EDITORIAL: Recruiting finally pays off for Sue Guevara, CMU women’s program
Sue Guevara recalled six years ago when Central Michigan and Akron played, both teams were considered two of the worst in the Mid-American Conference.
On Saturday, the Chippewas beat the Zips 86-68 to win the MAC championship, their first since 1984, sending them to the NCAA tournament after back-to-back trips to the WNIT.
Rewind six years ago, CMU was 11-19 following the 2006-07 season, bringing an end to Eileen Kleinfelter’s six-year tenure as head coach. She finished with an overall record of 67-99, never finishing better than a tie for fourth in the MAC West.
Enter Guevara, who posted a 6-23 season in 2007-08, her first season on the job, 18-14 mark in year two, 12 wins in year three and posting 20-win seasons in 2010-11 and 11-12, reaching the WNIT both times.
That 18-win season was big, because CMU ushered in a 6-foot freshman from Flint Hamady High School, Brandie Baker. Guevara had nabbed talent before and did a good job of it as the head coach at Michigan and assistant under Nell Fortner at Auburn. But this was her first real superstar recruit, and Baker showed it during the 2008-09 season, averaging 12 points and six rebounds as a freshman.
Over the next two seasons, she continued to build a base of talent, including a short but spunky Jalisa Olive, a cagy shooter in Niki DiGuilio and a post presence in Taylor Johnson. Then came the superstar class in the winter of 2011: Crystal Bradford, a highly ranked forward out of Inkster High School, teammate Jas’Mine Bracey and friend Jessica Green.
All three made an immediate impact last season, leading CMU to the MAC tournament championship before losing at the last second to rival Eastern Michigan. They learned early on how to win and experienced the pain of falling short of reaching The Big Dance.
This year was their year, and it was time for Guevara, a nationally respected coach who had already grown the program by leaps and bounds, to reach the next level. And despite a late-season injury to Green that could have derailed the team’s season and post-season chances, the team responded — and in an impressive way.
So, congrats to coach Guevara and her team for finally breaking through and reaching the tourney. While some might question why it took six seasons to do, one must look at the program she inherited (one that had become accustomed to losing) and the facilities she had. Now that she has the players, modern facilities and tools in place to win consistently, there’s no reason CMU can’t continue to reach the tourney for years to come.
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