Bennett installs new defensive scheme


NIU guard Marke Freeman plays defense last season. New head coach Kathi Bennett is installing a new defensive scheme before the 2010 season.

By Jimmy Johnson

Trust is the foundation of every relationship.

Whether it’s with someone new or a long-time friend, without that human assurance any bond will certainly fail.

NIU women’s point guard Marke Freeman and her fellow Huskie teammates don’t know much about their new head coach, Kathi Bennett. But from what they’ve heard of her reputation, they aren’t seesawing about buying into Bennett both as a person and as a coach.

“When you have a leader like her, she’s very easy to follow,” Freeman said. “She has great experience to back [herself] up, and I’m ready for whatever she throws at us.”

Bennett plans to have the Huskies play half-court, man-to-man defense the majority of the time, in contrast to former head coach Carol Owens who often ran 2-3 zone and other multiple defensive sets during her five-year reign as head coach.

The Clintonville, Wis. native will have to sell her ideology on shutting down MAC opponents’ offenses.

“The system doesn’t matter as much as how hard we play and how much we believe in it,” Bennett said.

Bennett stresses that there are two important components that need to flourish for the Huskies’ man-to-man defense to work effectively.

“With this defense, the point guard and post [are most important],” Bennett said.

She also noted that the point guard, in Freeman, will need to attack and bother the opposite offensive floor general to create disruption in the flow of opponent’s game.

Freeman possesses extraordinary speed and with Bennett’s influence, the 5’5″ point guard is looking forward to getting better on the defensive side.

“She’ll help me as far as my speed and my athleticism in just learning how to value it more,” Freeman said.

On the inside, center Ebony Ellis and forward Shaakira Haywood will be looked upon to set the tone.

Haywood, an underclassman, is ready to absorb and learn as much as she can from Bennett.

“I think she can teach me some new defensive skills,” Haywood said. “Trying to make sure I can protect the paint, first and foremost.”

If the Huskies want to see immediate and positive results, they will have to give their all every minute they’re on the floor.

“It comes down to playing hard all the time,” Bennett said.