With two games left in the regular season, Tulane's women's basketball team is wrapping up the program's worst campaign under coach Lisa Stockton since 2005.
That season, the Green Wave went 11-16 overall and 3-11 in Conference USA.
Tulane (12-15, 4-10 American Athletic Conference) will play Saturday at Wichita State (12-16, 7-7) and will end the season Monday at home against SMU. For the Wave to avoid a losing season overall, it would have to win both games, then win its first two games in the AAC tournament.
“It certainly has been a long, tough and disappointing season,” Stockton said.
One promising aspect of the season, however, has been the development of Sierra Cheatham, a 6-foot freshman small forward from Houston. Pressed into action when Tene Thompson incurred a right knee bone bruise in practice on Dec. 19, Cheatham has been in the starting lineup in the past 10 conference games.
This season, she is averaging 5.3 points on 38.6 percent shooting, including a team-high 37.6 percent on 3-point attempts. However since becoming a starter, she has averaged 6.5 points on 47.4 percent shooting (27-of-57), including 36.1 percent (17-of-47) on 3-point tries as the fourth or fifth option.
“It doesn't matter if I start or not,” Cheatham said. “I just want to continue getting better. The main thing I'd like to improve is my rebounding (2.1).”
Stockton said Cheatham has a lot of potential at her size and with her outside shooting ability. Cheatham came to Tulane last May to work on her ball-handling.
“This summer, she is going to continue to work on her ball-handling and do weight-training,” Stockton said. “If she can really learn to beat people off the dribble, that's going to help a lot.”
Stockton said Cheatham, who plays with poise, is a potential all-conference player.
“She's got a great head for it, and sometimes that seperates you a lot,” she said. “It means a lot to her, and she works real hard.”
Peek into the future
Tulane's signing class was ranked second in the AAC behind you know who.
Heading the 2018 class is Gutierrez, a 5-foot-9 point guard from Hollywood, Fla. Others are 6-5 power forward Dene Mimms of Warren Easton High School, 5-10 guard Dinah Jones of John Curits and 6-5 center Mia Heide of Austin, Texas.
Gutierrez, who plays at Nova High School and really made her mark with the top Nike AAU team in Florida, is considered an outstanding point guard who sees the floor really well, can score and is a tough defender.
Mimms may be the most intriguing of this group. Even with her height, she is a good shooter with range. She has a slight build but can catch the ball among defenders and finish well in the lane. She missed this prep season after having a torn ACL for the second time.
“She's played at a high level during the summer,” Stockton said of Mimms, who has played for her father Darius Mimms at Easton and with Elfrid Payton Elite in summer ball. “I think her best years are ahead of her. She's really tall, and she knows the game really well. We think she can be a really good player.
“I think she's got to get stronger and adapt to the (college) game, but she's a great athlete.”
Heide gives Tulane needed size in the post. Stockton said she has seen Jones play since she was really young. Jones plays for former Tulane standout Barbara Farris.
A different view
Power forward Meredith Schulte and point guard Kayla Manuirirangi have been working in Tulane's sports marketing department this semester.
Schulte, a junior, said it's been a different and interesting perspective.
“It's definitely different seeing what goes on behind the scenes,” Schulte said. “I didn't realize what's put into it, but it's a lot of work.”
The two have done promoting and learned about game-day operations. Schulte said it's not too much of a challenge playing and marketing. And, it may end up as her career.
“I think I want to stick on the sports side of marketing,” she said. “I enjoy supporting our other sports teams.”