunity for everyone. The Mountaineers’ roster features six players who did not play at West Virginia last season, while it features four key returners and three other returners who redshirted last season.
“Change is really hard; it’s hard for everybody,” Plitzuweit said. “Trying to help our young ladies understand how special this can be and how special they are and what we can do. I think we have an opportunity to do something here, to build upon what’s happened with the progress and the success with the teams in the past here and to continue to grow.
On the court, Plitzuweit found success a season ago at South Dakota which helped her take the Coyotes to the Sweet Sixteen. That team ranked fourth in the country in turnover margin, something Plitzuweit wants to recreate with her defensive style at West Virginia.
“Defensively, we’d like to guard in the man as much as possible,”Plitzuweit said. “We can change how we guard them man based upon how we guard post players, where we pickup, how we guard ball screens, but we’d love to guard as much as we can in the man. That doesn’t mean we won’t play some zone but certainly we want that to be our mainstay in holding teams down and limiting good opportunities.”
As for on the offensive end, Plitzuweit wants to run the floor as much as possible, and does not want to restrict what her players can do based upon their position.
“On the offensive end, first we want to get stops and then we want to push it. It’s a lot easier to score if you can get opportunities because you’ve gotten stops and get out and go,” Plitzuweit said. “Our offensive mentality is to be in attack mode, but also be in control.”
Plitzuweit maintained the most important thing on offense though is to value possessions and take care of the basketball.
“Everybody wants to play fast and have some fun doing that. And we have some speed, so why not,” she said. “Right now what we’ve to go a better job of, is we got to do a better job of taking care of the ball in those situations.”
Two of those returners in guards Madisen Smith and JJ Quinerly have high expectations heading into this season. Both were named Preseason All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selections and their head coach sees things they both do really well.
“They’re doing really, really well. JJ Quinerly, Madisen Smith, two players that certainly have incredible speed and their speed and their quickness can do a lot of really good things for you on both ends of the court. They’re really versatile type of kids. They can shoot it from the arc, they can get to the rim and score, they can pull up and they can create for their teammates,” Plitzuweit said.
As for the other two key pieces returning from last seasons team, Plitzuweit sees value in the versatility of Jayla Hemingway and Savannah Samuel.
“Another two players that I really do fit us well too are Jayla Hemingway and Svannah Samuel, they’re both players that have versatility and they have size. When they post up they can do a lot of things, but they can also shoot it, they can handle it, they can get to the rim,” she said.
A new coach is never easy for anyone, and that means new ways of learning things for this group. Plitzuweit said they are trying to give their team the best chance to compete at the highest level they can, because they know when games begin, they are going to revert back to some of their old habits.
“We’ve been really encouraged with how quickly our players are understanding the need to compete. Because the bottom line is when the lights are on and they’re wearing the uniform for the first time, they’re going back to the way they played in the past,” Plitzuweit said.