A hot 2-0 start featuring both a home and away win has shown that the Seton Hall women’s basketball team is playing well, but the Pirates’ record is only half of the story.
Something is different about this squad and the way that the returning players have blended with transfers and the freshmen.
“A huge part of the changes is the attitudes,” head coach Tony Bozzella said. “KK [Hilare], Jayla [Jones-Pack], and Quanny [Jackson], and Deja Winters and obviously Kaity [Healy] – they want to be more aggressive. They want to win.”
Growth by Bozzella’s returning cast of players has been a relevant factor in the team’s success and change in culture, but the cause of this change does not stop there.
“Obviously bringing in the new kids – Taylor Brown being eligible. Obviously Inja [Butina] and Cole [Jimenez] setting the tone early on with their defense,” Bozzella said. “And Donnaizha [Fountain] is a very good player.”
Fountain, a graduate transfer from Temple, had arguably the strongest week of any women’s basketball player in the Big East. On Nov. 13, the conference named Fountain the Big East Player of the Week, its top honor. Fountain led the Pirates averaging 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, highlighted by an 18-point, 13-rebound effort on Nov. 12 at Wake Forest.
Bozzella’s veterans have set the table nicely for the transfers and freshmen to become quickly acclimated to their new surroundings and considering there are three new faces in the starting lineup and others in the rotation, their cohesiveness is impressive.
Much of that cohesion is rooted in the improved ethic and attitudes of the players.
“We practice a lot. We come back voluntarily for night shooting,” Fountain said. “If we feel like our practice wasn’t that good in the morning, we’ll text each other, ‘let’s get back in there tonight.’ That builds chemistry. That builds trust. That builds confidence.”
The players evidently have a lot of faith in each other and constantly work to push each other to play their best.
“Basically everyone has the potential to be an outstanding player on this team,” said Brown, a transfer who kicked off her first official game with a 14-point effort on Nov. 10. “Everyone’s well-needed on this team and that’s just our bond. We never sit there and not cheer each other on. We’re always good teammates to each other.”
The comradery among the team has been evident in their convincing wins in the preseason and first pair of regular season games.
As much as the team’s success can be attributed to how the players have helped each other, Bozzella and his staff have played an equally vital role in helping new players acclimate and having them play on the same page.
“It’s actually the first time in my collegiate career where I’ve felt my coach had as much confidence in me as Coach Bozzella has,” Fountain said. “A lot of people don’t know that’s what players feed off of.”
Fountain made it clear that Bozzella and his staff made player comfort a huge priority, and it is paying dividends on the court and within the relationships among the players.
Among the Pirates, their outlook on the future is bright and a major theme seems to be just rolling with the punches of the season and continuing to improve.
“Every day we’re getting better and better,” Brown said. “We just try not to let plays that we mess up in affect us. We just move forward and pick each other up.”
If the team’s attitude is any indication of their success, then a strong season is ahead for the team, led by the transfer players.
“It’s gonna get greater later,” Fountain said of her outlook on the team’s development. “I’m just so excited to see what this team’s gonna look like come February, March.”
Kyle Kasharian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ItsKyleKash.