MORGANTOWN -- Anyone taking in a West Virginia women's basketball practice last year might have thought they were watching a team prepare for a game in a co-ed intramural league.
Hurting for players, coach Mike Carey often asked male volunteers to help his team scrimmage.
In his second year, it's a whole new ball game for Carey. While first-year men's coach John Beilein is incorporating a new system with foreign terminology, the only change in Carey's vocabulary is the addition of the word "depth."
WVU, 14-14 last year with a 6-10 Big East mark, returns all five starters, but, more importantly, a host of newcomers who will provide immediate help.
"You're going to see a much different team than what you saw last year," Carey said.
The infusion of new blood will allow the Mountaineers to press and run significantly more than last season. Carey will no longer have to rely on 40-minute games from guards Sherell Sowho, Yolanda Paige and forward Kate Bulger, a second team all-Big East player.
"We're going to extend a little bit more defensively than what we did last year," Carey said. "We want to be up and down the floor offensively and defensively."
The added depth will also give opponents more to think about.
"Last year, they probably had to prepare for two or three people and that's all they had to stop," Bulger said. "We didn't have any depth last year. This year, they'll have to go all the way down our roster and pick different strategies and things to stop everybody."
WVU will have help in the front and backcourt, although forward/center Ramika Williams has been lost for the season because of a knee injury and freshman guard/forward Tabitha Ruth has not yet fulfilled academic requirements. Both players are junior college transfers.
Key newcomers in the frontcourt include Latitia Williams (6-foot-2) and Liz Holbrook (6-1), who sat out last season because of NCAA transfer rules after coming to Morgantown from St. Francis, Pa., and Clemson, respectively, and junior college transfers Michelle Carter (6-2) and Janell Dunlap (5-11). They've joined returning starters Mary Grace Carson and Eartha White in a battle for playing time.
"There's a lot of competition in the paint," Carey said. "I'm going to be anxious to see how all that plays out. I think all of them will get playing time, but I'll be anxious to see who comes out on top."
Carey said the key to the season, however, will be finding a backup to point guard Paige, who averaged more than 37 minutes last year. Freshmen Tehana Geist and Ashley Dunn are auditioning for the backup role.
Despite the infusion of new talent, the Mountaineers spent most of their first practice scrimmaging at the Coliseum Saturday.
"Last year at this time we didn't do anything live or get into as much as we're getting into right now," Carey said. "I thought they did an excellent job for the first practice. High intensity, the girls got after it, they hustled, they were positive. I'm very happy with the first practice."
So were the players. Even those faced with the possibility of decreased playing time acknowledged the impact the new players will make.
"You can tell by the intensity at practice how much different it is," Bulger said. "Last year, we only had eight or nine people and we were getting tired. Now that we have 15 or 16 people, everyone is so much more intense and we're running up and down the floor a little bit better."
Sowho said the new players are, "going to help a whole lot this year. They're bringing speed, defense, athleticism everything to the team."