It wasn’t long ago that Courtney Ingersoll was leading the nation in three point shooting as a senior for the Toledo Rockets. After finishing her basketball career with an Elite Eight finish in the 2012 WNIT, Ingersoll remained at UT to pursue a postgraduate degree. She has kept an eye on her former teammates as a color commentator for BCSN broadcasts of Toledo women’s basketball and was nice enough to answer some questions I had about the Rocket’s 2012-13 season, the future of the Toledo women’s program and the MAC as a whole.
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Can you talk a bit about the graduating class and the impact they had on the team this season and on the program in general?
The graduating seniors were a great group of individuals who took what they were best at and combined it to become something even better. Each member knew their roles on the team and didn't try to go above and beyond that. They were extremely unselfish and that often showed in the stat book. It wasn't uncommon to see Toledo have four or five girls scoring in double digits at the end of each game.
It is hard to put into words the impact that they have had on the program but it is easy to look at the numbers. They are the winningest class in Toledo history, attendance has nearly doubled since they came in as freshman and they have set a standard of how to act in a professional manner in the classroom and on the court. Coach Cullop and the exiting seniors have established a culture of excellence and this is what every incoming freshman or transfer will have to buy into in order to continue the tradition that they created.
In the end would you consider this past year: a success (with 29 wins and a Sweet 16 WNIT run), a disappointment (with another early MAC Tournament exit), or somewhere in between?
The WNIT has done a lot of great things for Toledo Women's Basketball. After our championship run my junior year, when we had sellouts and the entire community was behind us, we were able to pick up a number of new fans because they felt connected with us. In the end, the dream and goal is always to make it to the NCAA tournament.
This past season was in no way a disappointment but it was heartbreaking. I think the hurt came from the acknowledgement that Cullop and her crew, who put together a fantastic season, wouldn't be recognized on a national stage for the work they did. It was disappointing because fans that are close to the program know how hard the coaching staff works to schedule a tougher non-conference schedule and are denied because teams don't want to come play at Savage Arena. But to say a 29 win season is a disappointment would be a shame because this past year was one of the most memorable years in Toledo Women's Basketball history.
This year ended with the now annual tradition of rumors about Coach Cullop moving to a different school. You went through something similar after the 2011 WNIT Tournament ended when everyone in the city of Toledo was convinced Tricia Cullop was going to Wisconsin. What is it like to be a member of a team that has a coach in the rumor mill like that?
I guess I experienced it both as a player and as a former player this last year. I’m sure if I was still on the roster, I would have been nervous and probably on her doorstep begging her to stay because she is that important to our program. But now being able to have a better view from an outsider looking in, it makes me feel proud that every year she is getting sought out for interviews and offers from larger institutions. It’s reaffirming what everyone already knows that she is an amazing leader and mentor to everyone that comes in contact with our program and they want that at their school, too.
She is the most unselfish person I have ever met, so I know she isn’t looking to take a job because of personal gain, but to be in a better position financially to give back more to the players and community she cares about. If and when the time comes that she moves to another school or job, it will obviously be a sad day for The University of Toledo, but I, amongst thousands of others, will be happy for her and thankful for everything she has done for this community and program.
What are your expectations for next season with so many starters needing to be replaced? Related to that, do you know much about the incoming class of freshman and, if so, how important do you feel their contributions will be?
There are a lot of holes that need to be filled, both by physical ability and the leadership that the senior class demonstrated. If you ask Coach Cullop her expectations, she would say the same thing that I would. The goal never changes, regardless of changes to the roster or any adversity that comes. Toledo is still going to expect to be in the hunt for a MAC Championship but they will have to do it in unfamiliar territory.
Andola Dortch had a great season sharing the point guard position with Naama and already has experience running the point alone due to Naama’s ACL injury that kept her out the year before. I think the point guard position is the floor leader and most important position on the floor, so Andola is going to need to mature further into an extension of Cullop on the court during play. After that, they have a couple players that have been waiting for their opportunity and the coaching staff will push them to realize how important they need to become.
I don’t know about the incoming freshman personally and the complete skills they bring, but I know they are great individuals who have that desire to get better. Coach Cullop told me the other day that the U.S. freshman coming in only lost something like 10 games combined from their senior year of high school. The freshman and incoming players have a great opportunity before them. [Note: Courtney answered these questions before UT announced that three of their youngest players were leaving the program.] There are a lot of minutes up in the air for playing time and usually the ones who figure that out first and want to fight for that playing time will obviously be the ones of the floor.
I think there will be a lot of attention to the defensive side of the game because normally that is what takes the most time for players to get acclimated with when changing playing levels from high school to college. Yolanda Richardson was the all-time leading shot blocker at Toledo and Lecretia Smith was the commander in chief for the arguably best defensive team in the MAC last year, so those roles will be extremely important to replace.
What players and teams around the MAC impressed you the most this season?
I was able to catch a lot of MAC games this year due to working for BCSN and the great coverage Sports Time Ohio did for MAC Women’s Basketball. I was extremely impressed by the story out of Ball State. They had a new coach and a depleted roster but still found a way to win during conference and were fighting for a MAC regular season championship up until the last couple of games. I think head coach Brady Sallee stepped into a tough rebuilding position at BSU and pushed that team to realize their maximum potential.
I guess I am biased when I say this but I loved watching Inma Zanoguera from Toledo develop over the last year. She completely transformed her body and mental approach to the game. She dropped 20-25 pounds and became a go-to player for a team that needed a nice compliment to Naama. I have no reservations in saying Inma can become one of the best players in the MAC for the next two years if she continues to attack the game like she has been.
How did your job working for BCSN come about? I'm assuming it was hard to watch from the sidelines as your former teammates played but what was it like to have to try and be neutral and critically analyze them in such a public way?
A director approached me from BCSN and asked if I would be interested in commentating for the UT Women’s games, as well as other high school and college games that fit in my schedule. I was excited for something new that I had never done before. I was super nervous my first game but I enjoyed the experience all season. One of my former teammates, Allie Clifton, who now is the sideline reporter for the Cleveland Cavaliers, was the person I was replacing. She was awesome in giving me advice and pointers throughout the year, which made everything a lot easier.
The best part of the job was that I didn’t have to be completely neutral or critical because the woman played so well every time I was on air. I think of the seven or games games that were broadcast by BCSN, they won by an average of 20+ points over their opponents.
I got asked by a lot of people if I wish I was playing and I responded the same way each time. I missed being on the floor and being a part of the family atmosphere on a daily basis, but I was completely content seeing them succeed and win like you were. Just like the other graduates under Coach Cullop, it made me feel proud that I was a part of the groundwork and culture of winning that had been established and carried over to this past year.
Are you going to do more BCSN work in the fall?
I don't have a set contract with BCSN, but I would love to return for one more year and broadcast with my partner Mason Lowry again. I have two more semesters to complete my M.B.A while I work in the external affairs department at The University of Toledo under Vice President of External Affairs Larry Burns.
It has been a busy year but it has been great to stay in Toledo and be surrounded by these people. I tell my family and friends that live around the U.S. that Toledo is a special place. Anytime recruits come and I had a chance to talk to them when I was playing, I probably sounded so scripted and cliche in explaining how amazing I think this city is, but I really believe we have a great thing going here and it is only getting better. So whether I am working for BCSN or just enjoying my time at UT working and studying, I am happy to be here still.
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My thanks to Courtney for taking time out of her schedule with the University of Toledo’s Division of External Affairs to answer my questions. Her department is busy putting together the uHeart Digital Media event on May 10th, 2013 on UT’s campus. Registration for the event is still open if you are interested in hearing regional technology leaders speak about digital media.