The key for the TCU women's basketball team this year is how the young starters last year progress into veterans.
TCU started three freshmen last season and they went 9-21, 2-16 in Big 12 play. Now those players, and the rest of the Horned Frogs will have to build off of their early success last year.
At the team's media day Tuesday, 15-year head coach Jeff Mittie raved about how much harder the team is working this year.
"They are probably a little beyond their years because of the minutes they played as freshmen," Mittie said. "We've seen improvements in them and that gives us hope. I think this group has progressed, but we know it's still a tough climb."
He knew the Big 12 was going to be much more physical than the Mountain West, but his team wasn't quite up to the challenge last year being so young. That might be a different story this year with the addition of 6-foot-6 freshman Klara Bradshaw and 6-foot-2 freshman Carol Willie.
"The physicality of the league was something we expected, but our freshmen just got thrown into the fire," Mittie said. "But I liked the way we fought through it. I thought we ended the season better than we started. We just want to carry that forward."
They are joined by 6-foot-3 senior center Latricia Lovings, who was third in the nation in blocked shots a year ago. She thinks these tall, younger players will help her play better this year.
"I think they will definitely help me offensively. I played against Brittany Griner, but I didn't see much of that in practice," Lovings said. "Now I have to fight a little more for rebounds in practice and have to get over someone taller than me."
Another key addition the team made was adding junior point guard Alexia Standish, a transfer from Texas A&M. She won't be eligible to play this year, but she's already making her mark on the team.
"She's a super competitive kid and that will make (Zahna) Medley better. I thought their work outs were better than I've seen in my 20 years as coach and I think it's because those two competed with each other," Mittie said. "Because of the depth at point guard, I'm taking a look at Medley and (Veja) Hamilton at the two. This is as good of depth as I've had at point guard as I've had in my time at TCU."
Hamilton played in all 30 games for the Horned Frogs last year despite being just 16 when the season began. She averaged five points and five rebounds per game. Medley started every game last year and averaged 13 points, three rounds, four assists and a steal a game.
Mittie plans on throwing his team back into the fire again this year with a very difficult schedule.
"We'll have one of the top schedules and I think that will prepare us. Last year was such a grind that we didn't really get to play depth," Mittie said. "Hopefully there are some games in here in this non-conference that we can play some with our depth and that will help us in league play."
The women's basketball team starts with a scrimmage against Southern Arkansas at 7 p.m. Monday. It's first regular season game will be Nov. 9 at home against Louisiana-Monroe. Big 12 conference play begins with a home game against Iowa State Jan. 2, 2014.