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Oct. 15, 2002

The University of South Carolina women’s basketball team began two-a-day workouts Saturday in preparation for the 2002-2003 season. Coming off a year in which the Gamecocks advanced to the Elite Eight, the hopes are high for another strong season and a repeat visit back to the NCAA Tournament.

After Tuesday’s last practice of the day, Head Coach Susan Walvius had the following thoughts about what she had observed from her team so far this week:

“It feels great to be back on the court. This is the most veteran squad that I’ve had here in my five years at South Carolina. We have four players back who were starters at some point last year; seniors Jocelyn Penn and Petra Ujhelyi and juniors Cristina Ciocan and Kelly Morrone. They understand our philosophies, our style of play and what it takes to win.

“We’re working hard to prepare for our November 22nd opener against Clemson. It is an honor to be selected as the premiere event in the Carolina Center and even better to host our arch-rival in that game. We had such great fan support last year and we’ll need everyone back in the Carolina Center on the 22nd to help us against Clemson.

“We have quite a few things to overcome this season. Besides replacing five seniors from our Elite Eight team last year, the SEC looks like it will be a much stronger conference this year from top to bottom. Our non-conference schedule is much tougher than last year.

“We’ve got a long way to go before the first game. Right now we’re very sloppy and not playing the defense that we played last year. But, I’m seeing good communication between the players. “Petra Ujhelyi is a potential WNBA player and you’ll see more offensively from her this year. Jocelyn Penn has come back for her senior year in the best shape of her life and has added a three-point shot to her repetoire. She attracted quite a bit of attention from WNBA scouts last year and I expect that they’ll be back to see her again this year. One of the most important ingredients returning is that we have our veteran point guard back this year (Cristina Ciocan). I think you’ll see Ciocan come into her own this year and she’ll make a big difference to our team. It took some time for her to adjust to American college basketball but you could see the way she came on at the end of last season. She’s ready for a great season.

“Our new players have already impressed me with their work during our first four days of work. Koretha Johnson will be counted on to replace Shaunzinski Gortman’s defensive skills. She is very good, attacks the rim, has lateral quickness similar to Gortman and is a defensive stopper. Kascia Roszak is a very physical post player who is a force on the backboards. She also runs the court well. She is a nice addition to our team. Sarah Burgess comes to us as the Ohio Co-Player of the Year last year at Regina High School. She led her team to three consecutive state titles. She’s a good shooter and passes the ball well.

“In August, we lost our strength and conditioning coach, Mike Curtis, to the NBA. I’m starting to see that the players missed his demanding workouts. We have some sore players and players with nagging injuries after four days of two-a-day practices. We’ll take Wednesday off to let the team get some therapy time in and start back on Thursday.”