Oct. 11, 2007
EAST LANSING, Mich. - MSU first-year head women's basketball coach Suzy Merchant has announced that juniors Aisha Jefferson and Mia Johnson and senior Alisa Wulff have been selected to serve as captains for the 2007-08 season. It marks the first time the program has had all new captains since the 2002-03 season.
"I always feel as a coach it's best to select the captains," said Merchant. "The captains are an extension of the coaching staff. You have high expectations for everyone in the program and certainly when you have that title of a captain you have even more of an expectation from the coaches.
"I think all three of them have earned it. Mia, Aisha and Alisa are all positive kids, understand the sacrifices it takes to win a championship, and are coming into the season in great physical condition. Each of them in their own way has a lot to give, but they are all vocal leaders. Sometimes you have captains that aren't vocal leaders, more of the type that lead by example, but this group not only leads by example but sets the tone vocally as well."
Jefferson, who earned All-Big Ten Freshman honors in 2005-06, improved her numbers as a sophomore, ranking third on the team with 10.4 ppg and 5.6 rpg to garner honorable mention all-conference accolades. A natural team leader, Jefferson ranked 26th in the Big Ten in scoring, 19th in rebounds and 15th in steals last season.
"Aisha is a breath of fresh air - she lights up a room with her personality and her smile," Merchant said. "Everything about her is contagious. As a coach you're drawn to her, and as a player you're drawn to her. I don't think there was any question Aisha should be a captain, and I don't think there's any question that she's earned it. I'm really looking for her to infuse her personality into this team and program for the next two years."
Johnson, a redshirt junior, looks to fill the vacancy left behind after the graduation of veterans Victoria Lucas-Perry and Rene Haynes. After transferring from Saint Louis and sitting out the 2005-06 season, Johnson provided an immediate impact in her first season wearing the Green and White, leading the team in free throws (87) and ranking second in 3-pointers (36), third in assists (84), fourth in steals (40) and fifth in scoring (8.3 ppg) and rebounding (4.4 rpg). She did suffer a setback in the offseason when she tore her ACL during summer workouts, but she's expected to be back in the lineup by the start of the Big Ten season.
"Mia is a very skilled offensive player who can take the ball aggressively to the basket and get to the line," Merchant said. "Getting to know her, although it wasn't on the basketball court because of her injury, I found out she has a very good pulse on the team. She's first and foremost a competitor. She wants to win in the worst way. Those two things put together made me feel like she was worthy of being a captain. She's going to get back on the court sooner rather than later, and she'll be ready to go. She's tough enough mentally to accomplish that feat."
The third and final captain is fifth-year senior Alisa Wulff. Wulff played the most minutes of her career as a junior, establishing career highs in points (49), rebounds (42) and 3-pointers (9). A prototypical role player who will do whatever is asked of her, Wulff will have the opportunity to play a significant amount of minutes in the backcourt.
"First and foremost, Alisa is a quality person," said Merchant. "From the minute I walked in here, she was very positive and open to the change. She's one of the first kids who really embraced the challenge of a new coaching staff and helped bridge the gap. She's worked herself into incredible shape, is a hard worker, and is a positive person. She has seen a lot of adversity and has shown you can overcome that. I think she's a walking example of what you want your captain to be."
In additional women's basketball news, three-year letterwinner Laura Hall (Temperance, Mich./Bedford) will not be returning to the team for her senior season due to a lingering foot injury. Hall, who saw limited playing time last season due to injuries, had surgery in April to repair a broken bone in her foot. After rehabbing during the summer, Hall elected not to play her final season after the injury continued to limit her playing during fall workouts. Hall averaged 2.5 points per game and 1.9 rebounds per game in 83 career games for the Spartans. She scored six points in the 2005 NCAA Regional Semifinal against Vanderbilt and scored a career-high 10 points against Detroit on Dec. 7, 2005 and at Iowa on Jan. 9, 2006.
The Michigan State women's basketball team begins the season Friday, Oct. 12 with Midnight Madness at Munn Ice Arena. Doors to Munn open at 9 p.m., and the event begins with over an hour of autographs and photos with the coaches and players. Cameras from the Big Ten Network will also be on hand to broadcast portions of the program.