Scott Reeves, head coach of the TRU WolfPack, stopped short of calling what his team faces this season a "rebuild."
TRU, coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, lost three of its best players from the 2012-13 squad that went 15-7. One of those starters - Diane Schuetze - was the most accomplished player to ever wear the Orange and Black, while the others - Jen Ju and Tracy Kocs - were key contributors.
"We still have other players who can score," said Reeves, who is about to begin his eighth season with the WolfPack. "I wouldn't call this a rebuild year. I think it is going to be challenging at the start . . . but our expectation is still to make the playoffs and continue the culture that we've established here."
The WolfPack is scheduled to open the Canada West women's basketball season Friday against the U of Saskatchewan Huskies and Saturday against the U of Calgary Dinos at the Tournament Capital Centre.
TRU will be leaning heavily on its two returning starters - fourth-year guard Jorri Duxbury and Taiysa Worsfold, a third-year guard - as well as forward Kassie Colonna.
Colonna, whose sister, Kailey, played for the WolfPack until 2011-12 and now is an assistant coach, transferred from the U of Lethbridge before last season. Canada West rules forced Kassie to redshirt all of 2012-13, and she spent the season practising.
She had an excellent preseason, but, like the rest of the WolfPack, Colonna is still getting to know her teammates.
"We're young on the scoresheet, but we're young just in playing together." Reeves said. "Incorporating our freshmen in, we've never played together. Right now, it's about getting to know each other and where we'll be on the floor."
As well as Colonna has done, no one is expecting her to replace Schuetze, who played five seasons at TRU and was a two-time all-Canadian. Schuetze, at 6-foot-3, gave the WolfPack a lot of size inside, and TRU would crash the paint as often as possible.
Now, the WolfPack will likely rely on the outside game a little more, not that it was lacking last season. Led by Ju, who made 65 three-pointers, the WolfPack had no trouble stroking the long ball.
That hasn't changed.
"One thing that has improved from last year to this year is that we've got a lot of people who are really confident taking the shots," said Worsfold, a Sa-Hali grad. "Even our rookies are comfortable taking shots."
Some of the minutes left by the departures of Ju, Schuetze and Kocs will be filled by the likes of Jenna Quinton, a second-year guard, Rae-Maryse Laljee, a fourth-year guard, and third-year guard Sarah Malate.
Reeves also is excited about two rookies - guard Sydney Williams of Langley, and forward Ryan Kennedy from Okotoks, Alta.
These players give the WolfPack a new look.
"I definitely think our dynamic has changed," Duxbury said. "It'll be interesting to see our younger players become more consistent and get more into the scoring roles and see the veterans pick up some of the slack we lost."
Reeves had an easy time picking his starters in 2012-13 - with the exception of one game, he went with the same starting five the entire season. This season will be different. It has to be, he said.
"A lot of our changes are going to be determined by matchups," Reeves said. "How do we match up against the other team? Saskatchewan, for instance, I like our perimeter matchups. . . . You look at Alberta, it's a little tougher for us to match up, so we're going to have to mix things up from game to game."
The WolfPack is scheduled to open the Canada West women's basketball season on Friday against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies at the Tournament Capital Centre. TRU also will welcome the University of Alberta Pandas to the TCC on Saturday.
FOUL SHOTS: Friday's and Saturday's games are scheduled for 6 p.m. . . . Along with Worsfold, the WolfPack has two other Sa-Hali grads on its roster - redshirt guard Karson Hawgood and freshman forward Shenise Sigsworth. . . . TRU doesn't have any fifth-year players. . . . The WolfPack will be on the road for its second weekend, playing the UNBC Timberwolves in Prince George on Nov. 8-9. . . . TRU will play 22 regular-season games leading up the Canada West playoffs at the end of February.