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Donna Finnie: "We're very blessed that we have great practice guys."

"We're very lucky we have some practice guys. We couldn't do this without them."

October 11, 2018 -- 8:12 a.m.

The Southland Conference held its 2018 Basketball Media Day Wednesday, October 10, in Houston at Toyota Center. Donna Finnie, HBU's women's hoops head coach spoke with me about the preseason poll; practice thus far; the injury bug; and the importance - especially this year - of practice players.

Here's the Q and A with Coach Finnie:

What are your thoughts on the Southland Conference Preseason Poll? (HBU picked 10th out of 13 teams. Lamar picked 1st.)

"Every year, I kind of go through this where I think for us, particularly, we look very, very different now than we will by the end of conference play. So, I try not to worry about it too much because this conference is so competitive every year and it comes down to who has it right on that night. There's no games in this conference where you can walk in and think 'I've got this team.'

"It's competitive everyday; so, we try not to look at the preseason conference poll too much and just focus on what we do."

How has practice gone thus far for your team?

"It's been a struggle. We have six upperclassmen on the sideline right now; so, it's been very challenging. But, I think it's made me more patient as a coach; and, it's made our players, on the floor, get more reps than what we were trying to do. And, with our four newcomers on the floor, I hope that means that pays off when it comes to game time because they've had so many reps in what we're doing.

"I'm excited when we get five of those 6 back - unfortunately, we've lost one for the year. But, I think when we get those five back its' going to make our practices much different."

So, right now, how many healthy players do you have in practice?

"Nine."

So, who is the tenth person in your five-on-five?

"We're very lucky we have some practice guys. We couldn't do this without them. I really, really appreciate those guys; and, everyday, I tell the girls, 'you make sure you thank the guys for getting up so early' because we practice in the mornings, too. Yesterday, we started at 6 a.m.; so, we had to be in the gym at 5:30 getting ready.

"I appreciate those boys so much; and, there really good guys. Like, this morning, we did not have a good practice; and, at the end of practice, when the girls were running, one of the guys was running with them and was kind of pushing them and encouraging them.

"We're very blessed that we have great practice guys."

How did you get the practice guys? Did you put out word on social media? What's the process?

"We have tryouts. We have two tryout days every year. We try to get the student body engaged with us and be practice players. We have quite a few people tryout. But, it's finding the right fit because yes, you want a practice squad; but, you want a squad that's going to understand what you need from them and they're going to be committed to it as well. The three that we have that are fully committed they were with us last as well. Unfortunately, we had a young man join us this year; and, he's actually having surgery on a torn Achilles this Friday. Part of our injury bug this year. We're lucky that we have the guys that we do because we couldn't practice fully without them."

What is the return timetable for those five players to come back?

"We're expecting to get one back on Monday; so, that will help us obviously. One is in concussion protocol; so, that just depends on when she passes the test and gets through the protocol. One is a boot for an ankle and that could be sometime late next week if not the week after. One is recovering from Achilles surgery. She should be back in about three weeks. And, the other one has a back tweak; so, we're waiting on the specialist just to have a look at that. Things that we should get everybody back for; but, what it's done is kind of delayed our progress in the preseason to where we hope it would be. But, I think that that's okay. Like I said, it's not about what we do in November for us. It's about getting better each month and being our best come March."

HBU's 2018-2019 season begins Sunday, November 11 (Alumni Night), with a home game versus McMurry. Tip is set for 4 p.m.

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