July 13, 2000
East Lansing, Mich. - When Michigan State University went looking for a new women's basketball coach for the first time in 24 years, it was looking for a coach committed to building championship players and championship teams.
Michigan State found that coach in Joanne P. McCallie, who spent eight successful years building a championship program at Maine.
McCallie, who played at Northwestern and was an assistant at Auburn, eagerly anticipates pursuing championships academically and athletically at MSU.
"We are fortunate, we have a solid base to build upon here and we are looking forward to moving ahead at a very rapid pace," she said. "We want to pursue championships and compete successfully in the NCAA Tournament each year."
McCallie's first Spartan squad features 10 returning letterwinners, three returning starters and five seniors. The Spartans are coming off a 19-12 season in which they advanced to the quarterfinals of the Women's National Invitation Tournament for a second straight season.
Despite the loss of two key starters from last season's team, McCallie has no intention of looking at the 2000-01 season as a rebuilding year.
"Our team is working very, very hard," McCallied said. "All of our players stayed this summer to get better. They are working in the weight room, working our summer camps to get to know the coaching staff, so we can come together more quickly and effectively in the fall."
"We are going to be the kind of team that works hard, plays hard and compete aggessively for 40 minutes or whatever it takes. We will need great leadership, but we have a special senior class that is very capable of taking charge."
The leading returnee for McCallie's initial squad is senior Becky Cummings, who averaged 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game en route to earning Second-Team All-Big Ten honors. The 6-3 forward also led the Big Ten and was third in the nation in field goal percentage, shooting 62 percent from the floor.
Senior guard Donita Johnson is an all-around performer who McCallie will need to play a significant role in 2000-01. Johnson, who has started 49 games in the last two years, averaged 3.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest last season.
The Spartans will also rely on sophomore point guard Vnemina Reese, who was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team last season. Reese, who missed all but six games as a rookie in 1998-99 with a knee injury, averaged 5.5 points and 4.76 assists per game in her first full campaign.
Reese will also benefit from a summer trip to Europe with the Big Ten All-Star team.
McCallie will welcome four newcomers to the fold in 2000-01, led by Julie Pagel. The 6-1 forward earned all-state honors after guiding her Utica High team to the Class A state championship last year.
MSU will use a pair of exhibition games to prepare for the regular season that begins with the annual Felpausch/MSU Classic, Nov. 17-18, at the Breslin Center. The 2000 tournament features Arkansas State and a pair of NCAA Tournament teams from last season, Boston College and Tennessee Tech.
Getting off to a solid start and playing well at the Breslin Center, where MSU was 13-1 last year, will be a key to the Spartans' fortunes this season.
After playing three of their first five games at home, the Spartans will take to the road for five of seven contests in the month of December. The only home dates during that stretch are against NCAA Tournament participant UW-Green Bay (Dec. 5) and in-state rival Central Michigan (Dec. 20).
MSU will also play a Dec. 3 game against Eastern Michigan at VanAndel Arena in Grand Rapids, site of the 2001 Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament (March 2-5).
The Spartans open Big Ten Conference play on the road against Indiana on Dec. 31, while the conference home opener is slated for Jan. 4 against Ohio State.