Women’s Basketball Preview Illinois
Anytime you leave something that you have done for a long time, it’s definitely going to take some getting used to and that is what Nancy Fahey is doing right now at Illinois. Fahey was named the head women’s basketball coach at Illinois back in April after she spent 31 years at Washington University; A division three school in St Louis. In her time at Washington University, she won 5 NCAA Championships in women’s basketball and only missed the D3 NCAA tournament 1 time in her 31 year career. However, she feels like the time is now to try something different and felt Illinois was the right match. “I had been there for a long time and having success but I played in the Big Ten and when you know your boss and you know where the university is trying to take it that is something I cannot pass up,” Fahey said. Fahey said that she could have gone to a lot of schools but ultimately chose Illinois because of the people. “When you meet the players and try to change the program, it’s a challenge and I love challenges. I really wanted to take this challenge and turn this program around,” Fahey said.
Illinois has all 5 returning starters coming back this year. But to Coach Fahey they’re really all freshman and it has taken some getting used to learning all new players. “That was my first thing I wanted to do,” Fahey remarked. “I want them to be the best basketball players that they can be and to do that you need to challenge them on the court. Before you do that, you have to know them as people and that’s what I did. I had a lot of meetings with them just to get to know them outside of the basketball court. Then, when you get know them, you can get on the same plan. You are able to challenge them and that’s what I have been focused on for the last 6 months,” Fahey said. One of the big returners in the front court for Illinois is junior forward Alex Wittinger who is expected to make a huge impact in the front court this season for the Illini. “She does some things you just can’t coach,” said Fahey. “We just have to make sure we have the balance around her because she is going to be a major part of our plans this year,” Fahey continued. Returning on the backcourt for Illinois this year is guard Brandi Beasley who was on the Big Ten freshman team last year. Also returning on the backcourt is Kennedy Cattenhead who will provide some senior leadership to the Illini this year.
Fahey has had experience in the Big Ten conference and is excited about where the conference is going for Women’s Basketball. “The big thing I appreciate about the Big Ten is I like what it stands for as an academic conference. It’s a conference I’m proud to be a part of and you definitely can’t take a night off. I like the values that they stand for and that’s why I love this conference so much,” Fahey said. Nancy Fahey has spent most of her life in women’s college basketball and many things have changed since she first started coaching. “I think the biggest thing that’s changed when I started recruiting and talking to mothers, most of them did not have the opportunity to play basketball,” Fahey said. “Now you talk to them and they have played in high school and college so I think the opportunities that people have now are just great. All of these opportunities are out there,” Fahey said.
Illinois Opens the season November 10th against Ft. Wayne at the State Farm Center in Champaign.