YOUNGSTOWN - New Youngstown State women's basketball coach John Barnes is quite familiar with Youngstown State.
He was the associate head coach at Horizone League-foe Green Bay and had two looks at the 23-10 Penguins.
"Everything I've heard about the players are nothing but good things - hard workers, good individuals, want to learn, want to get better and want to be champions. That's obviously a great start," Barnes said. "In terms of basketball-wise, they've been known to be great 3-point shooters. Three-point shooting has been a strength of theirs in the past. Defensively, they're No. 2 in the league this year in terms of points per game. It tells me they have a lot of heart and----- they want to work hard. There's a ton of other details I can go into - coaching against them and having their scouting report, but those are pretty important things to me."
YSU was rebuilt after an 0-30 2009-10 campaign by current Ohio University coach Bob Boldon, who mentored the Penguins the past three seasons.
YSU junior and Boardman High School graduate Monica Touvelle, one of the team's 3-point shooters, was recruited by former YSU coach Cindy Martin and came into the program with Boldon.
"It's going to be hard breaking some of the habits we had with coach Boldon. It's also an exciting time," Touvelle said.
She understood why Boldon left. Boldon, who was making $95,000 when he was hired to a five-year deal in 2010, took a five-year deal with OU with a $170,000 base salary.
"Everyone was upset, but I definitely understand why he's leaving," Touvelle said. "I have no grudges against him. I understand it's a business decision. I'm a business major, so I understand that. I know he's going to do great things there. They have a great team and the assistants he took with them, they're going to have a good program down there."
Barnes explained he'll bring his defensive expertise to YSU, which intrigued junior guard Liz Hornberger. Hornberger realizes that will be vital since YSU senior and Horizon League Player of the Year Brandi Brown is graduating.
"Getting better on defense can never be a bad thing," she said. "We give up 60 points a game. If you can give up 50 next year, that improves your chances for winning. Our offense has been from good defense. We don't score that many points unless Brandi dropped 40 last year, then we scored a lot. Defense helps our offense if it ever becomes stagnant."
Hornberger and her teammates are ready to show Barnes what this YSU team is all about.
"I want to show him we're tough," she said. "Coach Boldon always instilled in us if we work hard, we'll win. The team that works the hardest always wins. I think that's what made us so much better these past three years. I want coach Barnes to know that carries over because I think that's a big part of his mindset. I don't want him to think because of a coach leaving we're ready to go back into a little hole.
"I don't believe in rebuilding seasons."