Returning from a one-year sabbatical, Jody Craig finds her 14th season as Foothill College women’s basketball coach similar to her first.
“I feel like I took over a new job – it’s like starting from the beginning,” said Craig, who spent the year observing the women’s and men’s basketball programs at the University of Arizona and the women’s team at Arizona State. “I feel like I’m building it all over again.”
Construction appears well ahead of schedule.
Despite returning just three players and one redshirt – the only Owl Craig coached prior to this season – Foothill is off to a 4-1 start. The Owls have defeated three ranked teams, and their only loss is to a Fresno City squad rated No. 1 in Northern California.
“We’re young across the board and nowhere close to reaching our potential,” Craig said of Foothill, ranked third in Northern California and eighth in the state, “but I’m excited about where we’re at.”
The coach wasn’t thrilled with where the Owls were last season under her longtime assistant, Anthony Cooper. Foothill barely made the playoffs (16th seed) and for the first time in nine years didn’t finish atop the Coast Conference North Division (second to San Francisco).
“He didn’t follow the script,” Craig said of Cooper, now assisting Sacramento City College.
Foothill is back playing Craig’s style – under which the Owls have advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the state playoffs nine times – with a few new twists.
“I’m excited to come back and incorporate what I learned,” said the three-time conference coach of the year. “I have a renewed energy.”
Kindra Jones is back as well. An all-conference post player two years ago, the 6-foot-3 Jones sat out last season as a medical redshirt because of a back injury.
“She’s put in a lot of work to get back on the floor,” Craig said. “She’s not on the level she’s capable of playing – she’s about 60 percent – but it’s just a matter of time. She’s still an amazing presence out there.”
In the Owls’ obliteration of Redwoods, 104-48 Nov. 20, Jones scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Foothill’s plethora of 3-point shooters should keep Jones from facing a lot of double-teams in the post. The Owls are averaging nearly nine 3-point baskets per game.
“We have kids who shoot 3s better than we’ve had in a lot of years,” Craig said. “We have four kids who shoot the 3 well.”
Perhaps none better than 5-7 Raeshel Contreras, who Craig called “a phenomenal 3-point shooter.” The freshman, who made 47 percent of her treys at Encinal High last season, is Foothill’s leading scorer at 20 points per game. She’s also made a smooth transition to point guard this year, setting a school record for assists (14) in the game at Redwoods.
“We needed a point guard, and she has a very solid understanding of the game,” Craig said. “She has good ball skills and great leadership skills.”
Contreras’ backcourt mate, 5-6 sophomore Addie Schivo, is averaging 16 points per game. The transfer from San Jose State is shooting 60 percent from the field, 64 percent on 3s and 94 percent from the foul line.
“She’s just solid,” Craig said of the St. Ignatius High grad, whose 18 points paced the Owls in a 74-58 win at Ohlone last week. “You may not notice her on the court right away, but her play speaks for itself. She’s our silent assassin.”
Returnee and team captain Stefanie Agostini is not only “a great 3-point shooter,” Craig said, but is “one of our smartest kids.” The 5-9 guard/forward from Modesto Christian can play multiple positions. Agostini averages 10 points and six rebounds per game, shooting 43 percent from the floor.
Devin Brown, averaging seven points per game, is capable of playing forward and guard. An all-conference player last season, the 5-7 sophomore “is very athletic,” Craig said. “She’s a slasher who gets to the line and is a good defender.”
Brown graduated from West High in Tracy with Eliza Bowles, another returnee. The 5-8 guard/forward is part of an eight-player rotation that includes 5-10 power forward Nikki Powell (Eureka High) and 5-4 shooting guard Haidee Sui (San Mateo High), both freshmen.
The Owls next game – and test – comes Thursday. They are scheduled to open the College of Sequoias Tournament in Visalia against the top-ranked team in the state, Mt. San Antonio.
“I’m excited,” Craig said. “It will be a true snapshot of where we’re at and how close we are to the final end goal of being one of the top teams in the state.”