Indiana Daily Student

Spartans face uphill climb this season

Joanne McCallie rode the University of Maine about as far as it can go. \nSix consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Seven consecutive 20 win seasons. Four conference tournament titles and five regular season crowns.\n"My work was done there," said McCallie, who, at 34, is the youngest coach in the Big Ten. "In eight years we had tried hard and accomplished a lot."\nStrapped by resources at Maine, McCallie moved back to the Big Ten and Michigan State last spring to take over the Spartans. McCallie played for Northwestern for four seasons in the mid-80s, earning All-Big Ten honorable mention in her senior year. But the bigger arena and more dollars at Michigan State isn't a guarantee of success, especially with the graduation of the Spartans' one-two punch that guided them to the WNIT Tournament last season, McCallie said.\nMaxann Reese and Kristen Rasmussen combined for 30 points and 13 rebounds per game. As a shooting guard, Reese was a serious threat from the three-point range, connecting on a team-high 51 three's last season. Rasmussen was the Spartans dominating inside presence, leading the team in blocks and rebounds.\nJust thinking about them makes McCallie emotional.\n"Kristen Rasmussen and Maxann Reese were the complete core of this team," McCallie said. "Our complete core has been removed.\n"I haven't even watched any film from last year and nor do I want to. Why would I? Max and Kristen were there. I don't need to cry. I've cried enough in my life."\nWith Reese and Rasmussen departed, McCallie is starting from the ground up, she said, looking to rebuild a program that won 19 games a season ago.\nLeading that process on the floor will be junior forward Becky Cummings. The second leading scorer on last year's team, she will be the focal point of the Spartan's offense. Unfortunately for McCallie, with Reese and Rasmussen gone, Cummings will also be the focal point of opponents' defenses.\n"Last year, I was able to take a back seat and watch and learn from Max and Kristen on everything they taught everyone," Cummings said. "This year, I think it's my turn.\n"I need to help my teammates out now. The way they did for me."\nThrough the Spartan's first four games this season, Cummings has led Michigan State with 12.5 points a game and is the top rebounder for MSU (2-2). \nMcCallie has grilled the Spartans on a daily basis at practice, trying to get them in physical shape to play the style of basketball she wants. It's been a long process, McCallie admits, as the Spartans came to practice in the fall out of game shape.\nThe intense work ethic is all a part of McCallie's recipe for success. \n"We've been working them very hard," McCallie said. "I think they call me the Wicked Witch of the East sometimes. But we want to play very hard. We want to play defense. We want to rebound, fight and be in every game.\n"That's how you pursue championships. And that will be the same every year"

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